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The verbal interaction analysis system: A valid measure of competence in interpersonal interactions

Ralph, Alan (1988) The verbal interaction analysis system: A valid measure of competence in interpersonal interactions. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis proposes a novel approach to the assessment of persons experiencing difficulties with interpersonal interactions. Conversation skills were selected as the focus of the research, these being an important element in such interactions. A broad review of psychological research associated with 4 different perspectives on this topic indicated a variety of approaches to defining, assessing and remediating problems Social, developmental, with interpersonal interactions. educational and clinical perspectives were explored. Clinically useful measurement procedures either evaluated the global effect of persons or evaluated specific structural components of their behaviour. The former provided little information about how to intervene to bring about improvements, while the latter failed to identify behaviour which consistently correlated with other indicators of competent performance. Valid measures from other domains were examined for their application to the assessment of conversation skills.

An initial study analysed data from a sample of university students and job seekers to provide a benchmark for subsequent comparison with a newly developed measurement system. Results were interpreted to support previous research findings that component analysis measures were not appropriate. Sequential and interaction analysis concepts were adapted to develop the Verbal Interaction Analysis System. The VIAS measured the effect of verbal behaviour in interpersonal interactions by focusing on whether the topic of conversation was maintained and if contributions were made which developed the current topic. The VIAS was applied to a number of different dyadic interactions beginning with a reanalysis of the initial study. Scores obtained with this measure resulted in improved correlations with global judgements of competence and predicted high- and low- competent subjects. Subsequent experiments supported the validity of the VIAS. The VIAS was administered to a group of low-competent subjects during a social-skills training programme and was used in a clinical case study with a person experiencing difficulties with interpersonal interactions. In addition, experiments were carried out with university students to investigate the effects on the VIAS of manipulating the behaviour of the confederate or the subject during initial interactions. Results indicated that the VIAS (1) was easy to use with high inter-rater agreement. (2) was sensitive to improvements in the competence of one category of low-competent subjects during a social skills training programme, (3) assisted in the selection of target IV behaviour in a single-subject clinical intervention, and (4) was sensitive to manipulations of behaviour such as changing levels of responsibility for maintaining the interaction. The major advantage of the System was its flexibility. Empirically determined adjustments to the scoring procedure produced valid scores from a different type of interaction, as exemplified by a job interview.

The potential of the System as a research tool is discussed firstly, in the context of determining the demands made in different interpersonal interactions and secondly, for its relevance as an aid to improving maintenance and transfer (generalisation) of treatment gains.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Birnbrauer, Jay
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