Interaction process analysis

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Reviews the book, Interaction Process Analysis by Robert F. Bales (see record 1950-04553-000). Is there validity in the notion that the study of the interaction among the members of small groups will help one to develop a more adequate body of theory relevant to full-scale social systems? Some social scientists, Freed Bales among them, think so. He has written Interaction Process Analysis as a stimulating progress report on the work he has been doing to date on this broad problem. A parallel motive is that of increasing our knowledge concerning the functioning of small groups. The central purpose of this book is to provide a working manual for those interested in studying the interaction among small group members. The author hopes to encourage others to use the group observation categories he has developed so that comparable data may be accumulated on a wide variety of groups. The observation instrument is described as: “a standard, general-purpose, set of categories for observation and analysis, rather than a series of special lists of categories, each particularly fitted for a particular kind of a group or a particular hypothesis.” The categories may be used, as is, or as a general purpose supplement to other instruments or research procedures which may be needed to test a particular hypothesis. The categories are operational definitions of the main variables which may be involved in testing hypotheses about the behavior of groups. The author believes that there is an advantage in the measurement of these variables since they are occurring simultaneously and are all parts of the same theoretical system. Thus they are likely to be more useful than the type of variables which are all too often the only ones available to social scientists such as divorce-rates, crime-rates, or illness statistics. The major portion of the book is devoted to a discussion of the theory behind the standard categories and a description of how they were developed and how they have been used. Apparently the author is ambivalent concerning the range of applicability of this observation scheme. We will wait with interest for reports on improvements in this methodology—and with even greater impatience for the findings of research studies using these procedures. In the meantime, students of person-person interaction whether they be clinical psychologists, social psychologists, sociologists, or anthropologists, will find this a most worthwhile and informative discussion of an intriguing methodology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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