Demand characteristics in observations of marital interaction

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Examined the susceptibility of marital observations to purposeful faking with 40 middle-class volunteer distressed and nondistressed couples. Behavioral observations of couples' problem-solving behavior during a conflict-eliciting task were obtained, first, under neutral instructions and, second, under instructions to either act happy or to act distressed. Under neutral instructions, distressed and nondistressed couples were correctly identified on 5 out of 6 behavioral dimensions from the Marital Interaction Coding System (MICS). Under instructions to fake good or fake bad, the verbal behavior of both couple types differed significantly from their behavior under neutral instructions; however, positive and negative nonverbal behaviors did not change. When instructed to fake, distressed and nondistressed couples differed on 4 out of 5 of the behavioral dimensions on which they had differed under neutral instructions. Evidence for differential responsiveness of marital types to faking instructions was limited and evident only in a linear combination of MICS behavior dimensions. The implications of these findings for previously published marital research are discussed, and the importance of nonverbal behavior for outcome assessment and theoretical understanding of marital interaction is stressed. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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