Project

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Interpersonal Adaptation - Determinants of Nonverbal Synchrony, Relationship Quality, and Problem Solving

English title Interpersonal Adaptation - Determinants of Nonverbal Synchrony, Relationship Quality, and Problem Solving
Applicant Ramseyer Fabian
Number 133532
Funding scheme Fellowships for prospective researchers
Research institution Department of Psychology Stanford University
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.10.2010 - 30.09.2011
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Keywords (6)

nonverbal behavior; nonverbal synchrony; interpersonal adaptation; embodiment; social interaction; motion energy analysis

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Interpersonal adaptation (IA), the phenomenon that individuals adapt to each other's behaviors during social encounters, is pervasive throughout social interaction. This project aims to assess IA during a problem-solving task of two persons. A central aim is to investigate three determinants of IA: the motivational context, interpersonal characteristics of participants, and the deliberate modification of IA.
IA occurs in a variety of modalities (nonverbal behavior, language, emotion, physiology) and generally manifests itself without conscious attention of participants. In humans, it begins directly after birth (mother-infant dyads), and it remains significant throughout one's life (e.g. in peer-groups, in couples, at work). Nonverbal synchrony - the coordination of body movement between subjects - is one manifestation of IA that has been shown to be an indicator of good relationship quality and successful interaction. This aspect is of particular relevance for psychotherapy, because the quality of the therapeutic relationship is a crucial factor for the success of therapy.
The methodology used to quantify nonverbal synchrony was developed in my dissertation. Motion energy analysis (MEA) is an automated, fully objective quantification of movement behavior. MEA is based on a video-analysis algorithm that allows fast and straightforward assessments of body movement. The MEA system has been successfully used in the psychotherapy setting and in structured discussions between students. It will now be used in two studies that experimentally influence its manifestation.
Experimental conditions will help to better understand the mechanisms that lead to, augment, maintain, or diminish nonverbal synchrony in dyadic interaction. Study 1 varies the motivational context into a cooperative and a competitive condition. In Study 2, participants will be assigned to dyads depending on personality characteristics. Three experimental conditions (true feedback / contrary (false) feedback / nonverbal synchrony instruction) will clarify, whether nonverbal synchrony can be deliberately altered and what effect is gained from this alteration. The proposed studies could not only potentially lead to the development of novel techniques in psychotherapy training but also to the improvement of social interaction skills in general (e.g. in negotiations).
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
Nonverbal synchrony in psychotherapy: embodiment at the level of the dyad
Ramseyer Fabian (2011), Nonverbal synchrony in psychotherapy: embodiment at the level of the dyad, in Tschacher & Bergomi (ed.), 193-207.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Affective Seminar 24.02.2011 Stanford University


Abstract

Interpersonal adaptation (IA), the phenomenon that individuals adapt to each other’s behaviors during social encounters, is pervasive throughout social interaction. This phenomenon occurs in a variety of modalities (nonverbal behavior, language, emotion, physiology) and generally occurs without conscious attention. In humans, it begins directly after birth (mother-infant dyads), and it remains significant throughout one’s life (e.g. in peer-groups, in couples, at work). Nonverbal synchrony - the coordination of body movement between subjects - is one manifestation of IA that has been shown to be an indicator of good relationship quality and successful interaction. This aspect is of particular relevance for psychotherapy, because the quality of the therapeutic relationship is a crucial factor for the success of therapy. To date, nonverbal synchrony has only been sporadically assessed in psychotherapy sessions, mostly in single-case studies or anecdotal accounts. While many schools of psychotherapy emphasize the importance of nonverbal behavior, generalizable empirical evidence from controlled studies is yet unavailable.The projects within the presented proposal will investigate three determinants of nonverbal synchrony: the motivational context (cooperation vs. competition), interpersonal characteristics (complementary vs. incongruent dyads), and the deliberate modification of nonverbal synchrony (nonverbal synchrony instruction). Nonverbal synchrony will be quantified in a problem solving task, because this kind of interaction is an ideal context to study interpersonal behavior under controlled conditions. The outcome of an interaction can be measured according to task performance (how well the problem was solved) and according to subjective experience of participants (sympathy for interaction partner/smoothness of interaction). The methodology used to quantify nonverbal synchrony was developed in my dissertation. Motion energy analysis (MEA) is an automated, fully objective quantification of movement behavior. MEA is based on a video-analysis algorithm that allows fast and straightforward assessments of body movement. The MEA system has been successfully used in the psychotherapy setting and in structured discussions between students. It will now be used in two studies that experimentally influence its manifestation.Experimental conditions will help to better understand the mechanisms that lead to, augment, maintain, or diminish nonverbal synchrony in dyadic interaction. Study 1 varies the motivational context into a cooperative and a competitive condition. In Study 2, participants will be assigned to dyads depending on personality characteristics. Three experimental conditions (true feedback / contrary (false) feedback / nonverbal synchrony instruction) will clarify, whether nonverbal synchrony can be deliberately altered and what effect is gained from this alteration.The proposed studies could not only potentially lead to the development of novel techniques in psychotherapy training but also to the improvement of social interaction skills in general (e.g. in negotiations). The two studies will be conducted under the guidance of Professor Leonard Horowitz, a renowned expert on the motivational basis of interpersonal behavior, at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Collaborating with Professor Horowitz at Stanford University would be a most enriching experience and an optimal starting point for my specialization in the field of interpersonal interaction. The proposed project is scheduled to span one year, allowing for both theoretical analysis and experimental research.
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