Hammer A L: Language as a therapeutic tool: the effects on the relationship of listeners responding to speakers by using perceptual predicates.
Dissertation Abstracts International 41 (3), 991-A Michigan State University (Order = 8020705): 149, 1980.
Abstract: The relationship between counselor and client is an important element of successful counseling. The tasks of understanding the client and communicating that understanding are vital components of the therapeutic relationship. It was suggested that the focus of understanding be the process by which clients model their world. In explicating the process of modeling, the concept of representational system was introduced. Due to the limits on the capacity of the nervous system to process information, sensory data are grouped into patterns or representations, such as images. There is a representational system associated with each of the 4 sensory modalities; the focus of this study, however, was limited to the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems. For the purpose of aiding in perception and memory functions, labels denoting the modality of the representation are stored along with the information itself. These labels manifest in speech as perceptual predicates, for which the prototypes are `see`, `hear` and `feel` and/or `touch` for the visual, auditory and kinesthetic systems, respectively. In communicating their experience people access at least one representational systems, and the perceptual predicates in their speech signify which representational system is in consciousness at the time of speaking. For ethical and practical reasons an interview situation with trained counselors as interviewers was used for the experimental setting instead of actual counseling sessions. Based upon the series of assumptions above, it was hypothesized that an interviewee would perceive a high degree of empathetic understanding in an interviewer when the interviewer responded with perceptual predicates implying the same representational system being employed by the speaker. The purpose of this study was to examine the differential effects on perceived empathy of interviewers responding to speakers with either similar of dissimilar perceptual predicates. A posttest only control group design with two factors was employed. The Treatment factor consisted of two levels representing the similar predicates and dissimilar predicates response conditions. An Interviewer factor was included as a control variable with three levels corresponding to the three interviewers. The sample consisted of 88 female students who volunteered to be interviewed about dormitory or sorority life. Students were randomly assigned to the six cells of the design. The dependent measure employed was a revised version of the perceived empathy scale from the Barret-Lennard Relationship Inventory. A 2x3 fixed effects analysis of variance model was used to test the three hypotheses: One each for the Treatment and Interviewer factors and one for the two- way interaction. All hypotheses were tested at the .05 level of significance. The hypothesis testing revealed a significant difference between the two treatment response conditions. The difference was in the expected direction with those students in the similar predicates condition rating their interviewers higher on perceived empathy than those students in the dissimilar predicates condition. No significant difference was found among interviewers nor was the interaction significant. The two treatment response conditions accounted for 8.41% of the variance in the dependent variable. The Treatment and Interviewer factors together explained 9.6% of the total variance in perceived empathy. Descriptive statistics revealed that the students used about twice as many auditory and kinesthetic predicates as visual predicates. The type of perceptual predicates used by an interviewer in responding to a student had a significant impact on the relationship. Language can be an effective tool when used to understand a speakers representational system and then communicate that understanding through perceptual predicates.