Some effects of verbal feedback on perceptions of members in two marathon encounter groups
In the context of increasing isolation for members of our society the encounter group movement has emerged. While growing evidence indicates that encounter groups may have therapeutic effects, just what those effects are and under what circumstances they occur requires further investigation. One process variable frequently mentioned as critical to encounter group outcomes is feedback.This study examined the question "Does a relationship exist between the amount of verbal feedback directed toward a person and his perceptions of himself and others?"Specifically the study (a) devised content categories to quantify verbal feedback statements, (b) examined the incidence of verbal feedback as a natural occurrence in two marathon encounter groups, and (c) examined the relationship between the number of units of feedback directed toward group members and changes in their perceptions of themselves and the other group members.Twenty-three subjects, primarily Ball State University graduate students, participated in one of two non-stop marathon encounter groups with professional leadership. The groups started at 12:30 PM on a Saturday and ended at 8AM the next morning. Random, 15 minute segments of the sixteen hours between pre and posttesting were recorded for each group. Four hours of segments for each group were divided into individual verbal units and then later each unit was assigned to one of three categories by three independent raters. The categories used were: Type I feedback (a verbal statement from one group member to another which is about the person addressed and/or which explicitly includes the subjective, response of the speaker to the person addressed), Type II feedback (a verbal statement from one group member to another which explicitly, includes both a description of some physical act or verbal utterance of the person addressed and the subjective response of the speaker to that act or utterance), and category N (all other statements). Rater reliabilities for the categories were r=.91 (Type I); r=-.03 (Type II); r=.98 (N).A pretest and posttest was administered to all subjects using the Group Semantic Differential (GSD) and the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory (BLRI). Concepts assessed with these instruments were (a) self-perceived actual behavior, (b) self-perceived ideal behavior, (c) the discrepancy between self-perceived actual behavior and actual behavior as perceived by other group members, and (d) the perceived relationship offered by others Factor scores derived from the instruments by the principal components method were then used with an analysis of covariance procedure to test thirty-five separate hypotheses.Results of the study did not demonstrate a significant relationship between the number of units of feedback received and changes in perceptions of self or others. Three other findings of interest were (a) a very low incidence of Type II feedback, (b) the emergence of two primary factors on the GSD (Impact and Evaluation), and (c) the extraction of a single factor which accounted for sixty-four percent of the variance for the BLRI.Discussion of the findings and recommendations for further investigations of verbal feedback as a process variable were made.