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Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1985, 60, 83-95. @ Perceptual and Motor Skills 1985
University of Alberta, Edmonton
St. Mary's University2
was hypothesized that double-bind communications would
increase respondents' use of verbal nonimmediacy, a variation in language
style which indicates reluctance to affirm the validity of explicit communication content. To assess this hypothesis, a male confederate created conflicting expectations by describing himself as first independent and then dependent
to 10 concep~allysimple and 10 conceptually complex male participants (as
defined by their scores on Tuckman's 1966 Individual Topic Inventory) who
were asked to respond with disclosures on similar topics. Further, the confederate acknowledged the incongruity in his self-disclosures to one-half of
the participants but not to the other half. As expected, the conceptually
complex participants who had not heard the confederate's acknowledgment of
incongruity showed the greatest increase in nonimmediacy during their disclosures to the confederate.
The original statement of the double-bind hypothesis (Bateson, Jackson,
Haley, & Weakland, 1956) described how metacommunication components in
interpersonal messages may contradict other communication components and
thereby precipitate pathological behavior in recipients of such messages. Despite widespread consideration and amplification (Sluzki & Ransom, 1976),
the double-bind hypothesis has led to conceptual disarray (Schuham, 1967)
and empirical efforts of doubtful relevance (Abeles, 1976). These difficulties
have two fundamental sources. First, the defining features of double-bind
situations are abstractly elegant but remarkably resistant to empirical precision.
In fact, it is doubtful whether the original authors were able to maintain the
desired differentiation between actual double-bind communications involving
logical paradox and simply contradictory messages of the same logical order
(Ginsburg, 1974). Second, the consequences of double-bind situations have
not been spelled out very precisely. This is primarily because the hypothesis
originally described the etiology of schizophrenia and, more recently (Sluzki
& Vernon, 1971), other equally amorphous diagnostic categories. The original
authors' reference to more direct and specific consequences, e.g., exaggerated
literalness, unlabeled metaphor, have been largely ignored, perhaps because
these, like the double-bind situation itself, require precise definition of meta'This research was supported by Canada Council Grant S72-1409 to the first author.
Requests for reprints may be sent to Don Kuiken, Department of Psychology, Biological
Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton. Alberta, Canada T 6 G 2E9.
'Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3C3.
& K.
communicative elements in messages-an
unrnet requirement in research to
The present study provides a reformulation of the double-bind concept
which allows empirical precision without loss of the intended psychological
significance of double-bind situations. Our reformulation defines binding
communications in terms of the recipient's perceptions rather than the sender's
messages per se. In addition, it is suggested that nonirnmediacy (Wiener &
Mehrabian, 1968), a variation in language style indicating reluctance to affirm
the validity of explicit communication content, provides a measure of one of
the metacommunicative consequences of double-bind situations. Finally, an
experimental examination of the resulting model is presented.
The following criteria for double-bind situations are representative of
those emphasized in the literature and consistent with those offered by Bateson, et al. (1956) : ( a ) two or more persons are involved in an intense and
important relationship; ( b ) in this context, a communication asserts something about the relationship and then asserts something about the first assertion
which contradicts it and creates a logical paradox; ( c ) the presence of the
contradiction is concealed or denied; and ( d ) the recipient of the message is
prevented from stepping outside of the frame set by the paradoxical message
either by explicitly commenting on the contradiction or by withdrawing from
the interaction. The present reformulation provides parallel but sliglltly different criteria.
First, it is not,immediately clear why double-binds have been defined as
involving intense and important relationships. For some authors, the term
intensity has suggested strong affective ties and interaction over extended
periods of time. But, if intensity of the relationship merely implies chat
recipients of the double-bind will not withdraw from the relationship, it is,
of course, redundant with the fourth criterion listed above. In contrast, according to Bateson, et al. (1956), intensity implies that the person "feels it is
vitally important that he discriminate accurately what sort of message is being
communicated so that he may respond appropriately" (p. 254). In other
words, intensity is important to the extent that the recipient is motivated to
determine accurately what is appropriate behavior in the relationship. It
should be clear that factors other than strong affective ties or extended interaction (e.g., unfamiliarity) may also affect an individual's motivation to determine accurately what is appropriate behavior in the relationship. Therefore, a more general and less misleading requirement for double-binds would
be that the interpersonal relationship is not clearly defined. It seems plausible that, when withdrawal from interaction is difficult or prohibited (see
below), such ambiguity will increase participants' motivation to discriminate
accurately the communication components which define desired or appropriate
behavior. In sum, the first criterion may be restated economically as follows:
two or more persons are involved in a relationship in which their conceptions
of appropriate behavior in the relationship are ambiguous or unclear.
The second criterion of the original theory stressed that logical paradox
in the message elements is essential for double-binds to occur. This criterion
requires that one participant's self-presentation is contradicted or disqualified
by metacommunicative elements in the message. The self-presentation components of a message are those which explicitly or implicitly communicate selfimage and, hence, convey what is appropriate behavior in the relationship,
e.g., "Halt! I am a policeman." Metacommunicative elements are those
message components which convey how other aspects of the communication
are to be taken, e.g., "I was just teasing." When the self-presentation and
metacommunicative elements are explicit and contradictory, the result is clearly
logical paradox, e.g., "Do not do as I tell you." However, when the selfpresentation component and/or metacommunication component is implicit
rather than explicit, the differentiation of logical paradox from simple incompatibility among two self-presentational components is practically impossible. For example, in the Bateson, et al. (1956) example of the mother
who simulates a loving greeting while also subtly withdrawing, it is impossible to determine whether (a) the withdrawing behavior is a metacommunicative disqualification of the positive self-presentation component, and, hence,
a logical paradox, or ( b ) the withdrawing behavior is simply a self-presentation component of the same logical order but incongruent with the positive
self-presentation component. This definitional impasse is unavoidable given
our present lack of knowledge about implicit messages because, by definition,
implicit communication elements do not have explicit encoding or decoding
rules to aid either the victim or the researcher.
It may be more useful to regard logical paradox as the prototype for
rather than defining feature of double-bind communications and, then, determine what makes them psychologically significant to the recipient. One
interpretation of logical paradoxes is that they are problematic because the incompatibility of the deductions is detectable but, at the same time, inexplicable.
As a case in point, although logical paradoxes of the type used to describe
double binds have long been known, it was not until 1910 that Bertrand Russell
(Whitehead & Russell, 1910) "solved" the paradox by proposing the rule
that an assertion involving all members of a class cannot itself be a member
of that class. Analogously, the psychological significance of double-binds
may be that, at the time of communication, the incompatibility of two selfpresentational components 07 of a metacommunicative and a self-presentational
component is detectable but inexplicable. In other words, metacommunication about incompatible communication components may be difficult or im-
possible either in the face of actual logical paradox or when one of the incompatible components is implicit rather than explicit in the message. W e are
proposing that these circumstances are psychologically equivalent and, therefore, that it may be inappropriate to define double-binds simply in terms of
the encoded communication structure. Instead, a second criterion for doublebinds may be stated as follows: a communication is given which includes two
mutually incompatible self-presentations or a metacommunicatively disqualified self-presentation and, hence, includes contradictory definitions of appropriate behavior by the recipient; the incompatibility is detectable by the
recipient but he is unable to metacommunicate explicitly about the incompatibility because one or both of the incompatible elements is implicit in the
A third and final criterion is as follows: the recipient of the communication
is unable to withdraw from the interaction or to avoid the impact of the other
person's incompatible self-presentations by discontinuing the interaction. This
inability may be due to dependency, prohibitions, face-saving, et cetera.
In summary, a double-bind situation occurs when, in a relatively undefined
relationship from which the recipient is unable or unwilling to withdraw,
one person presents a communication which ( a ) the other person perceives
as providing mutually incompatible definitions of the relationship and ( b )
one or both of these incompatible elements is implicit to the recipient, i.e., he
is unable to metacommunicate explicitly about the incompatibility. It should
be noted that verbal-nonverbal inconsistencies meet the preceding criteria only
when there are no conventional or explicit decoding rules for the nonverbal
messages. Obvious sarcasm is not double-binding but implicit hostility in
voice tone during a verbal statement of affection may be.
Responses to Double-binds
Responses to double-binds defined in the preceding way are almost certainly multifaceted. However, certain facets, unlike anxiety (Dush & Brodsky,
1981; Smith, 1976), reaction time (Ciotola, 1961), etc., are part of the communication process emphasized by Bateson, et al. ( 1956). Among these, some
(e.g., general suspiciousness of metacommunicative messages, accepting all
messages literally, etc.) depend upon persistent and repeated exposure to
double-bind situations and provide the link to pathological symptoms. These,
however, are related to more specific responses to double-bind situations that
are also described by Bateson, et al. ( 1956), e.g., extreme literalness, use of unlabeled metaphor, et cetma. These specific responses seem designed to minimize the extent to which the respondent's self-presentation will explicitly
contrast with the implicit definitions of appropriate behavior perceived in
the message. For example, a small boy climbing on the cupboard to the
cookie jar may hear a stern, "What are you doing, Johnny?!" Rather than
reply in a way which would explicitly contrast with his mother's implicit reminder of the prohibition against cookies between meals, Johnny may respond
(inappropriately given the context and the phrasing of the question) by
answering the literal meaning of the question, e.g., "Climbing on the cupboard, Mom."
There may be other means by which respondents to double-binds minimize
the contrast between their self-presentation and the sender's implicit commands.
One possibility, consistent with the original formulation but not stated there,
is that recipients of double-bind communications will dissociate themselves
from the self-presentational implications of their messages by implicitly conveying reluctance to affirm the validity of their explicit communication content.
Specifically, persons in a double-bind situation may use subtle variations in
language style to indicate that they are not fully "in" or "behind" their words
or that they are not "really" what their explicit communica~ion denotes, a
feature of communication sometimes called duplicity (Fierman, 1965) or nongenuineness (Truax & Carkhuff, 1967). These implicit metacommunicative
hints of the communicator's reluctance to affirm explicit content may subtly
dissociate the communicator from the self-presentation that is either implicit
or explicit in the communication content.
Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) have identified criteria for variations in
language style which serve as subtle cues to this process and which they call
nonimmediacy, i.e., separateness, non-identification, or indirectness in the
relationship between a communicator and rhe explicit content of the communication. Some of the criteria for nonimmediacy rather explicitly describe
tentativeness and uncertainty about the content of a communication. Specifically, the use of explicit qualification (e.g., "I feel," "it seems," "supposedly")
denotes tentativeness, and, the use of negation with marked qualifiers (e.g.,
"She's not bad looking" rather than "She's good looking") indicates apprehension about validating the simple declarative assertion. Other criteria for
nonimmediacy may be interpreted as indicative of reluctance to affirm explicit
content of a communication if some additional but plausible assumptions are
made about their meanings. Specifically, when context determines that the
referent is the communicator's own action, the use of generalized pronouns
(e.g., "You get angry when . . ." rather than "I get angry when . . .") suggests
reluctance to affirm that the communication is indeed self-referential. Similarly, use of possessive references to parts or characteristics of self when these
are not required by the communication context (e.g., "My feeling is . . ." rather
than "I feel . . .") connotes reluctance to affirm the self as agent in the action
or relationship described. Also, reluctance to affirm the self as agent is suggested by use of phrases indicating passivity (e.g., "I have to go now" rather
than "I will go now"). In sum, the notion that nonimmediacy reflects the
communicator's reluctance to affirm the explicit communication content has
face validity. Furthermore, consistent with this interpretation, Kuiken ( 1981)
reported research demonstrating that nonimmediacy in fact increases in situations that increase the communicator's reluctance to affirm the content of a
If this interpretation of the criteria for nonirnmediacy is valid, then it is
likely that persons faced with double-bind situations will be more nonimmediate, reflecting their increased motivation to dissociate themselves from
their self-presentations and thereby minimize the extent to which these can
be explicitly contrasted with the incompatible definitions of appropriate behavior.
An Experimental Demonst~ation
The preceding discussion provides an alternative conception of doublebind situations and a suggested measure for one possible consequence of
double-binds. An experiment was designed to assess this conception. The
first criterion, that of an undefined relationship, was assumed met by bringing
participants into an experimental situation, itself an unusual and unpredictable
environment, and asking them to make personal disclosures to a stranger
(actually a confederate) in what was ostensibly a study of impression formation. The self-disclosure and impression formation emphases were expected
to increase the salience of any uncertainty regarding self-presentation in participants' communications. The third criterion, inability to withdraw, was
also assumed met by the normal but implicit experimental demands and rewards for continued participation and by the experimental requirement that
the participant self-disclose to the confederate.
The second criterion, i.e., detectable but implicit incompatible definitions
of appropriate behavior, was met by the manipulated conditions of the experimental design. Consistent with the notion that it is inappropriate to define
double-binds simply in terms of communication elements for which there are
explicit encoding or decoding rules, a confederate presented all participants
with communications which implicitly provided incompatible definitions of
their relationship. Since there is considerable evidence that strong reciprocity
norms regulate self-disclosures in interpersonal relations (Cozby, 1973), the
confederate created potentially incompatible definitions of appropriate behavior by first defining himself as strongly motivated for self-sufficiency and
independence and then describing himself as needful of others when troubled.
Such self-presentations were expected to convey implicitly the appropriateness
of, first, the participants' disclosures of their own independence and, then, of
their disclosures of their needs for others.
Whether the preceding incompatibility was actually detected was manipulated by selecting participan~swho were either conceptually complex or conceptually simple. Conceptual complexity is defined as the ability to process
complex information (Schroder, Driver, & Screufert, 1967), especially when
information is made more complex by keeping dimensionality constant but
increasing the inconsistency of the information (Mayo & Crockett, 1964;
Tripodi & Bieri, 1964). It was expected that conceptually complex participants would likely detect the two incompatible elements of the confederate's
messages, whereas conceptually simple participants would be less likely to
detect the incompatibility and instead attend to only one of the incompatible
communication elements.
Participants who perceived the incompatibility were also expected to
have difficulty metacornrnunicatively explicating this incompatibiliry because
both of the commands were implicit in the confederate's messages. However,
to assess more directly the importance of metacommunication, metacommunicative explication was made easier for half the participants when the confederate offered a metacommunicative comment acknowledging the incompatibility of his self-disclosures. It was expected that making the incompatibility
explicit would "unbind" the participant by enabling him explicitly to consider
and choose among the alternative responses-a possibility precluded when the
incompatibility remains implicit and inexplicable. A double-bind situation
should only exist, then, for conceptually complex persons in the condition
where the confederate offers no explicit metacommunicative comment. It
was predicted that participants in this condition would be more nonimmediate
in their disclosures to the confederate than participants in the other conditions.
The participants were 10 conceptually complex and 10 conceptually simple
men selected from a sample of approximately 200 introductory psychology
students who had been administered the Tuckman ( 1966) Individual Topic
Inventory. The inventory is a %-item forced-choice questionnaire which has
a moderate but reliable correlation with less objective measures of conceptual
complexity, such as the Paragraph Completion Test (Schroder, 1971). Schroder,
et al. (1967) suggested that it is a viable research instrument when extreme
groups are used. In the present study, individuals who had System I or System
IV scores in the ninth or tenth decile and eighth or lower in the other three
were eligible for participation. These criteria were based on norms established
on another sample of 387 students in introductory psychology.
Students classified as System I (conceptually simple) and System IV (conceptually complex) were contacted by telephone until 10 of each type agreed
to participate in the experiment. Participants received course credit.
The male confederate and the male participant were told that the experi-
menter was interested in impression formation under conditions in which one
person knew more about the other than the other knew about him. This
guise provided a rationale for telling the participant that he had been randomly
selected to talk about two topics which the confederate did not discuss. Actually,
these topics provided an initial baseline level of nonimmediacy in each participant's self-disclosure.
The participant was instructed to examine a list of topics which he and
the confederate were to discuss, including the two baseline topics and the four
topics on which the confederate subsequently spoke. The baseline topics were
( a ) What kinds of parties or social gatherings do you like and ( b ) What do
you enjoy most and get the most satisfaction from in your studies at University?
The test topics were ( c ) What are you like when you are most satisfied with
your relationship with other people, ( d ) What aspect of your personality do
you dislike most or regard as your greatest handicap, ( e ) What kinds of things
do others do that make you very upset or irritated, and ( f ) Under what circumstances have people been most important or meant the most to you? If
the participant agreed that he would talk on these topics (all did so), he and
the confederate were led to separate rooms. In the participant's room was a
loudspeaker through which he could hear the confederate and a microphone
through which he could speak to the confederate. The participant's microphone was connected to a tape recorder in the confederate's room to record
the participant's communications. After the participant finished speaking on
the first two baseline topics, the confederate played a prerecorded self-disclosure
of his first topic (topic c, above). The participant was instructed to proceed
immediately with his self-disclosure on the same topic. The confederate's prerecorded communication on each of the remaining topics preceded the participant's communication on these topics in the same manner.
Finally, the participant was asked to complete a postexperimental questionnaire, he was questioned to determine any failures in the experimental
deception, and he was carefully debriefed.
Confedwate's disclosure.-Test
topics (c ) and ( d ) were neutral with
respect to the manipulations and were designed to be typical for college undergraduate males. On test topics ( e ) and ( f ) , however, the confederate's communications were specifically designed to provide incongruent information
about the confederate. On topic ( e ) , what others do that makes you angry,
the confederate spoke of being irritated when "a person tries to get me to do
something I don't want to do," and he added that "I don't like to do things
when I am expected to by other people." He then criticized the experimental
situation as one which made him uncomfortable because the experimenter
wanted them t o talk on particular topics rather than topics of their own
preference. Next he spoke of his parents who also "expect me to do things
like they want them done," such as living at home rather than in a place of his
own. H e concluded by saying he was mature enough "to do what I want to do."
On the final topic, the confederate spoke in a way which was incongruent
but not necessarily inconsistent with the preceding statement of his desire for
independence. He said people were most important to him when "I really
needed them and they were able to give me some encouragement or advice."
He then spoke of a friend who helped him by suggesting that he stay in school
at a time when he felt like quitting. He also praised his parents for the same
encouragement, saying, "It made us closer, too." H e concluded by saying
that, "The times that people have meant the most to me are those-when I've
been really down or depressed."
For half the participants, the confederate's final message was preceded
by an explicit metacommunicative comment designed to acknowledge the
apparent incongruity in his self-disclosures. This transition was as follows:
You know? When I think of this question, the things I think of seem to be inconsistent
with what I just said about wanting to be independent and not do what others expect
of me. It's not really inconsistent, I guess; it's just like there's another part of me
that's different and would like to depend on others sometimes.
Postexperimental qzlestionnaire.-A series of 7-point bipolar scales was
devised to assess ( a ) participants' like or dislike for the confederate, ( b ) the
perceived complexity or simplicity of the confederate's personality, ( c ) participants' comfort or discomfort while talking to the confederate, and ( d ) the
extent to which participants discussed things that they disliked or evaluated
Measilrement of change in nonimmediacy.-Participants' communications
were transcribed and scored by a judge, who was blind to conditions and
hypotheses. Wiener and Mehrabian's ( 1968) criteria for nonimmediacy include the following categories of nonimmediate modes of expression: temporal
(e.g., "I have been a lonely person" rather than "I am a lonely person") ; spatial
("I dislike that trait" rather than "I dislike this trait"); part speaker ("I dislike my sad feelings" rather .than "I dislike feeling sad"); part object ("I
appreciate his pride" rather than "I appreciate him when he is proud"); class
speaker ("People don't like dishonesty" rather than "I don't like dishonesty");
class shared ("Friends like the same things" rather than "My friends and I like
the same things"); class object ("I dislike shy people" rather than "I dislike
him when he is shy"); negation ("I am not nervous" rather than "I am calm");
speaker implicit ("He is a bore" rather than "He bores me"); object implicit
("I was upset" rather than "I was upset by him"); speaker passivity ("I can't
help but feel angry" rather than "I feel angry"); object passivity ("He has to
be ashamed" rather than "He is ashamed"); unilaterality ("I avoid him" rather
than "He and I avoid each other") ; modified ("It seems that he is vain" rather
than "He is vain"); intensity-extensity ("He is sort of shy" rather than "He is
shy"). Nonimmediacy was scored each time a category was used when a more
immediate alternative could have been used to convey the same message.
Interjudge agreement with the first author's scoring was .90.
Final scores used in the analysis were the differences between the mean
number of nonimmediacy categories per 100 words on the two baseline topics
and the average number of nonimmediacy categories per 100 words on each
of the four test topics.
Of fundamental importance to the test of the hypothesis is the assumption
that conceptually complex participants would be more likely to perceive the
complexity of the confederate's disclosures than the conceptually simple participants. This assumption was supported in that conceptually complex participants rated the confederate's personality as significantly more complex ( M
= 6.30) than did the conceptually simple participants ( M = 5.40; F1,lG =
6.00, MSe = .68, fl
.O5). Of equal importance to the test of the hypothesis
is the assumption that participants would be unable to comment explicitly on
the incompatibility of the confederate's disclosures when there was no transition statement acknowledging the incompatibility. Although this variation
is difficult to assess directly, it was expected that conceptually complex persons
who did not receive the transition statement would be less willing to risk presenting negatively evaluated self-disclosures than would conceptually complex
persons who did receive the transition statement. An interaction of conceptual
complexity. X transition statement indicated that conceptually complex participants reported disclosing considerably fewer things that they evaluated
negatively when the confederate provided no transition ( M = 3.40) than
when he did ( M = 5.00), whereas the inverse was true ( M = 4.80 vs M =
3.80) for conceptually simple participants (Fl,lo = 10.56, MSe = .SO, p <
T o examine the major hypothesis that greater change in nonimmediacy
from baseline would be found in communications of the conceptually complex/transition-absent participants, a 2 X 2 X 4 analysis of variance was
performed with conceptual complexity/simplicity, presence or absence of a
transition statement and test topics (repeated measures) as factors. As expected, there was a significant interaction of conceptual complexity )( transition statement (F1,I6 = 5.30, MSe = 77.8, p < .05). Specifically, conceptually complex participants showed a larger nonimmediacy increase in the
transition absent condition ( M = 10.0) than in the transition present condition ( M = 2.7), whereas this difference was negligible for the conceptually
simple participants ( M = 3.5 vs M = 5.2). Of particular importance are
the participants' scores for change in nonimmediacy on the final topic since
the manipulation of incompatibility was not complete until the confederate had
spoken on that final topic. Examination of the trial-by-trial variations indi-
cated that, as expected, the interaction of conceptual complexity X transition
statement was specific to the final test topic; see Table 1. That is, the simple
interaction for each of the first three test topics was nonsignificant, whereas
that for the final topic was significant (tie = 2.58, 9 < .01).
Conceptually Complex
Conceptually Simple
Topics c-e
Consistent support was found for the hypothesis that participants who
detected but were unable to explicate mecacommunicatively the incompatible
self-presentational components in the confederate's message were more nonimmediate in their subsequent self-disclosures. Conceptually complex participants who did not receive the confederate's metacommunicative ekplication of the incompatibility of his self-disclosures probably used a more nonimmediate language style to convey their reluctance to affirm explicit communication content and to dissociate themselves subtly from the self-presentations either implicit or explicit in their self-disclosures. Although caution is
warranted given the small sample used in the present exploratory study, our
results suggest that further research of this kind may be valuable.
The results cannot simply be attributed to the effects of presenting incongruent information since all participants received the same incongruent
messages. Instead, other factors must be considered. First, the largest increase
in nonimmediacy occurred among conceptually complex participants, i.e., participants who were also more likely to perceive the confederate as inconsistent
than were the conceptually simple subjects. This pattern is consistent with
the hypothesis that the incongruity must be detected to provide conditions for
a double-bind situation. Second, it should be noted that perceived incongruiry
was necessary but insufficient to cause the increase in nonimmediacy since
conceptually complex participants only showed this effect when the confederate did not explicitly acknowledge the incongruity in his disclosures.
Participants in this experimental condition also reported the greatest reluctance
to present negatively evaluated self-disclosures, which may be a subtle form of
withdrawal in a situation which required some form of disclosure. The overall pattern is consistent with the hypothesis rhar incongruiry which is detectable
& K.
but metacommunicatively inexplicable is necessary to double bind the recipient
and motivate him to dissociate himself subtly from the self-presentational implications of his self-disclosures.
That perceived incongruity alone does not cause negative reactions in
the recipient is evident also in the fact that the greater perceived inconsistency
by conceptually complex subjects was not accompanied by increased dislike
for or discomfort with the confederate. This is consistent with studies
showing that perceptible inconsistency among verbal and nonverbal channels
of affective information does not generally cause negative affect (Bilgenthal,
1974; Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967; Zahn, 1973, 1975). However, this is not,
as frequently implied, contrary to double-bind theory. Instead, it indicates,
as the present study confirms, that other criteria must be met before negative
reactions to incongruity should be expected.
In sum, when the criterion of actual logical parndox is relaxed in favor
of the psychologically equivalent requirement of detectable but inexplicable
incompatibility in definitions of appropriate behavior, the double-bind hypothesis is amenable to experimental examination. This relaxation of criteria is
not as liberal as the equation of simply contradictory verbal-nonverbal messages with double-binds (Beakel & Mehrabian, 1969; Berger, 1965; Guindon,
1971; Loeff, 1966; Vetter, 1969). It does, however, allow bypassing the
presently impossible discrimination between logical paradox and simple contradiction when one or both of the incompatible messages is implicit. It
does so by making the psychological response to logical paradox, rather than
actual paradox, the essential criterion.
Further, re-examination of the specific and immediate consequences of
double-bind communications, independent of diagnostic categories of pathology,
suggested that nonimmediacy may be one assessible and specific metacommunicative consequence of double-bind situations. The results of this experiment fairly clearly confirmed this hypothesis. This reformulation has the
additional elegance, present in the original Bateson, et al. ( 1956) discussion, of
defining the consequences of double-binds in the basic terms of communication theory.
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