Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




The original designation of therapists into "A" and "B" types was made by Whitehorn and Betz (1954) on the basis of success with schizophrenic and neurotic patients. Subsequent studies have yielded mixed results concerning this therapist-patient interaction. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the apparent differences in interpersonal styles between "A" and "B" therapist types could be linked to decoding preferences on the visual, audio and linguistic channels of communication. Specifically, it was predicted that the "A" therapist type would decode more accurately on the visual channel, while the "B" therapist type would decode more accurately on the linguistic channel. Decoding accuracy on the audio channel was predicted to fall in the mid­ range of scores between the visual and linguistic channel s for both therapist types. The effect of sex as a variable in decoding ability was also considered. A videotape of a female actress portraying a submissive style in an interview was targeted as the independent variable. A silent videotape was used to convey the visual communication channel; an audio tape was used to convey the audio communication channel, and a transcript was used for the linguistic channel. Sixty-four subjects (32 male and 32 female) were selected according to their scores on sub­ form SSZ-46 of the Whitehorn-Betz A-B scale. The subjects viewed either the silent videotape, listened to the audio tape, or read the transcript of the submissive interviewee and then rated their feelings about that person on a set of Semantic Differential Scales and the Impact Message Inventory. Two scales from the IMI, Submissiveness and Inhibition, were used to record the impact.

The hypotheses were tested by a 2 x 2 x 3 analysis of variance, followed by a Newman-Keuls multimean test. The IMI scores showed a significant interaction between the "A" therapist type and the visual channel. A trend toward a significant interaction for the "B" therapist type and the linguistic channel was also observed. No significant differences were found on the audio channel or for the sex variable. No differences were found with the Semantic Differential Scales for any of the experimental conditions. The results indicate that differences do exist between "A" and "B" therapist types for decoding preferences, with the "A" therapist type receiving a significantly higher impact on the visual channel than the "B" therapist type as measured by the IMI scales of Submissiveness and Inhibition. Implications for future research were discussed, focusing on the role of nonverbal communication in therapeutic interactions and the effect of individual subject variables such as sex and experience on decoding abilities.

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