EVALUATION ANXIETY, INTERPERSONAL ANXIETY, AND THE ACCURACY OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY

DENNIS J FORD, Fordham University

Abstract

This experiment attempted to serve as an independent test of Sullivan's Interpersonal Theory. The main conceptual hypothesis was that the experimental evocation of anxiety would decrease sensitivity to nonverbal communication. Interpersonal terms were made operational along the lines of evaluation anxiety theory and Interactional Psychology. State anxiety was induced by instructional set and anagram failure. The PONS (Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity) Test served as the dependent measure. Two anxiety checks were incorporated into the design. Grouping variables were established along evaluative and interpersonal dimensions. The grouping variables were the Test Anxiety Scale, the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale, and the S-R Inventory of General Trait Anxiousness.^ The experimental manipulation was successful, as assessed by the Present Affect Reactions Questionnaire, the first anxiety check, though not by the Cognitive Interference Questionnaire, the second check. Anxiety was found to be a highly situational and transient state.^ On the basis of a multiple correlation (N = 115), the anxiety manipulation failed to affect nonverbal sensitivity, whether assessed as the total accuracy or as accuracy on the pure video and auditory channels. No sex difference was obtained, and none of the multiple correlations involving the grouping variables reached significance. Interactions relating the grouping variables with experimental/control group membership to the PONS Test lowered the amounts of shared variance among variables in a second multiple correlation.^ The majority of grouping variables were significantly correlated. The shame/harm dichotomy was established only for the female sample. Females exhibited more trait anxiety, but less state anxiety in the experimental situation. Though not significantly so, the grouping variables were more closely associated with the autonomic items of the Present Affect Reactions Questionnaire than with the cognitive items.^ This research supported the methodology of evaluation anxiety theory but not that of Interactional Psychology. Though the main hypothesis was refuted, this research corroborated certain aspects of Interpersonal Theory, such as its situational emphasis. The anxiety manipulation was successful initially. It was argued that the length and unusual, highly artificial, nature of the PONS Test presented the major obstacle to experimental success. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

FORD, DENNIS J, "EVALUATION ANXIETY, INTERPERSONAL ANXIETY, AND THE ACCURACY OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8714581.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8714581

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