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Effects of sex of sender and emotional parameters of message on physiological responding in marital communication

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Title:
Effects of sex of sender and emotional parameters of message on physiological responding in marital communication
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Hermecz, David A., 1957-
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English
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vii, 83 leaves : ; 29 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Emotional expression ( jstor )
Galvanic skin response ( jstor )
Heart rate ( jstor )
Husbands ( jstor )
Personality psychology ( jstor )
Skin resistance ( jstor )
Social psychology ( jstor )
Spouses ( jstor )
Transmitters ( jstor )
Wives ( jstor )
Clinical and Health Psychology thesis Ph.D ( mesh )
Communication ( mesh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Clinical and Health Psychology -- UF ( mesh )
Interpersonal Relations ( mesh )
Marital Therapy ( mesh )
Problem Solving -- Adult ( mesh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Bibliography:
Bibliography: leaves 75-82.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by David A. Hermecz.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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16878104 ( OCLC )
ACV8612 ( NOTIS )
AA00004876_00001 ( sobekcm )

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EFFECTS OF SEX OF SENDER
AND EMOTIONAL PARAMETERS OF MESSAGE
ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONDING IN MARITAL COMMUNICATION














By

DAVID A. HERMECZ


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1985




EFFECTS OF SEX OF SENDER
AND EMOTIONAL PARAMETERS OF MESSAGE
ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONDING IN MARITAL COMMUNICATION
By
DAVID A. HERMECZ
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1985


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
It is with much gratitude that I acknowledge my committee members
for their part in transporting this project from the realm of the
grandiose to the realm of the merely ambitious. The consistent
support of my chair, Dr. Hugh Davis, was critical in orienting me
through myriad trees in search of a forest. I thank the other members
of the committeeDr. Lawrence Siegel, Dr. Keith Berg, Dr. Wilse
Webb, and Dr. Mickie Edwardsonfor their helpful suggestions on
design, procedures, and data analysis. Without the input of Dr.
David G. Gilbert, with whom I spent countless hours discussing this
paradigm and who scored all psychophysiological records, this project
would have been impossible. Ed Haskins and Sue Williams tirelessly
assisted in running subjects, and Kati Mandoki, Kathy Toohey, and Bill
Winkel served as ratersto them I extend my thanks. Mina Berman
assisted in both the scoring of questionnaires and key punching the
data, for which I am most grateful. I appreciate the willingness of
the participating couples to openly share their conflicts for the sake
of science and twelve dollars. Finally, I must thank my friends, my
family, and my wife, Kim, for their confidence that there is light at
the end of the tunnel, and for their support and love which made it
possible for me to get there.
IX


TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii
LIST OF FIGURES V
ABSTRACT vi
CHAPTER
I LITERATURE REVIEW 1
Communication, Conflict, and Emotion 1
Marital Interaction-A Special Case 2
Verbal Content 5
Nonverbal Affect 9
Sex Differences 14
Statement of the Problem 23
II METHOD 27
Subjects 27
Apparatus 27
Design and Procedure 29
Notes 34
III RESULTS 35
Manipulation Check 35
Subjects 36
Data Analyses 37
Physiological Scoring 39
Silent Waiting Period Data 40
Time of Assessment Effects 41
Content Effects 41
Affect Effects 46
Affect by Content Interaction 46
Sex Effects 51
Sex by Content Interaction 51
Sex by Content by Affect Interaction 58
Nonsignificant Interactions 62
IV DISCUSSION 63
ill


APPENDIX
1 EXAMPLES OF PROBLEM TRANSFORMS 72
2 SENDER'S STANDARD MESSAGE 74
REFERENCES 75
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 83
IV


LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE PAGE
1 Skin resistance responses as a function of time of
assessment 42
2 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment 43
3 Skin conductance responses as a function of content 44
4 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment and content 45
5 Skin conductance responses as a function of affect 47
6 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment and affect 48
7 Skin resistance responses as a function of time of
assessment and affect 49
8 Skin resistance responses as a function of content and
affect 50
9 Heart rate as a function of sex 52
10 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex 53
11 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex 54
12 Magnitude of change in skin resistance level as a
function of sex 55
13 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex and
content 56
14 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex and
content 57
15 Heart rate as a function of sex, content, and affect .... 59
16 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex, content,
and affect 60
17 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex, content,
and affect 61
v


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
EFFECTS OF SEX OF SENDER
AND EMOTIONAL PARAMETERS OF MESSAGE
ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONDING IN MARITAL COMMUNICATION
By
DAVID A. HERMECZ
August 1985
Chairman: Hugh C. Davis, Ph.D.
Major Department: Clinical Psychology
Sixty-four couples presented information about specific problem
areas in their relationships. After identifying the area in which the
greatest degree of disagreement existed, one spouse from each couple
was chosen randomly to present a written description of his/her
perception of the target problem to his/her spouse. Half the
presenting spouses were coached to present the problem in an
affectively neutral (calm, matter-of-fact) manner; the others were
coached to present messages in an affectively negative (angry,
impatient) manner. A transformation of the content of the problem
descriptions was also made, with half being modified to express the
complaint in a "mindreading" manner, attributing feelings, attitudes,
opinions, and/or behaviors to the other spouse, and half being
modified to be "problem feeling," expressing the speaker's own
feelings, attitudes, or opinions about the problem area. Half of the
senders of each of these groups were wives and half were husbands.
vi


Heart rate, skin resistance responses, skin conductance responses, and
change in skin resistance level of the listeners were the dependent
measures, monitored over a period of silence, the reading of a
standard message, and the reading of the problem description. Spouses
in the negative affect conditions showed greater increases in the
number of electrodermal responses from standard message to problem
description than subjects in the neutral condition. There was a
tendency for mindreading messages to elicit a greater number of skin
conductance responses than problem feeling messages. Negative affect
combined with mindreading content elicited the greatest number of skin
resistance responses in listeners. Wives showed greater physiological
activity overall than husbands, regardless of the content or affect of
the message. Wives showed more electrodermal activity to problem
feeling than mindreading messages, and husbands were more responsive
to mindreading than problem feeling messages. Content and affect also
interacted with sex, with wives hearing neutral problem feeling
messages showing the highest heart rate response and husbands hearing
negative mindreading messages showing the lowest level of responding.
Results were discussed with respect to complementarity of roles of
husbands and wives in conflict resolution and the potential for
application of the information provided by psychophysiological
indices.
vil


CHAPTER I
LITERATURE REVIEW
Communication, Conflict, and Emotion
The process of communication involves "the passing of information
or the formulation of thought by one person for the sharing or
understanding of one or more other persons, or for the control of the
behavior of one or more observers" (Eisenson, Auer, and Irwin, 1963,
p. 20). Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) have described two
modes whereby communication takes place. One is referred to as the
"digital" mode of communication, corresponding to verbal content. The
primary function of digital communication is to convey information
concerning objects. The second mode of communication"analogic"
helps define the nature of the relationship of the communicants.
Watzlawick et al. equate nonverbal communication with analogic
communication. Every communication has both digital and analogic
components which complement each other; in fact neither mode could
adequately fulfill the function of the other. Because these aspects
of communication are shaped by cultural biases, role conflicts,
conflicting social systems and other factors (Fisher, 1978), and
because the communication process by definition involves more than one
party there is a high likelihood that there will be some mismatch of
goals among interactants. When this occurs, communication has led to,
or become, conflict. Keltner (1970) conceives of interpersonal
conflict as a system of relationships between individuals who are
seeking goals that usually cannot be attained simultaneously under
prevailing conditions. Having been made manifest through the vehicle
of communication, conflict requires communication for its resolution.
1


However, conflict is more easily initiated than resolved due to
organismic variables which, with the occurrence of conflict, introduce
noise into the transmission/reception of messages. That is to say,
communication does not transpire solely as a systematic exchange of
verbal and nonverbal messages; it is largely influenced by emotional
processes which, once activated, may have an ongoing effect. Sillars
and Parry (1982) have suggested that as stress increases in intensity,
the complexity of human information processing decreases, marked by
decreased perspective-taking and increased other-directed attributions
of blame for conflicts. Hovland, Janis, and Kelley (1953) have also
noted that when emotional tension is strongly aroused distractibility
tendencies are increased and cognitive functions are temporarily
impaired. Thus, as conflicts intensify and conflict management
becomes more important the possibility of engaging in constructive
communication declines. This postulated relationship between arousal
level and ability to utilize cues in the organization of behavior is
not a simple negative linear one however. Several investigators have
suggested an "inverted U" function, with moderate levels of arousal
implicated as best suited for processing of information (Janis, 1967;
Easterbrook, 1959). From this perspective, inasmuch as it is capable
of keeping the arousal level of participants within this optimal level
of arousal, the communication process will be facilitated.
Marital InteractionA Special Case
There is reason to believe that the communicative behavior of
marital dyads and families is different from that of communication
taking place in most work situations and in other instrumental
activities in daily living. Thomas (1977) discusses several factors


contributing to this discrepancy: 1. Conventional stimulus control
over the topics to be discussed by given family members is relatively
lacking. Usually, practically any topic is able to be discussed at
any time. While this flexibility is at times advantageous, the
relative lack of structure provides an opportunity for communication
difficulties to grow into patterns. 2. Decision-making issues in the
family tend to spill over into general family communication. Thus, if
decision making is not accomplished at a specific time, decision
matters may infuse virtually all talking of family members. 3.
Family communication involves a small, limited audience such that any
given member's verbal behavior is vulnerable to the deficiencies of
the partner's verbal behavior. Thus, the impact of deviant family
members on communication can be greatly exaggerated. 4. The family,
being nuclear and relatively isolated, tends to be detached from most
external corrective influences. Because there is little external
control placed upon the internal workings of most families, highly
unusual patterns of verbal behavior may develop and be sustained
without being detected or altered externally. 5. Even though it is
relatively isolated from external corrective influences, the family is
in large measure an open system inasmuch as virtually any disruptive
input may be brought back into the family by any member. For example
the husband, having had a bad day at work, may bring his troubles
home, insult his wife, and initiate an argument that, given less
intense external pressures, might not have taken place.
There are other ways in which couples are unique in their
interactions. Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent (1975) studied
social-reinforcement exchange in maritally distressed and


nondistressed spouse-and-stranger dyads. When comparing distressed
with nondistressed couples, distressed dyads were found to produce
less positive and more negative social reinforcement. However, when
they had discussions with strangers the distressed couples interacted
considerably more favorably, emitting approximately half as many
negative and about three times more positive statements to strangers
than to spouses. In his attempt to discover what, if anything, is
distinctive in marital interaction Ryder (1968) used a decision-making
task (the Color Matching Task) and paired husbands with their wives or
with female married strangers. He found that husbands were more
likely to take the lead in conversations with their wives than with
strangers, and wives laughed less with spouses than with strangers and
used more disapproval of spouse, as did husbands. Winter, Ferreira,
and Bowers (1973) employed their decision-making task in a study of
married and unrelated couples. Married couples intruded upon and
interrupted each other more frequently than unrelated couples, and
unrelated couples listened respectfully to one another while married
couples were rude. Taken together, these findings suggest that
negatives exchanged indicate a pattern representative of the specific
marital relationship and social-learning history of the partners and
that such partners have the capability to interact more positively
given other interpersonal circumstances.
The present study is an investigation of two primary components
of communicationverbal content and nonverbal affectand the impact
that various manifestations of each has upon the physiological
responses of individuals listening. The marital dyad is the
interpersonal unit in which the communication process is considered,


5
representing a persistent relationship with much invested in the
success of the resolution of conflicts around salient issues. Because
both sexes are represented in the marital dyad, the possible effects
of gender on verbal and nonverbal behavior and emotion need also be
considered.
Verbal Content
Thomas (1977) recognizes verbal behavior as a direct indicator of
what is commonly meant by communication. He describes human speech as
"probably the largest, most complex, and most finely honed operant
repertoire of all" (p. 3). According to Thomas, verbal stimuli
operate in the same manner as other stimuli in affecting behavior,
controlling behavior by means of reinforcement, punishment,
extinction, discriminative control, and the operation of eliciting
stimuli. Originally neutral verbal stimuli take on the ability of
producing conditioned responses after being paired with unconditioned
stimuli. Assuming that verbal behaviors are capable of eliciting
responses, investigators have studied characteristics of speech and
their effects on listeners. Matarazzo and Wiens (1972) found evidence
for a mutual verbal pattern matching during dyadic interaction. In an
interview setting, they found that the duration of the interviewee's
speech was strongly influenced by the duration of the interviewer's
speech. When the interviewer spoke for longer periods of time, the
interviewee did also, and when the interviewer spoke for brief periods
of time the interviewee likewise reciprocated. Reaction time is
another dimension of verbal behavior which appears to be
interdependent in dyadic interactions. Lauver, Kelley, and Froehle


6
(1971) found a direct relationship between client and therapist speech
latencies, with longer client latencies leading directly to longer
therapist latencies.
Responses which may be elicited by verbal stimuli are not limited
to the verbal domain. Goldband (1981) examined physiological as well
as self-reported responses to the impositions of latencies and
interruptions during dyadic interactions. Subjects receiving delayed
responses from their partners reported the partners as less empathic
and genuine, and showed greater spontaneous electrodermal activity
than subjects in the no-latency condition. This was not the case for
interruptions, which were actually rated as a somewhat positive
experience.
In order to adequately describe the impact of verbal messages it
would be necessary to develop a coding system more complex than
durations, latencies, and frequencies of vocalizations which
incorporates content. Such a system must have categories fine enough
for data reduction but broad enough to prevent "data overload"
(Gottman, 1979). Some studies (Winter and Ferreira, 1967, Waxier and
Mishler, 1965) attempted to adapt Bales' (1950) Interaction Process
Analysis (IPA) for use with couples and families. Due to the
multidimensional meanings of the categories requiring higher order
inferences, reliabilities were unacceptably low, and this system has
been largely abandoned.
One very simple content coding system frequently used is the
ratio of verbally coded agreements to disagreements. This index can
be reliably determined and has been successful at discriminating


distressed from nondistressed populations (Cheek, 1964; Lennard and
Bernstein, 1969; Mishler and Waxier, 1968; Riskin and Faunce, 1970).
However, it is not possible to reconstruct the gist of an interaction
which is described by two codes, a serious shortcoming for a coding
system (Gottman 1979).
Weiss, Hops, and Patterson (1973) developed the Marital
Interaction Coding System (MICS), consisting of 29 categories of
verbal and nonverbal behavior. Using this system, Vincent, Weiss, and
Birchler (1975) found that distressed couples displayed a
significantly greater ratio of negative and smaller ratio of positive
problem-solving behaviors than nondistressed couples. Klier and
Rothberg (1977), using a modified version of the MICS, could
differentiate distressed from nondistressed couples based on negative
but not positive behaviors. Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent (1975) could
discriminate between distressed and nondistressed couples based on
negative and positive exchanges during problem-solving discussions and
negative exchanges during casual discussions. Finally, the MICS has
been shown to be sensitive to changes in interactions resulting from
treatment programs with a problem-solving orientation (Jacobson, 1977,
1978).
There have been objections raised to the MICS scoring system,
however (Snyder, 1982). Primary among these are questionable
interrater reliability, an overabundance of categories, and a lack of
functional equivalence among categories; i.e. some are defined by
content, some by grammatical properties, some by intended emotional
impact, etc. In an attempt to develop a reliable, reasonably sized


8
system which could be used to code distinct messages of a couple's
verbal exchange and then assess the sequence of those messages Gottman
(1979) designed the Couples Interaction Scoring System (CISS). The
number of content categories was collapsed to 8, which Gottman reports
facilitates the assessment of verbal content. These categories are
Agreement (AG), Disagreement (DG), Communication Talk (CT),
Mindreading (MR), Problem Solving (PS), Summarizing Other (SO),
Summarizing Self (SS), and Problem Feeling (PF). Interrater
reliabilities for individual content codes ranged from .84 to .99 with
a mean of .95. Consistent with previous studies Gottman found lower
agreement-to-disagreement ratios for distressed than nondistressed
couples. However, by the application of sequential and nonsequential
analyses Gottman was also able to identify when specific content codes
were most likely to occur over the course of conflict resolution and
what verbal and nonverbal responses were precipitated by the various
codes. Three stages of conflict resolution were identified. The
beginning third, called "agenda building," consisted of MR and PF
codes. Mindreading statements are those which make attributions about
the thoughts, feelings, or behavior of the person being addressed
(e.g. "You don't like to visit my mother"). Such statements have
been presumed to interfere with successful communication (Thomas,
1977), as they increase defensiveness in the listener. Problem
feeling statements present the feelings and attitudes of the speaker
about a problem area. These statements have been thought to be
facilitative in conflict resolution, as they provide information about
the speaker's reactions to a problem while making no inferences about
the thoughts or feelings of the listener (e.g. "I feel angry when I


9
visit your mother"). During this phase, the task was getting problems
out for discussion. In the middle third of discussion, described as
"arguing," DG and SS codes were most frequent; disagreements and
summaries of opinions were aired. During the end third,
"negotiating," PS, AG, CT, and SO codes were prevalent. Coming to a
mutually satisfying resolution of the problem was the primary task of
this phase. MR and PF codes coupled with negative affect were found
to best discriminate distressed from nondistressed couples. Clinic
couples were more likely to enter cross-complaining sequences
(PF-PF-PF) than nonclinic couples, who were more inclined to engage in
validation sequences (PF-AG-PF). Contract sequences (PS-AG) were more
likely for nonclinic than clinic couples. In all, by comparing the
verbal response patterns of distressed and nondistressed couples
Gottman was able to identify sequences of transactions critical to the
success of conflict resolution.
Nonverbal Affect
The description of the role of nonverbal behaviors in regulating
the communication process offered by Izard, Wehmer, Livsey, and
Jennings (1969) sounds strikingly similar to statements made by
individuals explaining the impact of verbal content on communication:
"Positive affect generally enhances harmonious functioning of the
personality subsystems, while negative affect tends to create
dissonance among the various subsystems. . Positive affect
leads to integrative behavior and effective functioning .
negative affect leads to discordance among personality subsystems,
non-integrated behavior, less effective functioning" (p. 278).
However, nonverbal behavior has received considerably more attention


10
in the marital interaction literature than verbal content, no doubt
because of the pervasive part it plays in the communication of
emotion. Mehrabian (1972) derived the following formula concerning
the delivery of affective messages which dramatically depicts the
importance of nonverbal cues: Total Affect = 7% Verbal + 38% Vocal +
55% Facial. Gottman, Markman, and Notarius (1977) found nonverbal
behavioral codes to be much more powerful discriminators of distressed
and nondistressed couples than any of the verbal codes. In the event
of inconsistency between verbal and nonverbal messages, the valence of
the nonverbal message will be the primary determinant of the
listener's response (Mehrabian and Wiener, 1967).
Accuracy and valence in nonverbal behavior seem to account for
much of the difference between satisfied and dissatisfied couples.
Kahn (1970) concludes that in the absence of accurate non-verbal
communication of intentions, attitudes, and wishes a marriage would be
particularly vulnerable to disharmony. In his comparison of the
nonverbal behavior of 21 dissatisfied and satisfied couples, the
latter group was found to be significantly more accurate in nonverbal
communications. Using the Primary Communication Inventory which
contains seven nonverbal items, Navran (1967) found better nonverbal
communication reported by happily married couples than unhappily
married couples. Regarding valence, positive messages occur more
frequently in well-adjusted couples than in poorly adjusted couples
(Noller, 1982), and negative messages are more common in poorly
adjusted than well-adjusted couples (Noller, 1982; Gottman, 1979).


11
While it is evident that nonverbal messages play a crucial part
in the communication process, the mechanisms by which they affect the
sequence of communicative events are less clear. The explanatory
framework most commonly invoked to assist in defining the relationship
of nonverbal behavior to emotion, communication and, consequently, to
marital satisfaction is one suggesting some sort of balance between
communicants. Argyle and Dean (1965) proposed an equilibrium theory
which suggests that interpersonal involvement is a cumulative product
of primarily nonverbal behaviors. This approach posits a kind of
pressure between individuals for the maintenance of a comfortable
level of interpersonal intimacy which, upon being reached, represents
a balance between approach and avoidance tendencies in the situation
(Heslin and Patterson, 1982). Any subsequent alteration of behaviors
will require compensatory adjustments in some other behavior to
maintain equilibrium. Research on the equilibrium model has been
supportive overall (Patterson, 1973). For example, in situations
where participants are approached closely or are the recipients of
high levels of gaze, compensatory adjustments (e.g. turning away,
decreasing eye contact, leaving the setting) frequently occur.
However, some studies have shown adjustments contrary to those
predicted by equilibrium theory (Jourard and Freedman, 1970, Breed,
1972, Chapman, 1975). Increased nonverbal intimacy produced
reciprocal rather than compensatory responses in these studies. That
is, when one member of a dyad increased intimacy it was followed by an
increase in nonverbal intimacy in the other member. Patterson (1976)
posits that such discrepancies can be explained by considering arousal
change as a mediating factor. Increased intimacy has been shown to


12
result in increases in physiological responding. McBride, King, and
James (1965) found increased electrodermal activity with closer
approaches, as did Nichols and Champness (1971) with increased eye
contact. Increases in gaze have been shown to increase heart rate
(Kleinke and Pohlen, 1971) and to change EEG reactions (Gale, Lucas,
Nissim, and Harpham, 1972). Given that changes in nonverbal intimacy
behaviors of Person A precipitate arousal change in Person B, it is
assumed that cognitions in Person B about himself, Person A, or the
situation direct that arousal change into a specific feeling state
(Schacter and Singer, 1962). The type of feeling state experienced by
Person B will direct the course of adjustment made to A's change in
i
intimacy (Heslin and Patterson, 1982). Negative feeling states (e.g.
anxiety, discomfort, embarrassment) would facilitate compensatory
responses, consistent with equilibrium theory. Positive states (e.g.
liking, love, relief) lead to a reciprocation of intimacy change in
the other. The principle of balance remains integral; both
reciprocity and compensation serve to maximize one's comfort or
satisfaction in an interaction (Heslin and Patterson, 1982).
One difficulty with Patterson's model is research demonstrating
reciprocity of both negative nonverbal cues and physiological arousal
and the absence of reciprocal responding given positive nonverbal
displays. In a study examining exchanges of pleasurable and
displeasurable behaviors Wills, Weiss, and Patterson (1974) concluded
that there was evidence for the reciprocation of displeasurable but
not pleasurable behaviors. Gottman et al. (1977) found negative
affect reciprocity in distressed couples but failed to find positive
affect reciprocity in either distressed or nondistressed couples.


13
Gottman (1980) attributes the finding of negative reciprocity and the
failure to find positive affect reciprocity to a temporal
physiological linkage between interacting people created by negative
affect. Support for this notion comes from Kaplan, Burch, and Bloom
(1964) who correlated the electrodermal responses of interacting dyads
paired according to mutual like, mutual dislike, or mutual neutrality
using a sociometric peer rating. Electrodermal responding could be
predicted from one member to another only in the dyads paired on the
basis of mutual dislike. Levenson and Gottman (1982) collected
physiological data (skin conductance, heart rate, heart rate
variability, pulse transit time, pulse transit time variability) from
couples during two discussion periods, one in which events of the day
were discussed and a second during which the couple attempted to
resolve the major issue in their marriage. Multiple correlation
showed a moderate (R = .55) relationship between predictability
measures during the discussion of events of the day (a low conflict
task involving little negative affect) and marital satisfaction. For
the high conflict task in which negative affect and negative affect
reciprocity increase, a considerably stronger relationship was found
(R = .78). Gottman (1982) concluded from these findings that as the
degree of conflict increased so did the physiological coupling which
subsequently better discriminated satisfied and dissatisfied
marriages. He suggested that closeness in marriage is maintained by
symmetry in emotional responsiveness particularly in low-intensity
affective interactions. However, an absence of responsiveness in such
situations would lead to high levels of negative affect which would in
turn produce emotional withdrawal and negative affect reciprocity.


14
While there is disagreement on the mechanisms by which nonverbal
behaviors affect the communication process/ common elements can be
seen among the various models. Nonverbal behaviors are powerful
elicitors of responses/ requiring an adjustment in the behavior of the
recipient which may be reciprocal or compensatory. The nature of the
response is largely dependent upon the nature of the behavior/ and
both of these are linked with the nature of the relationship which can
be conceptualized on a continuum of satisfaction. Finally/ arousal is
implicated as integral in the communication process/ being both cause
and effect of changes in nonverbal behavior.
Sex Differences
Communication between the sexes has long been recognized as a
frequently frustrating endeavor (Haas/ 1979). One explanation for
this difficulty is that men and women have been said to speak
"different languages" (Jong/ 1977; Reik/ 1954). This section will
review studies of sex differences in verbal and nonverbal aspects of
communication.
Studies of spoken language can be divided into four areas: form/
topic/ content and use (Bloom and Lahey; 1978). Form can be described
in terms of the units of sound (phonology)/ the units of meanings that
are words or inflections (morphology) and the ways in which units of
meanings are combined (syntax). One way in which men and women have
been found to differ in .form is that the language of women tends to be
more conservative than men's. Men more readily coin and use new
phrases/ pun/ utter slang expressions/ and use profanity and obscenity
(Jesperson; 1949). Lakoff (1973) observed that men use stronger


15
expletives than women, who use softer or weaker profanities. It
appears that the observation of these sorts of differences has a long
history. In Aristophanes' play The Ecclesiazuae (393 B.C.) a woman is
going to portray a man in her part of a conspiracy for women to
overthrow the government. She falters by swearing "By the two
goddesses!" Apparently this was the favorite oath of Athenian women;
ancient Greek men swore only by gods, never by goddesses. Women's
language has also been described as more "polite" than men's (Hartman,
1976; Lakoff, 1975), with women more frequently saying "please" and
"thank you" than men. In a study of 11 male-female dyads, Zimmerman
and West (1975) found that 98% of the interruptions and all the
overlaps were made by the male speakers.
Topic refers to the subject matter of a conversation. In a study
of blue-collar families Komarovsky (1967) found women to be more
inclined to discuss the family and social problems while men
reportedly preferred to talk about cars, sports, work, motorcycles,
and local politics. Klein (1971) made similar observations of the
working class in England. Bernard (1972) and Chesler (1972) found
that in mixed-sex conversations men rarely follow through on topics
initiated by women.
Content refers to the "categorization of the topics that are
encoded in messages" (Bloom and Lahey, 1978, p. 11) and differs from
topic in that topic refers to specific ideas, objects, and events
whereas content refers to the way the topic is referenced (Haas,
1979). Women's language has typically been described as more
emotional and evaluative than men's (Jesperson, 1949; Kramer, 1974;


16
Lakoff, 1975; Pei, 1969; Reik, 1954). Gleser, Gottschalk, and
Watkins (1959) collected samples of speech from 90 adult men and women
who were asked to describe an interesting or dramatic life experience.
Women were found to use more words implying feeling, emotion, or
motivation (whether positive, negative, or neutral). Women used more
negations and auxiliary words and made more self-references. Men made
more references to time, space, quantity, and destructive action.
Wood (1966) performed a content analysis on the speech of 36 college
students (18 male, 18 female) who described photographs of a man's
face. Males referred more directly to the details of the picture,
while females were more interpretive and subjective in their
descriptions. Barron (1971) studied the speech of teachers and
students during classroom activities. An analysis of the grammatical
cases employed revealed that females used more participative and
purposive cases and males more frequently used instrumental and
objective cases. Similar to Wood's study, men's speech described
objects and actions related to those objects and women discussed how
people felt and why they behaved as they did.
Bloom and Lahey (1978) describe "use" as consisting of "the
socially and cognitively determined selection of behaviors according
to the goals of the speaker and the context of the situation" (p.20).
It has been frequently suggested that male talk is instrumentally
oriented, concerning itself with the task of conveying ideas and
information (Bernard, 1972). Women's speech is commonly described as
tentative. Lakoff (1975) wrote that tag questions (e.g., "It's cold,
isn't it?) are more frequently used by women than men, as this form of
question avoids assertion and offers the addressee the option of


17
agreeing or disagreeing. Hartman (1976) found qualifiers to be
associated with females in her study of 70 year-old Maine natives. In
Swacker's (1975) study of the speech of college students while
describing pictures all subjects but one who used approximation with
numbers (e.g. "about four books") were female. Baumann (1976),
however, found no sex differences in the use of qualifying prefatory
statements or confirmatory tag questions in her analysis of adults in
various settings. Lakoff (1975) described the disparate ways in which
men and women make requests; men make commands and women state
requests. In an analysis of over 1,000 television commercials
Hennessee and Nicholson (1972) found that men gave nearly 90% of the
commands to buy a particular product.
Studies of sex differences in nonverbal behaviors have focused on
differential abilities in the accurate transmission and reception of
messages and on descriptions and frequencies of specific behaviors
used. One paradigm frequently employed in the study of communication
of affect via facial expressions has one person ("encoder" or
"sender") view a variety of types of scenes on slides or film. The
sender's facial expressions are usually unobtrusively videotaped while
viewing the stimuli and presented to another person ("decoder" or
"receiver"), whose task is to classify the sender's affective
expression into one of the categories of the stimuli being sent.
Using this paradigm, Buck, Savin, Miller, and Caul (1972) found female
pairs to be more effective than male pairs in the transmission and
reception of nonverbal emotional cues. Others using this paradigm
(Buck, 1975; Buck, Miller, and Caul, 1974; Fugita, Harper, and
Wiens, 1980; Woolfolk, Abrams, Abrams, and Wilson, 1979) have


18
likewise found females to be more accurate senders of spontaneous
facial expressions than males. Noller (1980) had each of 48 married
couples send ambiguous messages to each other employing positive,
neutral, or negative affect. Females were found to be better senders
particularly with regard to positive messages. Hall's (1978) review
of 75 investigations showed females to be superior to males in
decoding nonverbal communication in more studies than would be
expected by chance.
The difference in the ability to encode and decode nonverbal
messages has been attributed to noted discrepancies between men and
women in the use of nonverbal behaviors. In same sex dyads, females
interact more closely than males (Aiello and Aiello, 1974; Aiello and
Jones, 1971; Dosey and Meisels, 1969; Pellegrini and Empey, 1970).
Eye contact is also used more between females than between males
(Exline, 1963; Exline, Gray, and Schuette, 1965; Libby, 1970).
Females use touch more than males and respond more positively to it
(Fisher, Rytting, and Heslin, 1976; Jourard, 1966; Whitcher and
Fisher, 1979). Lochman and Allen (1981) looked at the nonverbal
communication of dating couples enacting standardized interpersonal
conflict vignettes from the Inventory of Marital Conflicts task (Olson
and Ryder, 1970). Compared to males, females were found to emit
significantly higher proportions of nonverbal behaviors and were more
consistent in matching self-ratings to their behavior. Noller (1982)
found sex differences in the use of positive, neutral, and negative
messages in her study of 48 marital dyads. Females were more often
coded positive or negative, while males were more frequently coded
neutral. In a study of six nondistressed couples discussing a salient


19
relationship issue, Notarius and Johnson (1982) found that wives
reciprocated their husbands' positive and negative speaker turns while
husbands followed their wives' positive speech with a neutral speaking
turn and showed no consistent pattern of responses to their wives'
negative speech.
Given the finding of more nonverbal expressivity in women, it is
necessary to discuss how physiological arousal, already identified as
integral to communicative processes, interacts with nonverbal
behavior. There are currently two models which make opposite
predictions about the direction of physiological responses concomitant
with nonverbal (particularly facial) expressivity. Discharge or
suppression models (Buck, 1979) posit that low levels of expressivity
lead to increased physiological reactivity as the emotional "energy"
which is not overtly channeled is discharged somatically. Jones
(1950) measured galvanic skin responses in elementary school children
exposed to eleven emotion-arousing situations. Those children who
showed low level electrodermal responses were described as high in
overt expressive behavior, while children showing large electrodermal
responses were described as low in overt expressive behavior. In a
study of 100 delinquent boys performing difficult motor tasks Landis
(1932) found that the 14 boys who became frightened, angry, cried, or
showed signs of pain exhibited a smaller frequency of electrodermal
responding than the whole group. Learmonth, Ackerly, and Kaplan
(1959) correlated skin potential fluctuations during various
interpersonal and physical stressors with personality variables
assessed by the MMPI and the Rorschach. They found that increases in
palmar potential during stress were negatively correlated with


20
personality variables related to expressivity and positively
correlated with variables dealing with restraint and curtailment of
unpleasant or prohibited feelings and actions. Lanzetta and Kleck
(1970) found negative relationships between expression of affect (as
measured by judges from facial and body cues) and skin conductance
lability. Buck, Miller, and Caul (1974) found that more accurate
(expressive) senders, who tended to be female, showed smaller skin
conductance and heart rate responses to emotionally oriented slides.
Buck, Savin, Miller, and Caul (1972) who replicated the finding of
females as "externalizers" and males as "internalizers" reported a
negative correlation between the senders' skin conductance responses
to emotive slides and the accuracy of the observers' ratings. Males
showed more frequent skin conductance fluctuations than women, which
has also been found in classical conditioning situations involving
shock (Graham, Cohen, and Shmavonian, 1966; Shmavonian, Yarmat, and
Cohen, 1965) and in a situation in which observers watched another
person receiving shocks (Craig and Lowrey, 1969). Notarius and
Johnson (1982) found that husbands had a greater tendency to show skin
potential responses to their wives' negative speech during conflict
resolution than did the wives to their husbands' negative speech. In
all, there is much support for the discharge model which suggests an
inverse relationship between overt expressivity and physiological
reactivity.
The second group of models describing the relationship among
facial displays and physiological reactions in response to emotional
stimuli are called "arousal" models. They assume a unidimensional
continuum of responses, thus suggesting a positive relationship


21
between nonverbal and physiological components of emotion. Darwin
(1872) postulated that overt expressive displays regulated the
emotional experience: "The free expression by outward signs of an
emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as
possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions" (p. 22). Izard
(1971) and Gellhorn (1964) proposed that central neural circuits are
triggered by the face; these circuits in turn elicit autonomic
changes and the emotional experience as well. Some support has been
found for the arousal perspective in terms of finding relationships
between expressive behavior and reported quality of experienced
affect. Laird (1974) manipulated the facial expressions of subjects
into either a smile or a frown under the guise of a study of
electromyographic responding. He found that subjects' mood ratings
were affected by their facial expressions, as subjects rated their
mood as more positive and rated cartoons more humorous when smiling
than when frowning. Pasquarelli and Bull (1951) had five subjects
under hypnosis hold the physical expression of one emotion while
receiving the suggestion to experience another emotion. Subjects
reported an inability to feel the second emotion without altering
their physical posture. Studies implementing physiological indices
also provide support for the arousal hypothesis. Lanzetta,
Cartwright-Smith, and Kleck (1976) instructed subjects to conceal or
exaggerate the facial display associated with anticipating and
receiving painful shocks of varying intensities. Self-reports of
pain, skin conductance responses, and expressive behavior were all
found to covary. Using a subject-controlled pain tolerance paradigm,
Colby, Lanzetta, and Kleck (1977) also found changes in the facial


22
expression of pain to be accompanied by parallel changes in autonomic
responding. Vaughan and Lanzetta (1981) instructed subjects to either
amplify or inhibit their facial expressions in response to observing a
model being shocked. They found that the "amplify" group showed more
skin conductance responsivity, heart rate acceleration and activity in
response to the model's expression of pain than the "inhibit" group
and a third group given no facial instructions.
Notarius, Wemple, Ingraham, Burns, and Kollar (1982) discussed
why some studies have found direct relationships between facial
expressivity while others have found inverse relationships. One
explanation given is design differences; between-subjects comparisons
generally support an inverse relationship, and within-subjects
analyses support a direct relationship (Buck, 1980). Methodological
differences have been noted, as some studies expose subjects to
slides, some to shock, some to threat of shock, and some to motion
pictures. Notarius et al. suggest that the different emotional
elicitors may each be associated with different reaction patterns.
External constraint of emotional expression is another difference
across studies. Those studies in which the subjects' expressions were
not constrained have supported an inverse relationship between overt
expression and physiological reactivity, while studies in which the
subjects' expressions were manipulated through instructions offered
support for arousal models. The final explanation offered for
inconsistency in the findings relates to the role of overt expression
in emotional situations. Because facial expressions are subject to
voluntary control, they can be modified in response to the "display
rules" of a given context (Ekman and Friesen, 1969). Autonomic


23
responses, however, are not easily controlled and represent the
effects of previous emotional conditioning. Thus, Notarius et al.
conclude: "We would expect a strong relationship between self-report
of emotion and autonomic reactivity in response to emotional stimuli
but a variable relationship among facial expression, self-report, and
physiological reactivity as a function of the display rules operative
in any given situation" (p.401). In proposing research designs for
examining the typical relationship of nonverbal expressivity and
autonomic reactivity, they recommend unconstrained emotional
expression in interpersonally relevant situations with as few
environmental constraints that might inhibit expression as possible.
Statement of the Problem
From the preceding review it is evident that the course of
marital communication largely depends upon verbal and nonverbal
parameters of the messages being exchanged and which spouse is
sending/receiving a given message. It is also apparent that while
much research has implicated the role of physiological arousal in the
mediation of commmunicative efforts, surprisingly few investigators
have implemented the recording of autonomic responses during dyadic
interaction. In recognizing the empirical nature of the question of
which types of content actually do elicit emotional responses,
Hovland, Janis, and Kelley (1953) called for a twofold program of
research. The first step would be the development of a classification
scheme for separating emotional appeals from others by using a content
analysis for classifying assertions according to their semantic
meanings. The second step would be conducting controlled
experimentation to differentiate those contents which evoke emotional


25
Affect was manipulated by videotaped modeling and coaching by which
the subject was directed to present the modified message in an
affectively neutral or negative fashion.
Based on the preceding reviews, the following hypotheses were
proposed on the effects of content, affect, and sex of the sender on
physiological responses of the listener during the reading of the
problem description:
Content Effect
Assuming that mind reading statements invoke a defensive set on
the part of the listener, and that a defensive set elicits
physiological responding, problems presented with mind reading content
would elicit in the listener greater physiological reactivity (more
skin resistance responses, more skin conductance responses, larger
skin resistance level changes, and greater heart rate increases) than
problem feeling messages.
Affect Effect
Given the findings on nonverbal affect reciprocity and symmetry
in emotional responsiveness, problems presented with negative affect
would elicit in the listener greater physiological reactivity than
affectively neutral messages.
Content X Affect Interaction
Problems presented with problem feeling content and neutral
affect would elicit least physiological reactivity, followed by, in
increasing order, mind reading content/neutral affect, problem feeling


content/negative affect, mind reading content/negative affect.
Sex effect
Because of the lack of external constraint of emotional
expression on the listener and the concomitant inverse relationship
suggested between affective display and physiological responsivity in
a paradigm of this type, husbands, who are less overtly expressive,
would show greater physiological reactivity to messages than wives.
Greatest discrepancies between husbands and wives would be found on
mindreading messages with negative affect, followed by, in decreasing
order, problem feeling messages with negative affect, mindreading
messages with neutral affect, and problem feeling messages with
neutral affect.


CHAPTER II
METHOD
Subjects
Subjects were sixty-four married couples recruited by means of
advertisements in the classified sections of local newspapers in
Gainesville, Florida. Prior to their participation in the experiment,
couples were informed of the general nature of the experiment and the
time involved (approximately 2 hours) by means of a phone contact.
Couples were paid twelve dollars for their participation.
Apparatus
Two adjacent rooms were used in the study: a subject room 12' 8"
long and 11' 9" wide, in which participants completed questionnaires
and discussed a problem area, and an observation room, 12' 8" long and
9'6" wide, which contained physiological and videotape recording
devices.
Physiological recordings of heart rate and skin resistance were
taken from both members of each dyad using a Narco Physiograph Model
DMP-4B. Heart rate was obtained from a pair of stainless steel
electrodes attached to the left and right midforearms, using a Narco
Hi-Gain coupler Model 7171 and a Narco Channel amplifier Model 7070.
On the Hi-Gain coupler, the Time Constant and Gain was set at .03 X
27


28
100/ and on the Channel amplifier sensitivity was set at 20 mv/cm, and
the low pass filter was set at 10 Hz. Redux Creme was the contact
medium, and the electrodes were secured with adhesive collars. A
Narco GSR coupler Model 7175 supplied a constant 10 microamp current
to obtain skin resistance. Beckman Standard Biopotential electrodes
were attached to the distal phalanxes of the first and second fingers
of the non-dominant hand using 3M Micropore 1/2 inch surgical tape.
Johnson and Johnson K-Y Jelly was the contact medium. Paper speed was
2.5 cm/sec.
Videotape recordings were made using a Panasonic WV-342 video
camera mounted on a tripod and placed across the room from the
subjects, getting a full body view of both participants. Sound was
monitored using two Realistic Highball 2 dual-impedance microphones.
Audio and video signals were recorded on a Sony V0-1600 3/4 inch
videocassette recorder located in the observation room.
A Condor Digital Clock showing hours, minutes, and seconds was
placed between and behind the dyad. A Sony video monitor, driven by
the VTR in the observation room, was used for showing an affect
coaching tape to one spouse. Red and green signal lights, located
between the dyad, were controlled by a switch in the observation room.
An 8 ohm speaker, equidistant from both spouses, was driven by a
Realistic MPA-20 P.A. amplifier, amplifying two two-second
presentations of wideband white noise (rise time = 100 msec.)
pre-recorded and played through the system on a Sony TC-520CS cassette
recorder.


29
Design and Procedure
A 2 X 2 X 2 factorial design was used, with affect (neutral or
negative), sex of spouse sending (male or female), and content (mind
reading or problem feeling) as the factors. Each couple was
consecutively assigned in a randomly predetermined order to its
specific condition.
Two experimenters were used in data collection. Experimenter A
(EA) was responsible primarily for interacting directly with the
couple, i.e. reading instructions to them, giving them
questionnaires, debriefing them. Experimenter B (EB) operated the
physiograph and video recording equipment. Upon the arrival of the
couple, the experimenters introduced themselves, described the study,
and obtained consent. EA read this passage:
Because of the necessity of keeping experimental procedures
standardized, it will be necessary for me at times to read you
specific instructions. We will start with each of you completing
several questionnaires. Your responses on these questionnaires will
be kept confidential among the research team. Throughout the
experiment it will be important that you not discuss, comment on, or
look at each other's questionnaire items. Please read and follow all
directions carefully. I will gladly answer any questions you might
have. Please be sure to write your name in the indicated place on
each questionnaire. Here is your first questionnaire.
Four questionnaires were administered including the Couple's
Problem Inventory, a short checklist of problem areas with duration
and intensity ratings for each problem category, a general information
sheet containing demographic information, and the Locke-Williamson
Marital Relationship Inventory (Locke and Williamson, 1958), a measure
1
of marital adjustment. Spouses were seated in such a way so as to
prevent them from viewing each other's responses. After these


30
questionnaires were completed, EA read both Couple's Problem
Inventories to himself and tried to identify the problem rated as most
troublesome. If the same problem was ranked highest by both spouses,
the couple was informed of this; if there was disagreement regarding
which problem was most distressing, the top three rated problems were
read aloud and EA helped the couple reach agreement on a mutually
troublesome problem. Once the problem was agreed upon, EA read this:
Please complete this Problem Description sheet in the manner
described in the instructions at the top of the sheet. Be sure to
read the directions carefully and follow them exactly. If you have
any questions let me know. Please write clearly or print. Write
about the problem you just indicated was most troublesome.
Each spouse then completed a Problem Description form which
required a written description of the selected problem. The problem
was to be written directly addressing the other spouse "as though you
were trying to communicate to him/her your feelings about the
problem." The problem description was to be between 100 and 130 words,
and numbers on the problem description form corresponding to each word
placement were provided to facilitate staying within these boundaries.'
The spouse assigned to the "listener" condition was then escorted
3
to a waiting room and given a questionnaire to complete. The spouse
assigned to the "sender" condition remained in the subject room and
filled out the same questionnaire. Both experimenters then worked
together in another room on transforming the content of the problem
description to being either "mind reading" or "problem feeling,"
depending upon the assigned condition. Transform guidelines were as
follows: 1) The number of words in the transformed problem
description should be between 80% and 120% of the number used in the


31
sender's original problem description. 2) No fewer than three
mindreading or problem feeling thought units should be incorporated
into the text. 3) Mindreading transforms may contain some problem
feeling statements but must contain more mind reading than problem
feeling phrases. 4) Problem feeling transforms should contain no
mindreading thought units. 5) Similarity of the transformed problem
description should be maximized by using original words, sentences,
and paragraph syntax where possible. (See Appendix 1 for samples of
problem descriptions and their transforms.) After the sender finished
filling out the questionnaire he or she was instructed to watch a
videotape describing the affective manner (i.e. either emotionally or
neutrally, depending upon the assigned condition) in which he or she
was to present the problem written about to the spouse. At this
point, EA turned on the video monitor, while EB started the affect
coaching videotape from the observation room. After the tape was
finished, EA presented the transformed problem description to the
sender and read the following:
In order to assure scientific standardization, I have made a few
slight modifications of the problem description you wrote earlier. I
would like you to read this standardized problem description to
yourself twice and then to read it to me in an
(emotional/non-emotional) manner similar to that you just viewed on
the television.
Subjects in the neutral affect condition were coached to speak in
a non-emotional, businesslike, matter-of-fact manner with moderate
loudness, pitch, rate, inflection, and enunciation. Subjects in the
negative affect condition were coached to speak in a manner conveying
anger and/or impatience, presenting the message loudly with high
pitch, blaring timbre, fast rate, irregular inflection, and clipped


32
enunciation. The experimenter praised the subject when he or she was
affect-appropriate during the practice readings and had the sender
practice more affect-appropriate cues when necessary (i.e. if a
neutral-assigned sender was being negative or if a negative-assigned
sender was not emotional enough).
Following coaching/ the sender was told that the affective set
practiced was to be maintained only during the actual reading of the
problem description to the spouse and that during the discussion
subsequent to the reading of the problem/ both spouses were to express
themselves in whatever manner seemed natural. Both the sender (in the
subject room) and the listener (in the waiting room) were then
dismissed to wash their hands with soap and water in preparation for
the attachment of the sensors (Martin and Venables/ 1980). While both
subjects were out of the room, EB turned on the video camera. When
the subjects returned they were seated in separate chairs at right
angles to and approximately three feet from each other with the
listener on the sender's right. Skin resistance and heart rate
electrodes were attached to both spouses as described previously.
Both subjects completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck
4
and Eysenck, 1964) and another questionnaire. At this time, EB
activated the physiograph, identifying zero baselines and calibrating
both skin resistance channels with an applied 10 kohm signal
deflecting each pen 10 mm. After the verification of all
physiological signals by EB and the completion of the questionnaires
by the couple, EA read the following passage:
In a few minutes (sender) will read the problem description which
he/she wrote earlier in the experiment. Immediately following his/her
reading this problem the two of you are asked to come to a mutually


33
satisfactory solution of the problem. Spend at least 10, but no more
than 15 minutes mutually discussing the problem. Be natural, and try
to come to a real solution that satisfies both of your needs. The
only thing that we ask is that you keep your hands, arms, and body
relatively quiet so that the sensors will not be disturbed. You can,
however, use your face and voice in whatever manner seems most
natural. What and how you say and do is up to you after (sender)
reads his/her problem description. (Listener), you must not talk
until (sender) has read all of his/her problem. (Sender) will
indicate that he/she is done reading by saying, 'OK, this is the way I
view the problem.' Then the two of you are free to talk when and how
you want for from 10 to 15 minutes as you try to reach a satisfying
solution to the problem. Any questions? (Sender), you are to begin
reading in several minutes when the light (point to it) turns green.
Please be silent until then. Prior to the green signal light and your
conversation two tones, a soft and a loud one, will be presented, once
each. Relax now until the green light.
EA then set the digital clock to synchronize with all recording
systems and joined EB in the observation room. The video recorder was
activated and the pre-recorded white noise segments were presented,
with a 75 dB sound at two minutes and a 95 dB sound at three minutes.
At five minutes, EA switched on the green light and the sender read
the Sender's Standard Message (Appendix 2) with neutral affect.
Following the reading of the Standard Message the sender read the
problem description with neutral or negative affect, depending on the
condition being implemented. A ten minute conflict resolution
followed the reading of the problem description, after which both
spouses completed the Conflict Recall Report (a set of questions
concerning each spouse's reactions to their discussion) and two other
6
questionnaires. Couples were informed of the research questions of
interest and thanked for their participation.


Notes
1 The other questionnaire, to be used in another investigation, was
the first half of the Loevinger Sentence Completion Test (Loevinger
and Wessler, 1970) a measure of ego development. Hereafter, all
procedures administered and questionnaires given without direct
relevance to this study are noted.
2 The Problem Descriptions of both senders and listeners will be
content analyzed in a subsequent study.
3 The Trait form (i.e. "How you usually feel") of the Profile of Mood
States (Lorr, Daston, and Smith, 1967).
4 The State form of the Profile of Mood States (i.e. "How you feel
right now").
5 Heart rate and electrodermal responses to the tones will be examined
in a subsequent investigation.
6 The Conflict-Recall form of the Profile of Mood States (i.e. "How
you felt during your just-completed attempt to solve the problem with
your spouse"), and the second half of the Loevinger scale.


CHAPTER III
RESULTS
Manipulation Check
In order to ensure that content and affect were effectively
manipulated, undergraduate students blind to experimental conditions
were used as raters. For content, one rater attempted to determine
whether each transformed problem description was mindreading or
problem feeling, if it contained at least three content-appropriate
thought units, and if it was between 80 and 120% of the length of the
original. Of all the transforms 95.3% were judged to be mindreading
or problem feeling as assigned. Untransformed problem descriptions
were an average of 118.0 words in length, 102.4% of the mean length of
transformed problem descriptions (115.2 words). For affect, two
raters viewed the reading of the problem description on videotape and
rated the intensity of affect on a scale of 0 to 3 with higher scores
signifying more intense affect. Scores of 0 and 1 were called
neutral; scores of 2 and 3 were called negative. At least one of the
two raters judged the sender to be neutral or negative as assigned in
96.9% of the cases. Rater l's ratings agreed with the assigned
condition in 85.9% of the cases; Rater 2's ratings agreed in 88.9% of
the cases. Rater 1 agreed with Rater 2 in 77.8% of the cases.
Perceived similarity of the sender's transformed problem
description to the original problem description was determined by
35


36
examining the response to the following item on the Conflict Recall
Report: "Please recall your original complaint as you wrote it. If
you had only spoken your complaint, how similar would it have been to
what you wrote down as your complaint?" Senders reported a similarity
rating of 6.83 on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 9 (just like),
suggesting a fairly high degree of similarity. An analysis of
variance revealed no significant differences among the various
conditions in response to this item.
To determine how typical the discussion period was, responses to
the question "How much like his/her typical problem-solving behavior
with you was your partner's behavior/style?" were examined. On a
scale of 1 (not at all like) to 9 (just like), the mean rating was
7.22, suggesting that the discussion was more than less typical. An
analysis of variance grouped by sex, content, and affect showed no
significant differences among respondents in any condition on
responses to this item.
Subjects
In obtaining data for 64 couples, it was necessary to run a total
of 78 couples. Data were not usable from 14 couples for the following
reasons: failure to read the standard message (2), failure to employ
negative affect (2), laughter during the standard message or problem
description (3), failure to interact (2), inappropriate verbalizations
not germane to the selected conflict area (1), health problems
directly affecting physiological recording (1), equipment failure (1),
and improper recording of skin resistance levels or event
onsets/offsets (2).


37
Mean age of participants was 30.96 years (SD=11.27). Spouses had
been married an average of 6.78 years (SD=9.29) and had 15.51 years of
education (SD=2.42). Mean marital satisfaction as measured by the
Locke- Williamson Marital Research Inventory was 98.61 (SD=12.83).
The average intensity of the specific problem area discussed on a
scale of 0 to 100 was 50.96 (SD=30.59).
Data Analyses
Analyses of variance were performed on heart rate, skin
resistance responses, skin conductance responses, and the magnitude of
change in skin resistance level during the silent waiting period to
determine if subjects in all conditions were at comparable levels
physiologically prior to the standard message and problem description.
Repeated measures analyses of variance were performed for each of the
four response variables (heart rate, skin resistance responses, skin
conductance responses, magnitude of change in skin resistance level)
for two sequential events: presentation of the standard message, and
presentation of the problem description. Content (mindreading vs.
problem feeling), affect (neutral vs. negative), and sex of listener
(wives vs. husbands) were the grouping factors. Because of
correlations found between physiological measures during the problem
description and both marital satisfaction on the Locke-Williamson and
Neuroticism on the Eysenck scale (see Table 1), analyses of covariance
were also run with scores from each of these self-report measures as
covariates. The intensity of the problem discussed on a scale of 0 to
100 from the Couple's Problem Inventory was also used as a covariate
to control for variations in severity of problems discussed among


38
TABLE 1
Pearson Correlations of Marital Satisfaction and Neuroticism
with Heart Rate, Skin Resistance, and Skin Conductance Responses
During the Problem Description
Heart Rate
r
Skin Resistance |
Skin Conductance
Responses
1
Responses
Marital
r=-.255
1
r=.278
r=.240
Satisfaction
p<.044
p<.027
p<.058
N=63
N=63
1
N=63
Eysenck
r=.242
1
r=.130
r=.201
Neuroticism
p<.054
p<.305
p<.lll
N=64
N=64
1
N=64


39
subjects. Responding during the standard message was used as a
covariate to control for possible differences at that point in the
procedure and thus allow inferences to be made regarding the
contribution of the problem description alone to subjects' responding.
Statistical results reported are analyses of variance unless a
covariate is noted.
Physiological Scoring
Heart rate, frequency of skin resistance responses, frequency of
skin conductance responses, and magnitude of skin resistance responses
were scored for listeners during the last thirty seconds of the five
minute silent waiting period, the last thirty seconds of the standard
message, and the entire reading of the problem description. For heart
rate, the number of R-waves between epoch lines marked on the
physiograph record was counted to the nearest one-tenth of a beat.
For the thirty second silent waiting and standard message epochs this
total was multiplied by two to yield beats per minute. Beats per
minute were calculated for the problem description epoch by taking the
number of beats during the problem description, dividing by the number
of seconds duration, and multiplying this quotient by 60. Frequencies
of skin resistance responses were determined by counting the number of
decreases in resistance of at least 2 kilohms (2 mm) from a slope of
0. This response was expressed as the number of deflections per
thirty seconds. For the thirty second silent waiting and standard
message epochs this was simply a total of the number of deflections.
For the problem description, the number of deflections was divided by
the duration in seconds of the problem description and multiplied by


40
thirty. Skin conductance responses of .2 micromhos or more were
scored for the same intervals as skin resistance responses. Unlike
skin resistance responses, their occurrence was dependent upon skin
resistance level; thus a 2 mm deflection was a .2 micromho skin
resistance response if the skin resistance level was equal to 100
kilohms. At greater resistance levels, a larger deflection was
required to be counted as a response, and at levels less than 100
kilohms a smaller deflection was needed to be counted as a .2 micromho
response. Skin resistance response magnitudes were defined as the
difference between the peak upward excursion (minimum resistance) and
the lowest excursion (maximum resistance) preceding that particular
peak for a given epoch.
Silent Waiting Period Data
Heart rate was marginally different during the silent waiting
period for husbands and wives, F (1,56)=3.58, p<.064, with wives
having slightly higher heart rates (Wives: Mean HR = 76.20 bpm, SD =
8.09; Husbands: Mean HR = 71.61 bpm, SD = 10.66). A borderline
effect was also found for content, £ (1,56)= 3.09, p<.084, with
subjects in the mindreading conditions having lower heart rates during
the waiting period than those in the problem feeling conditions
(Mindreading: Mean HR = 71.77 bpm, SD = 9.10; Problem feeling: Mean
HR = 76.04 bpm, SD = 9.65). A borderline sex by content by affect
interaction was found, F (1,56)=3.75, p<.058, with wives in the
neutral problem feeling condition having the highest heart rate (Mean
= 80.65 bpm, SD = 7.99) and husbands in the negative mindreading
condition having the lowest heart rates (Mean = 65.05 bpm, SD = 6.78).


41
No significant differences for any combination of conditions were
found for the frequency of skin resistance or skin conductance
responses or for the magnitude of skin resistance level change during
the waiting period.
Time of Assessment Effects
Skin resistance responses and skin conductance responses varied
as a function of time of assessment (standard message/ problem
description) regardless of sex, content, and affect conditions [Skin
resistance: £ (1,56) =6.11, £<.017; skin conductance: £
(1,56)=5.61, £<.021]. Both skin resistance and skin conductance
responses increased significantly from standard message to problem
description [Skin resistance: £(63)=2.48, £<.016; skin conductance:
£(63)=2.28, £<.026] (Figures 1 and 2).
Content Effects
There was a tendency for a greater number of skin conductance
responses in the mindreading than problem feeling conditions
[£(1,55)=2.87, p<.096, covariate = standard message] (Figure 3). Time
and content also interacted [£(1,56)=2.98, £<.090], with the change
from standard message to problem description being significant in the
mindreading condition but not in the problem feeling condition,
£(63)=2.71, p<.011 (Figure 4). No main effects for content were found
with analysis of variance.


Number of 2K Ohin SRRs / 30 sec.
42
Standard Problem
Message Dse ription
Figure 1. Skin resistance responses as a function of time
of assessment.


Number of .2 |imho SCRs / 30 sec.
43
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 2. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment.


Number of .2 yimho SCRs / 30 sec.
44
3.0 -
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 3. Skin conductance responses as a function of content.


Number of 2 jjmho SCRs / 30 sec.
45
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 4. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment and content.
Mindreading
A Problem Feeling


46
Affect Effects
A main effect was found for affect on the number of skin
conductance responses at a borderline level of significance
[F(l,55)=3.79, p<.057, covariate = standard message] with more skin
conductance responses occurring in the negative than in the neutral
condition (Figure 5). Time by affect interactions were found for both
skin conductance and skin resistance responses [£(1/56)=5.66, £<.021
and F(l,56)=3.45, £<.068 respectively] (Figures 6 and 7). The number
of responses was not different between neutral and negative conditions
at either standard message or problem description; however, the
change from standard message to problem description was a significant
increase for mindreading statements [Skin conductance: £=3.41,
£<002; skin resistance: £=3.07, £<.004]. There was no significant
change in frequency of responses in the problem feeling condition. No #-
main effects for affect were found with analysis of variance.
Affect by Content Interaction
Frequency of skin resistance responses varied as a function of
the interaction of affect and content [F (1,56)=4.16, p<.046] (Figure
8). Subjects in the negative mindreading condition had the most skin
resistance responses, more than those in the negative problem feeling
condition [£ (30)=2.09, £<.046]. There were no differences between
subjects in the mindreading neutral and negative, mindreading neutral
and problem feeling neutral, or problem feeling neutral and problem
feeling negative conditions. This interaction was not significant
using responses during the standard message as a covariate.


Number of .2 pmho SCRs / 30 sec.
47
3.0 -
Neutral Negative
Figure 5. Skin conductance responses as a function of affect.


Number of .2 (imho SCRs / 30 sec.
48
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 6. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment and affect.
9 Neutral
Negative


Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
49
Standard Problem
Mess age Desc ription
Figure 7. Skin resistance responses as a function of time
of assessment and affect.
9 Neutral
Negative


Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
50
3.0 -
2.0 -
MR PF MR PF
Neutral Negative
Figure 8. Skin resistance responses as a function of content
and affect.
MR = Mindreading
PF = Problem Feeling


51
Sex Effects
Wives showed greater physiological reactivity to the experimental
situation than husbands as reflected by significant differences in the
number of electrodermal responses and a tendency toward higher heart
rate across procedures [Skin resistance responses: £ (1,49)=4.38/
p<.042, covariate = problem intensity; skin conductance responses: F
(1,56)=5.93, p<.018; skin resistance level change: £ (1,56)=5.10,
£<.028; heart rate: £ (1,56)=3.29, £<.075] (Figures 9, 10, 11, and
12.) Analysis of covariance using responding during the standard
message as a covariate showed borderline sex differences for heart
rate and skin conductance responses [Heart rate: £ (1,55)=2.85,
£<.097; skin conductance: £ (1,55)=3.82, £<.056] and no differences
on skin resistance responses and magnitude of skin resistance level
change.
Sex by Content Interaction
Husbands and wives show differential sensitivity to content for
frequency of both skin resistance and skin conductance responses [Skin
resistance: £(1,56)=5.70, £<.020; skin conductance: £ (1,49)=5.33,
£<.025, covariate=problem intensity] (Figures 13 and 14). Wives in
the problem feeling condition showed the most electrodermal activity,
having a significantly greater number of skin resistance and skin
conductance responses than husbands in the same condition, t
(30)=2.95, £<.006 and _t (30) =2.87, £<.007 respectively. There were
no significant differences between wives in the problem feeling and
mindreading conditions. Husbands showed significantly more skin


Heart Rate (beats/min.
52
Wives
Husbands
Figure 9. Heart rate as a function of sex.


Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
53
3.0 -
Wives Husbands
Figure 10. Skin resistance responses as a function of sex.


Number of .2 pmho SCRs / 30 sec.
54
Wives
Husbands
Figure 11. Skin conductance responses as a function of sex.


Change in Skin Resistance Level (K Ohms)
55
Figure 12. Magnitude of change in skin resistance level
as a function of sex.


Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
56
W H W H
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 13. Skin resistance responses as a function of sex
and content.
W = Wives
H = Husbands


Numhei' of .2 jjmho SCRs / 30 sec.
W H W H
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 14. Skin conductance responses as a function of sex
and content.
W = Wives
H = Husbands


58
resistance responses and marginally more skin conductance responses in
the mindreading condition than in the problem feeling condition, t
(30)=2.54, p<.017 and t (30)=1.80, £<.083. No sex by content
interactions were found using analysis of covariance with responses
during the standard message as a covariate.
Sex by Content by Affect Interaction
Heart rates of husbands and wives were differentially responsive
to the affect and the content conditions, £(1,55)=4.63, £<.036,
covariate=neuroticism (Figure 15). Wives in the neutral problem
feeling condition had the highest heart rates, marginally higher than
those of husbands in the same condition (£<.069), wives in the
negative problem feeling condition (£<.090), and significantly greater
than those of husbands in the negative mindreading condition, who had
the lowest heart rates (£<.016). Husbands in the negative mindreading
condition had marginally lower rates than husbands in the negative
problem feeling condition (£<.081). Wives and husbands in the neutral
mindreading condition did not differ in heart rate, nor did wives and
husbands in the negative problem feeling condition. This interaction
was not statistically significant for skin conductance or skin
resistance responses; however, a comparison of skin resistance
responses (Figure 16) with heart rate shows that within the neutral
affect conditions relative positions of husbands' to wives' responses
are the same to both content categories; for negative affect
conditions, the relative positions of husbands' to wives' responses
are reversed. Skin conductance responses followed a similar pattern
except in the negative mindreading condition (Figure 17). No sex by
content by affect interactions were found using analysis of covariance


Heart Rate (beats/ min.
59
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
74
73
72
71
70
W H
Neutral
Mind-
Reading
W H
Neutral
Problem
Feeling
W H
Negative
Mind-
Reading
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
Figure 15. Heart rate as a function of sex, content,
and affect.
W = Wives
H = Husbands


Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
60
4.0 -
3.0
2.0
1.0 -
H
Neutral
Mind-
Reading
W H
Neutral
Problem
Feeling
W H
Negative
Mind-
Reading
Figure 16. Skin resistance as a function of sex,
and affect.
W = Wives
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
content,
H = Husbands


Number of .2 ymho SCRs / 30 sec.
61
4.0 -
3.0
W H
Neutral
Mind-
Reading
W H
Neutral
Problem
Feeling
W H
Negative
Mind-
Reading
Figure 17. Skin conductance as a function of sex
and affect.
W = Wives
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
content,
H = Husbands


62
with responses during the standard message as a covariate.
Nonsignificant Interactions
None of the following interactions for response variables were
found to be statistically significant: sex by affect/ time by sex,
time by sex by content/ time by sex by affect/ time by content by
affect/ time by sex by content by affect.


CHAPTER IV
DISCUSSION
The present study attempted to ascertain some of the
psychophysiological consequences of listening to spouses presenting
experimentally controlled complaints about their marital
relationships. From the preceding results, it is apparent that the
research paradigm did provide an opportunity to observe spouses
present and respond to issues of genuine emotional salience. The act
of simply listening to a spouse reading a personal specific marital
complaint elicited responding at a level significantly greater than
when listening to that spouse reading a standard message. Thus, even
though the communicative environment created was somewhat artificial,
the responses of the participants suggest that this situation was
meaningful and potent.
The use of both analyses of variance and covariance made it
possible to examine potential response differences of various
conditions both during and prior to the problem description period.
When the responses occurring during the standard message were used as
a covariate, a main effect for content was found. Coupled with
significant time by affect and time by content interactions with both
statistical procedures, it is evident that these effects are
attributable to the messages themselves. Thus, across sex and affect
conditions, mindreading statements can be said to have elicited
63


64
significant increases in skin conductance activity, while problem
feeling statements did not. This finding supports the inclusion of
content in an analysis of message impact and suggests that the
relative importance of verbal content to nonverbal affect as an
interpersonal stimulus has perhaps been underestimated. Using the
same covariance analysis, nonverbal affect emerged as a main effect,
as messages delivered with negative affect were responded to
physiologically with increased electrodermal responding, while neutral
messages failed to elicit increased responding. This finding is
consistent with the work of Levenson and Gottman (1982) who found
evidence for increased physiological activity concomitant with
increased intensity of affect. Sex differences found with the
analysis of variance were attenuated but not eliminated with the
covariance analysis, suggesting that the specific marital complaints
were augmenting the already discrepant responding of the different
sexes. Wives showed greater overall responsivity than husbands,
contrary to hypothesis. One explanation for this pattern of results
is that the listeners, even though given no instructions about
generating emotions (as in the Lanzetta studies) or no controls on
what they could say during the conflict resolution period, may have
been constrained in that they had to listen to their spouses and could
not respond until cued by the speaking spouse. Thus, the arousal
model, which assumes a positive relationship between nonverbal and
physiological components of emotion, would probably have been a more
appropriate theoretical basis on which to have made predictions.
It is possible that some of the effects found may not be
explainable exclusively by the specific marital problem presented by


65
the senders, and the statistical procedures employed also help to
identify these sources of variance. It may be that group differences
at the points of the waiting period or the standard message may
account in part for effects found. The slight heart rate differences
during the silent waiting period for sex by content by affect could
explain the finding of the sex by content by affect interaction with
an analysis of variance and a failure to find this interaction when
the initial differences, carried over to the standard message, are
eliminated with covariance procedures. However, another possibility
is that group differences at the points of the waiting period and the
standard message were not independent of the problem description, i.e.
that there was a preliminary "leakage" by the coached sender of the
content and affect of the message about to be delivered (Ekman and
Friesen, 1969). One indication of this is the finding that analyses
of variance were sensitive to interactions of factors (e.g. sex by
content, content by affect, sex by content by affect), yet these
interactions were not significant when the responses during the
standard message were used as a covariate. Thus, covarying out
responses during the standard message not only appeared to enhance
finding main effects, but it also reduced the possibility of finding
effects related to sex differences or affect and content preliminarily
leaked during the standard message or perhaps as early as the silent
waiting period. The design of the present study might be improved to
address this question by initially measuring physiological response
levels prior to affect coaching and content transformation, thus
eliminating the possibility of nonverbal leakage of the nature of the
upcoming problem description.


66
In spite of the aforementioned effects of content and affect
examined separately/ it is evident from the data that various
combinations of these emotional parameters yield different
physiological results/ and these variables should be considered as
they interact. Subjects in the negative condition with mindreading
content did show the greatest number of skin resistance responses/ as
predicted. However/ when the content of the message was problem
feeling/ negative affect subjects showed the fewest skin resistance
responses. Thus/ knowing only the affect of a given message would not
be sufficient for explaining the effect to be expected. Gottman
(1979) found that mindreading statements could be facilitative or
destructive/ depending upon the affect used. With negative affect/
mindreading statements were seen as personal attacks/ and were more
characteristic of distressed couples. With neutral content/ however/
mindreading statements functioned as "feeling probes/" engaging the
other spouse in a nonthreatening manner to agree or disagree with the
attribution in the process of working through a conflict/ and these
were more characteristic of nondistressed couples.
Sex and content were also found to interact/ with husbands and
wives responding differentially to content conditions. Wives showed
the greatest electrodermal responsivity in the problem feeling
conditions/ while husbands showed more responses in the mindreading
conditions. This discrepancy could be related to differences in what
Bloom and Lahey (1978) call "use/" in a sense paralleling the "display
rules" described by Ekman and Friesen (1969) for nonverbal behavior.
Husbands may be more accustomed to hearing the more personally
expressive problem feeling messages from their wives and respond more


67
to the novel mindreading messages. Similarly/ because of the tendency
of men to use more instrumental language describing object relations
(Barron, 1971), conceivably including the relationships of other
people to behaviors, wives may more frequently hear husbands make
attributions about their wives' thoughts, feelings, or behaviors than
vice-versa.
The manner in which sex differences influenced the interaction of
content and affect shows yet another important dimension to be
considered in explaining responsivity. Husbands in neutral affect
conditions responded similarly if content was mindreading or problem
feeling. Wives, however, showed high levels of responsivity in the
neutral problem feeling condition. When wives were assigned to
affectively negative conditions, the content seemed to have little
influence over physiological responding. Conversely, husbands in
affectively negative conditions showed a large discrepancy in response
depending upon content. Heart rate was actually lowest in husbands in
the negative mindreading condition, contrary to what was expected.
One explanation for the disparity in responsivity for husbands and
wives is that physiological responding may be paralleling what Gottman
(1979) refers to as "cognitive editing processes." In a sequential
analysis of verbal and nonverbal behaviors of nondistressed spouses he
discovered complementary roles of wives and husbands in conducting
conflict resolution. Upon hearing negative affect, husbands were
likely to be "negative listeners" (i.e. to show nonverbal disapproval
of a message while listening) and to reciprocate the negative affect;
wives, however, were less likely to be negative listeners and also
less likely to return negative affect. During discussion of low


68
conflict issues, Gottman found that neutral affect on the part of
husbands was likely to be perceived as negative by wives and responded
to with disagreement or counterproposals with negative affect. The
reverse was not found to be true; wives' neutral behavior was not
followed by negative affect or content by the husbands. Gottman
concluded that husbands and wives had different tasks in the process
of successful problem resolution. Because of their lack of reciprocal
responding to negative affect wives were seen as responsible for
breaking up negative affect cycles in the interest of resolution.
Similarly, when discussing low conflict issues, husbands were deemed
responsible for maintaining a climate of agreement. When these
response patterns are present in both spouses, the probability for
successfully handling either high or low conflict areas is increased.
Findings from the present study of nonclinic couples suggest a similar
complementarity in wives' and husbands' physiological response
patterns. Wives listening to an expressive problem feeling statement
with neutral affect were unable to respond overtly while listening,
but may have been showing physiologically the disagreement and
counterarguments that would typify their hearing this sort of message.
Husbands show a depressed level of heart rate coupled with the highest
number of electrodermal responses in the negative mindreading
condition. This pattern of responding is suggestive of orienting
which is often seen when presented with a novel stimulus. It is
likely that more instrumental mindreading language coupled with
negative affect is unusual for nonclinic wives. When negative affect
is used by wives it is probably more frequently used in conjunction
with problem feeling statements; husbands in this study, in fact,


69
showed highest heart rates to this combination, suggesting a more
defensogenic response.
The relationship of heart rate and electrodermal activity is an
interesting one, appearing linear in some situations and inverse in
others. In the neutral conditions, heart rate and electrodermal
activity covaried, with both heart rate and electrodermal responses
being higher in problem feeling than mindreading conditions (c.f.
Figures 15 and 16). The opposite was true for the negative affect
condition; heart rates in problem feeling conditions were relatively
higher than in mindreading conditions, while skin resistance responses
were more frequent for mindreading than problem feeling conditions.
This relationship is evident when considering the sex of the listener
as well; relative positions of level of responding for wives to
husbands are similar when considering neutral affect conditions and
inverse in the negative affect conditions (c.f. Figures 15 and 16).
It may be that given increased affect intensity differential demands
are made on cardiovascular and electrodermal systems, further modified
according to the sex of the listener. The correlational data
presented in Table 1 offer another example of how heart rate and
electrodermal measures may be convergent or divergent depending upon
the task. When related to the level of reported marital
couples with higher satisfaction scores had more
responses and lower heart rates than less satisfied couples,
correlating the dimension of neuroticism, conceptualized by Eysenck as
arousability, with heart rate and electrodermal measures, both classes
of responses showed a somewhat positive relationship. One might
cautiously conclude that the pattern of reduced heart rate with


70
increased electrodermal activity is a crude index of attentive
listening, characteristic of satisfied couples, but that defansogenic
responding (i.e. high heart rate and electrodermal responding) is
more typical of neurotic individuals. Less cautiously, it is apparent
that measures of heart rate and electrodermal activity offer more
information when considered together and probably do not provide
sufficient information when only one or the other is used.
The present findings have implications for treatment programs
which are currently being implemented for marital distress. It is
apparent that, at least at a psychophysiological level, the impact of
a given message may vary significantly depending upon the sex of the
speaker and listener. If physiological activity is related to
information processing and conflict resolution, this finding conflicts
with programs which suggest, for example, always speaking in a
neutral, business-like manner for best conflict-resolution results.
It is also apparent that the use of mindreading messages does not
categorically elicit large responses and may, in fact, lead to a
reduction in physiological activity. Some researchers and clinicians,
recognizing the importance of individual and sex differences (e.g.
Noller, 1980) have suggested teaching husbands and wives different
communication skills as necessary, such as teaching husbands to be
more expressive.
Future work in this area should directly investigate the
relationship between physiological responsivity and actual conflict
resolution to see if the data provided by physiological indices are
useful in predicting, on an immediate or delayed basis, the outcome of


71
attempts at resolution. Real-time investigations of unconstrained
interactions around salient relationship issues would be the ideal
situations to examine, as manipulations such as those used in the
present study are somewhat artificial and may interfere with
interpreting conflict resolution solely as a function of the couples'
communication skills and styles. Given that information derived from
psychophysiological measures is found to be both predictive and
nonredundant, the potential arises for implementing intervention
strategies using otherwise untapped data from the interactants as
tools for resolution.


APPENDIX 1
EXAMPLES OF PROBLEM TRANSFORMS
Untransformed Problem Description
You become defensive when I point out things when they're not
meant at you. I get negative and draw away from you. I know I can be
difficult but I'd like you to express your thoughts anyway. I wish
you were more playful and active than you sometimes are. I feel we
haven't truly given our relationship time to develop because we
haven't yet had the free time or money to work towards our goals.
Sometimes you give in to my wants on little things and it hurts in
other areas. I'd much prefer you to speak up or remind me because I
am forgetful.
Problem Description Transformed to Mindreading Content
You become defensive when I point out things when they're not
meant at you. I get negative and draw away from you. You know I can
be difficult but I'd like you to express your thoughts anyway. I wish
you were more playful and active than you sometimes are. You know we
haven't truly given our relationship time to develop because we
haven't yet had the free time or money to work towards our goals.
Sometimes you give in to my wants on little things and it hurts in
other areas. I'd much prefer you to speak up more than you do or
remind me because I am forgetful.
72


73
Untransformed Problem Description
I think we have a problem concerning recreational activities in
that we hardly ever interact with each other indoors or out. You know
how sports minded I am, if you would only spend two or three hours a
weekend watching televised sports or playing a sport outdoors with me
our relationship in this area would be greatly improved. Not only
would we spend more time together, but our health could only improve.
In addition to that, (our son) could sometimes participate which would
keep him occupied in a constructive manner. I know you feel that if
you spent time watching sports with me or playing sports outside
nothing would get done around the house but I think we could set down
and make a schedule to alleviate that kind of problem.
Problem Description Transformed to Problem Feeling Content
I think there is a problem concerning recreational activities in
that there is hardly any interaction either indoors or out. I am very
sports minded and feel our relationship in this area would be greatly
improved if two or three hours a weekend were spent watching televised
sports or playing a sport outdoors together. Not only would more time
be spent together, but I feel our health could only improve. In
addition to that, (our son) could sometimes participate which would
keep him occupied in a constructive manner. I know it seems that
spending time watching sports with me or playing sports outside would
keep things from getting done around the house, but I think a schedule
could alleviate that kind of problem.


APPENDIX 2
SENDER'S STANDARD MESSAGE
I am going to read to you two things. The first is a series of
statements I have been asked to read concerning this marital research
project. The second is the problem description that I wrote earlier,
and which we are to discuss after I read. Here is the first of the
two.
This study's procedures took over a year to design and develop.
The study was designed to learn about aspects of marriage that have
not until now been studied carefully and in a scientific manner.
Therefore our participation in this study will hopefully provide
psychologists with knowledge that will eventually help them to more
effectively help married couples lead more enjoyable relationships.
Our participation in the present research is, thus, greatly
appreciated by the research staff.
The researchers are always concerned with trying to improve their
experiments. Therefore, it is helpful to them if we give them our
impressions about the study and how it might be improved. We will,
therefore, have an opportunity to talk about the experiment at its
conclusion.
Now I am going to read my problem description.
74


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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
David Arthur Herraecz was born on February 10/ 1957, to Julius and
Frances Hermecz in Fairhope, Alabama. He graduated from McGill-Toolen
High School in Mobile, Alabama, in 1975 and attended Auburn University
from 1975 to 1979. Majoring in both psychology and sociology, he was
a member of Psi Chi psychology honorary, Alpha Kappa Delta sociology
honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honorary, Alpha Phi Omega
service fraternity, and was the trainer of the Auburn University
mascot, War Eagle IV, from 1976 to 1979. Upon receiving traineeships
from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1979-1980 and again in
1980-1981, he was involved in research in behavioral medicine under
the supervision of Barbara G. Melamed. He received the Master of
Arts in psychology from the University of Florida in 1982. He was
awarded a grant from the Division of Sponsored Research in 1983 to
investigate psychosocial interventions for children receiving medical
treatment for cancer and has published work on behavioral medicine
with an emphasis on children's fears, psychophysiology, and imagery in
Behavior Therapy, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
and Psychosomatic Medicine. He is a student member of the Association
for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, the Society for
Psychophysiological Research, and the Christian Association for
Psychological Studies.
83


I certify that I have read this study and that in ray opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
0aviS, Chairman
Professor of Clinical Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy. \
V
W. Keith Berg
Associate Professor of
Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, m scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Wilse B. Wet
Graduate Research Professor
of Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Mickie N.Edwardson
Professor of Journalism
and Communication


This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College
of Health Related Professions and to the Graduate School, and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
August 1985
Q.
Dean, College of Health Related
Professions
Dean for Graduate Studies and
Research


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EFFECTS OF SEX OF SENDER
AND EMOTIONAL PARAMETERS OF MESSAGE
ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONDING IN MARITAL COMMUNICATION
By
DAVID A. HERMECZ
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1985

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
It is with much gratitude that I acknowledge my committee members
for their part in transporting this project from the realm of the
grandiose to the realm of the merely ambitious. The consistent
support of my chair, Dr. Hugh Davis, was critical in orienting me
through myriad trees in search of a forest. I thank the other members
of the committee—Dr. Lawrence Siegel, Dr. Keith Berg, Dr. Wilse
Webb, and Dr. Mickie Edwardson—for their helpful suggestions on
design, procedures, and data analysis. Without the input of Dr.
David G. Gilbert, with whom I spent countless hours discussing this
paradigm and who scored all psychophysiological records, this project
would have been impossible. Ed Haskins and Sue Williams tirelessly
assisted in running subjects, and Kati Mandoki, Kathy Toohey, and Bill
Winkel served as raters—to them I extend my thanks. Mina Berman
assisted in both the scoring of questionnaires and key punching the
data, for which I am most grateful. I appreciate the willingness of
the participating couples to openly share their conflicts for the sake
of science and twelve dollars. Finally, I must thank my friends, my
family, and my wife, Kim, for their confidence that there is light at
the end of the tunnel, and for their support and love which made it
possible for me to get there.
IX

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii
LIST OF FIGURES V
ABSTRACT vi
CHAPTER
I LITERATURE REVIEW 1
Communication, Conflict, and Emotion 1
Marital Interaction-A Special Case 2
Verbal Content 5
Nonverbal Affect 9
Sex Differences 14
Statement of the Problem 23
II METHOD 27
Subjects 27
Apparatus 27
Design and Procedure 29
Notes 34
III RESULTS 35
Manipulation Check 35
Subjects 36
Data Analyses 37
Physiological Scoring 39
Silent Waiting Period Data 40
Time of Assessment Effects 41
Content Effects 41
Affect Effects 46
Affect by Content Interaction 46
Sex Effects 51
Sex by Content Interaction 51
Sex by Content by Affect Interaction 58
Nonsignificant Interactions 62
IV DISCUSSION 63
ill

APPENDIX
1 EXAMPLES OF PROBLEM TRANSFORMS 72
2 SENDER'S STANDARD MESSAGE 74
REFERENCES 75
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 83
IV

LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE PAGE
1 Skin resistance responses as a function of time of
assessment 42
2 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment 43
3 Skin conductance responses as a function of content 44
4 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment and content 45
5 Skin conductance responses as a function of affect 47
6 Skin conductance responses as a function of time of
assessment and affect 48
7 Skin resistance responses as a function of time of
assessment and affect 49
8 Skin resistance responses as a function of content and
affect 50
9 Heart rate as a function of sex 52
10 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex 53
11 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex 54
12 Magnitude of change in skin resistance level as a
function of sex 55
13 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex and
content 56
14 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex and
content 57
15 Heart rate as a function of sex, content, and affect .... 59
16 Skin resistance responses as a function of sex, content,
and affect 60
17 Skin conductance responses as a function of sex, content,
and affect 61
v

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
EFFECTS OF SEX OF SENDER
AND EMOTIONAL PARAMETERS OF MESSAGE
ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONDING IN MARITAL COMMUNICATION
By
DAVID A. HERMECZ
August 1985
Chairman: Hugh C. Davis, Ph.D.
Major Department: Clinical Psychology
Sixty-four couples presented information about specific problem
areas in their relationships. After identifying the area in which the
greatest degree of disagreement existed, one spouse from each couple
was chosen randomly to present a written description of his/her
perception of the target problem to his/her spouse. Half the
presenting spouses were coached to present the problem in an
affectively neutral (calm, matter-of-fact) manner; the others were
coached to present messages in an affectively negative (angry,
impatient) manner. A transformation of the content of the problem
descriptions was also made, with half being modified to express the
complaint in a "mindreading" manner, attributing feelings, attitudes,
opinions, and/or behaviors to the other spouse, and half being
modified to be "problem feeling," expressing the speaker's own
feelings, attitudes, or opinions about the problem area. Half of the
senders of each of these groups were wives and half were husbands.
vi

Heart rate, skin resistance responses, skin conductance responses, and
change in skin resistance level of the listeners were the dependent
measures, monitored over a period of silence, the reading of a
standard message, and the reading of the problem description. Spouses
in the negative affect conditions showed greater increases in the
number of electrodermal responses from standard message to problem
description than subjects in the neutral condition. There was a
tendency for mindreading messages to elicit a greater number of skin
conductance responses than problem feeling messages. Negative affect
combined with mindreading content elicited the greatest number of skin
resistance responses in listeners. Wives showed greater physiological
activity overall than husbands, regardless of the content or affect of
the message. Wives showed more electrodermal activity to problem
feeling than mindreading messages, and husbands were more responsive
to mindreading than problem feeling messages. Content and affect also
interacted with sex, with wives hearing neutral problem feeling
messages showing the highest heart rate response and husbands hearing
negative mindreading messages showing the lowest level of responding.
Results were discussed with respect to complementarity of roles of
husbands and wives in conflict resolution and the potential for
application of the information provided by psychophysiological
indices.
vil

CHAPTER I
LITERATURE REVIEW
Communication, Conflict, and Emotion
The process of communication involves "the passing of information
or the formulation of thought by one person for the sharing or
understanding of one or more other persons, or for the control of the
behavior of one or more observers" (Eisenson, Auer, and Irwin, 1963,
p. 20). Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) have described two
modes whereby communication takes place. One is referred to as the
"digital" mode of communication, corresponding to verbal content. The
primary function of digital communication is to convey information
concerning objects. The second mode of communication—"analogic"—
helps define the nature of the relationship of the communicants.
Watzlawick et al. equate nonverbal communication with analogic
communication. Every communication has both digital and analogic
components which complement each other; in fact neither mode could
adequately fulfill the function of the other. Because these aspects
of communication are shaped by cultural biases, role conflicts,
conflicting social systems and other factors (Fisher, 1978), and
because the communication process by definition involves more than one
party there is a high likelihood that there will be some mismatch of
goals among interactants. When this occurs, communication has led to,
or become, conflict. Keltner (1970) conceives of interpersonal
conflict as a system of relationships between individuals who are
seeking goals that usually cannot be attained simultaneously under
prevailing conditions. Having been made manifest through the vehicle
of communication, conflict requires communication for its resolution.
1

However, conflict is more easily initiated than resolved due to
organismic variables which, with the occurrence of conflict, introduce
noise into the transmission/reception of messages. That is to say,
communication does not transpire solely as a systematic exchange of
verbal and nonverbal messages; it is largely influenced by emotional
processes which, once activated, may have an ongoing effect. Sillars
and Parry (1982) have suggested that as stress increases in intensity,
the complexity of human information processing decreases, marked by
decreased perspective-taking and increased other-directed attributions
of blame for conflicts. Hovland, Janis, and Kelley (1953) have also
noted that when emotional tension is strongly aroused distractibility
tendencies are increased and cognitive functions are temporarily
impaired. Thus, as conflicts intensify and conflict management
becomes more important the possibility of engaging in constructive
communication declines. This postulated relationship between arousal
level and ability to utilize cues in the organization of behavior is
not a simple negative linear one however. Several investigators have
suggested an "inverted U" function, with moderate levels of arousal
implicated as best suited for processing of information (Janis, 1967;
Easterbrook, 1959). From this perspective, inasmuch as it is capable
of keeping the arousal level of participants within this optimal level
of arousal, the communication process will be facilitated.
Marital Interaction—A Special Case
There is reason to believe that the communicative behavior of
marital dyads and families is different from that of communication
taking place in most work situations and in other instrumental
activities in daily living. Thomas (1977) discusses several factors

contributing to this discrepancy: 1. Conventional stimulus control
over the topics to be discussed by given family members is relatively
lacking. Usually, practically any topic is able to be discussed at
any time. While this flexibility is at times advantageous, the
relative lack of structure provides an opportunity for communication
difficulties to grow into patterns. 2. Decision-making issues in the
family tend to spill over into general family communication. Thus, if
decision making is not accomplished at a specific time, decision
matters may infuse virtually all talking of family members. 3.
Family communication involves a small, limited audience such that any
given member's verbal behavior is vulnerable to the deficiencies of
the partner's verbal behavior. Thus, the impact of deviant family
members on communication can be greatly exaggerated. 4. The family,
being nuclear and relatively isolated, tends to be detached from most
external corrective influences. Because there is little external
control placed upon the internal workings of most families, highly
unusual patterns of verbal behavior may develop and be sustained
without being detected or altered externally. 5. Even though it is
relatively isolated from external corrective influences, the family is
in large measure an open system inasmuch as virtually any disruptive
input may be brought back into the family by any member. For example
the husband, having had a bad day at work, may bring his troubles
home, insult his wife, and initiate an argument that, given less
intense external pressures, might not have taken place.
There are other ways in which couples are unique in their
interactions. Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent (1975) studied
social-reinforcement exchange in maritally distressed and

nondistressed spouse-and-stranger dyads. When comparing distressed
with nondistressed couples, distressed dyads were found to produce
less positive and more negative social reinforcement. However, when
they had discussions with strangers the distressed couples interacted
considerably more favorably, emitting approximately half as many
negative and about three times more positive statements to strangers
than to spouses. In his attempt to discover what, if anything, is
distinctive in marital interaction Ryder (1968) used a decision-making
task (the Color Matching Task) and paired husbands with their wives or
with female married strangers. He found that husbands were more
likely to take the lead in conversations with their wives than with
strangers, and wives laughed less with spouses than with strangers and
used more disapproval of spouse, as did husbands. Winter, Ferreira,
and Bowers (1973) employed their decision-making task in a study of
married and unrelated couples. Married couples intruded upon and
interrupted each other more frequently than unrelated couples, and
unrelated couples listened respectfully to one another while married
couples were rude. Taken together, these findings suggest that
negatives exchanged indicate a pattern representative of the specific
marital relationship and social-learning history of the partners and
that such partners have the capability to interact more positively
given other interpersonal circumstances.
The present study is an investigation of two primary components
of communication—verbal content and nonverbal affect—and the impact
that various manifestations of each has upon the physiological
responses of individuals listening. The marital dyad is the
interpersonal unit in which the communication process is considered,

5
representing a persistent relationship with much invested in the
success of the resolution of conflicts around salient issues. Because
both sexes are represented in the marital dyad, the possible effects
of gender on verbal and nonverbal behavior and emotion need also be
considered.
Verbal Content
Thomas (1977) recognizes verbal behavior as a direct indicator of
what is commonly meant by communication. He describes human speech as
"probably the largest, most complex, and most finely honed operant
repertoire of all" (p. 3). According to Thomas, verbal stimuli
operate in the same manner as other stimuli in affecting behavior,
controlling behavior by means of reinforcement, punishment,
extinction, discriminative control, and the operation of eliciting
stimuli. Originally neutral verbal stimuli take on the ability of
producing conditioned responses after being paired with unconditioned
stimuli. Assuming that verbal behaviors are capable of eliciting
responses, investigators have studied characteristics of speech and
their effects on listeners. Matarazzo and Wiens (1972) found evidence
for a mutual verbal pattern matching during dyadic interaction. In an
interview setting, they found that the duration of the interviewee's
speech was strongly influenced by the duration of the interviewer's
speech. When the interviewer spoke for longer periods of time, the
interviewee did also, and when the interviewer spoke for brief periods
of time the interviewee likewise reciprocated. Reaction time is
another dimension of verbal behavior which appears to be
interdependent in dyadic interactions. Lauver, Kelley, and Froehle

6
(1971) found a direct relationship between client and therapist speech
latencies, with longer client latencies leading directly to longer
therapist latencies.
Responses which may be elicited by verbal stimuli are not limited
to the verbal domain. Goldband (1981) examined physiological as well
as self-reported responses to the impositions of latencies and
interruptions during dyadic interactions. Subjects receiving delayed
responses from their partners reported the partners as less empathic
and genuine, and showed greater spontaneous electrodermal activity
than subjects in the no-latency condition. This was not the case for
interruptions, which were actually rated as a somewhat positive
experience.
In order to adequately describe the impact of verbal messages it
would be necessary to develop a coding system more complex than
durations, latencies, and frequencies of vocalizations which
incorporates content. Such a system must have categories fine enough
for data reduction but broad enough to prevent "data overload"
(Gottman, 1979). Some studies (Winter and Ferreira, 1967, Waxier and
Mishler, 1965) attempted to adapt Bales' (1950) Interaction Process
Analysis (IPA) for use with couples and families. Due to the
multidimensional meanings of the categories requiring higher order
inferences, reliabilities were unacceptably low, and this system has
been largely abandoned.
One very simple content coding system frequently used is the
ratio of verbally coded agreements to disagreements. This index can
be reliably determined and has been successful at discriminating

distressed from nondistressed populations (Cheek, 1964; Lennard and
Bernstein, 1969; Mishler and Waxier, 1968; Riskin and Faunce, 1970).
However, it is not possible to reconstruct the gist of an interaction
which is described by two codes, a serious shortcoming for a coding
system (Gottman 1979).
Weiss, Hops, and Patterson (1973) developed the Marital
Interaction Coding System (MICS), consisting of 29 categories of
verbal and nonverbal behavior. Using this system, Vincent, Weiss, and
Birchler (1975) found that distressed couples displayed a
significantly greater ratio of negative and smaller ratio of positive
problem-solving behaviors than nondistressed couples. Klier and
Rothberg (1977), using a modified version of the MICS, could
differentiate distressed from nondistressed couples based on negative
but not positive behaviors. Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent (1975) could
discriminate between distressed and nondistressed couples based on
negative and positive exchanges during problem-solving discussions and
negative exchanges during casual discussions. Finally, the MICS has
been shown to be sensitive to changes in interactions resulting from
treatment programs with a problem-solving orientation (Jacobson, 1977,
1978).
There have been objections raised to the MICS scoring system,
however (Snyder, 1982). Primary among these are questionable
interrater reliability, an overabundance of categories, and a lack of
functional equivalence among categories; i.e. some are defined by
content, some by grammatical properties, some by intended emotional
impact, etc. In an attempt to develop a reliable, reasonably sized

8
system which could be used to code distinct messages of a couple's
verbal exchange and then assess the sequence of those messages Gottman
(1979) designed the Couples Interaction Scoring System (CISS). The
number of content categories was collapsed to 8, which Gottman reports
facilitates the assessment of verbal content. These categories are
Agreement (AG), Disagreement (DG), Communication Talk (CT),
Mindreading (MR), Problem Solving (PS), Summarizing Other (SO),
Summarizing Self (SS), and Problem Feeling (PF). Interrater
reliabilities for individual content codes ranged from .84 to .99 with
a mean of .95. Consistent with previous studies Gottman found lower
agreement-to-disagreement ratios for distressed than nondistressed
couples. However, by the application of sequential and nonsequential
analyses Gottman was also able to identify when specific content codes
were most likely to occur over the course of conflict resolution and
what verbal and nonverbal responses were precipitated by the various
codes. Three stages of conflict resolution were identified. The
beginning third, called "agenda building," consisted of MR and PF
codes. Mindreading statements are those which make attributions about
the thoughts, feelings, or behavior of the person being addressed
(e.g. "You don't like to visit my mother"). Such statements have
been presumed to interfere with successful communication (Thomas,
1977), as they increase defensiveness in the listener. Problem
feeling statements present the feelings and attitudes of the speaker
about a problem area. These statements have been thought to be
facilitative in conflict resolution, as they provide information about
the speaker's reactions to a problem while making no inferences about
the thoughts or feelings of the listener (e.g. "I feel angry when I

9
visit your mother"). During this phase, the task was getting problems
out for discussion. In the middle third of discussion, described as
"arguing," DG and SS codes were most frequent; disagreements and
summaries of opinions were aired. During the end third,
"negotiating," PS, AG, CT, and SO codes were prevalent. Coming to a
mutually satisfying resolution of the problem was the primary task of
this phase. MR and PF codes coupled with negative affect were found
to best discriminate distressed from nondistressed couples. Clinic
couples were more likely to enter cross-complaining sequences
(PF-PF-PF) than nonclinic couples, who were more inclined to engage in
validation sequences (PF-AG-PF). Contract sequences (PS-AG) were more
likely for nonclinic than clinic couples. In all, by comparing the
verbal response patterns of distressed and nondistressed couples
Gottman was able to identify sequences of transactions critical to the
success of conflict resolution.
Nonverbal Affect
The description of the role of nonverbal behaviors in regulating
the communication process offered by Izard, Wehmer, Livsey, and
Jennings (1969) sounds strikingly similar to statements made by
individuals explaining the impact of verbal content on communication:
"Positive affect generally enhances harmonious functioning of the
personality subsystems, while negative affect tends to create
dissonance among the various subsystems. . . . Positive affect
leads to integrative behavior and effective functioning .
negative affect leads to discordance among personality subsystems,
non-integrated behavior, less effective functioning" (p. 278).
However, nonverbal behavior has received considerably more attention

10
in the marital interaction literature than verbal content, no doubt
because of the pervasive part it plays in the communication of
emotion. Mehrabian (1972) derived the following formula concerning
the delivery of affective messages which dramatically depicts the
importance of nonverbal cues: Total Affect = 7% Verbal + 38% Vocal +
55% Facial. Gottman, Markman, and Notarius (1977) found nonverbal
behavioral codes to be much more powerful discriminators of distressed
and nondistressed couples than any of the verbal codes. In the event
of inconsistency between verbal and nonverbal messages, the valence of
the nonverbal message will be the primary determinant of the
listener's response (Mehrabian and Wiener, 1967).
Accuracy and valence in nonverbal behavior seem to account for
much of the difference between satisfied and dissatisfied couples.
Kahn (1970) concludes that in the absence of accurate non-verbal
communication of intentions, attitudes, and wishes a marriage would be
particularly vulnerable to disharmony. In his comparison of the
nonverbal behavior of 21 dissatisfied and satisfied couples, the
latter group was found to be significantly more accurate in nonverbal
communications. Using the Primary Communication Inventory which
contains seven nonverbal items, Navran (1967) found better nonverbal
communication reported by happily married couples than unhappily
married couples. Regarding valence, positive messages occur more
frequently in well-adjusted couples than in poorly adjusted couples
(Noller, 1982), and negative messages are more common in poorly
adjusted than well-adjusted couples (Noller, 1982; Gottman, 1979).

11
While it is evident that nonverbal messages play a crucial part
in the communication process, the mechanisms by which they affect the
sequence of communicative events are less clear. The explanatory
framework most commonly invoked to assist in defining the relationship
of nonverbal behavior to emotion, communication and, consequently, to
marital satisfaction is one suggesting some sort of balance between
communicants. Argyle and Dean (1965) proposed an equilibrium theory
which suggests that interpersonal involvement is a cumulative product
of primarily nonverbal behaviors. This approach posits a kind of
pressure between individuals for the maintenance of a comfortable
level of interpersonal intimacy which, upon being reached, represents
a balance between approach and avoidance tendencies in the situation
(Heslin and Patterson, 1982). Any subsequent alteration of behaviors
will require compensatory adjustments in some other behavior to
maintain equilibrium. Research on the equilibrium model has been
supportive overall (Patterson, 1973). For example, in situations
where participants are approached closely or are the recipients of
high levels of gaze, compensatory adjustments (e.g. turning away,
decreasing eye contact, leaving the setting) frequently occur.
However, some studies have shown adjustments contrary to those
predicted by equilibrium theory (Jourard and Freedman, 1970, Breed,
1972, Chapman, 1975). Increased nonverbal intimacy produced
reciprocal rather than compensatory responses in these studies. That
is, when one member of a dyad increased intimacy it was followed by an
increase in nonverbal intimacy in the other member. Patterson (1976)
posits that such discrepancies can be explained by considering arousal
change as a mediating factor. Increased intimacy has been shown to

12
result in increases in physiological responding. McBride, King, and
James (1965) found increased electrodermal activity with closer
approaches, as did Nichols and Champness (1971) with increased eye
contact. Increases in gaze have been shown to increase heart rate
(Kleinke and Pohlen, 1971) and to change EEG reactions (Gale, Lucas,
Nissim, and Harpham, 1972). Given that changes in nonverbal intimacy
behaviors of Person A precipitate arousal change in Person B, it is
assumed that cognitions in Person B about himself, Person A, or the
situation direct that arousal change into a specific feeling state
(Schacter and Singer, 1962). The type of feeling state experienced by
Person B will direct the course of adjustment made to A's change in
i
intimacy (Heslin and Patterson, 1982). Negative feeling states (e.g.
anxiety, discomfort, embarrassment) would facilitate compensatory
responses, consistent with equilibrium theory. Positive states (e.g.
liking, love, relief) lead to a reciprocation of intimacy change in
the other. The principle of balance remains integral; both
reciprocity and compensation serve to maximize one's comfort or
satisfaction in an interaction (Heslin and Patterson, 1982).
One difficulty with Patterson's model is research demonstrating
reciprocity of both negative nonverbal cues and physiological arousal
and the absence of reciprocal responding given positive nonverbal
displays. In a study examining exchanges of pleasurable and
displeasurable behaviors Wills, Weiss, and Patterson (1974) concluded
that there was evidence for the reciprocation of displeasurable but
not pleasurable behaviors. Gottman et al. (1977) found negative
affect reciprocity in distressed couples but failed to find positive
affect reciprocity in either distressed or nondistressed couples.

13
Gottman (1980) attributes the finding of negative reciprocity and the
failure to find positive affect reciprocity to a temporal
physiological linkage between interacting people created by negative
affect. Support for this notion comes from Kaplan, Burch, and Bloom
(1964) who correlated the electrodermal responses of interacting dyads
paired according to mutual like, mutual dislike, or mutual neutrality
using a sociometric peer rating. Electrodermal responding could be
predicted from one member to another only in the dyads paired on the
basis of mutual dislike. Levenson and Gottman (1982) collected
physiological data (skin conductance, heart rate, heart rate
variability, pulse transit time, pulse transit time variability) from
couples during two discussion periods, one in which events of the day
were discussed and a second during which the couple attempted to
resolve the major issue in their marriage. Multiple correlation
showed a moderate (R = .55) relationship between predictability
measures during the discussion of events of the day (a low conflict
task involving little negative affect) and marital satisfaction. For
the high conflict task in which negative affect and negative affect
reciprocity increase, a considerably stronger relationship was found
(R = .78). Gottman (1982) concluded from these findings that as the
degree of conflict increased so did the physiological coupling which
subsequently better discriminated satisfied and dissatisfied
marriages. He suggested that closeness in marriage is maintained by
symmetry in emotional responsiveness particularly in low-intensity
affective interactions. However, an absence of responsiveness in such
situations would lead to high levels of negative affect which would in
turn produce emotional withdrawal and negative affect reciprocity.

14
While there is disagreement on the mechanisms by which nonverbal
behaviors affect the communication process/ common elements can be
seen among the various models. Nonverbal behaviors are powerful
elicitors of responses/ requiring an adjustment in the behavior of the
recipient which may be reciprocal or compensatory. The nature of the
response is largely dependent upon the nature of the behavior/ and
both of these are linked with the nature of the relationship which can
be conceptualized on a continuum of satisfaction. Finally/ arousal is
implicated as integral in the communication process/ being both cause
and effect of changes in nonverbal behavior.
Sex Differences
Communication between the sexes has long been recognized as a
frequently frustrating endeavor (Haas/ 1979). One explanation for
this difficulty is that men and women have been said to speak
"different languages" (Jong/ 1977; Reik/ 1954). This section will
review studies of sex differences in verbal and nonverbal aspects of
communication.
Studies of spoken language can be divided into four areas: form/
topic/ content and use (Bloom and Lahey; 1978). Form can be described
in terms of the units of sound (phonology)/ the units of meanings that
are words or inflections (morphology) and the ways in which units of
meanings are combined (syntax). One way in which men and women have
been found to differ in .form is that the language of women tends to be
more conservative than men's. Men more readily coin and use new
phrases/ pun/ utter slang expressions/ and use profanity and obscenity
(Jesperson; 1949). Lakoff (1973) observed that men use stronger

15
expletives than women, who use softer or weaker profanities. It
appears that the observation of these sorts of differences has a long
history. In Aristophanes' play The Ecclesiazuae (393 B.C.) a woman is
going to portray a man in her part of a conspiracy for women to
overthrow the government. She falters by swearing "By the two
goddesses!" Apparently this was the favorite oath of Athenian women;
ancient Greek men swore only by gods, never by goddesses. Women's
language has also been described as more "polite" than men's (Hartman,
1976; Lakoff, 1975), with women more frequently saying "please" and
"thank you" than men. In a study of 11 male-female dyads, Zimmerman
and West (1975) found that 98% of the interruptions and all the
overlaps were made by the male speakers.
Topic refers to the subject matter of a conversation. In a study
of blue-collar families Komarovsky (1967) found women to be more
inclined to discuss the family and social problems while men
reportedly preferred to talk about cars, sports, work, motorcycles,
and local politics. Klein (1971) made similar observations of the
working class in England. Bernard (1972) and Chesler (1972) found
that in mixed-sex conversations men rarely follow through on topics
initiated by women.
Content refers to the "categorization of the topics that are
encoded in messages" (Bloom and Lahey, 1978, p. 11) and differs from
topic in that topic refers to specific ideas, objects, and events
whereas content refers to the way the topic is referenced (Haas,
1979). Women's language has typically been described as more
emotional and evaluative than men's (Jesperson, 1949; Kramer, 1974;

16
Lakoff, 1975; Pei, 1969; Reik, 1954). Gleser, Gottschalk, and
Watkins (1959) collected samples of speech from 90 adult men and women
who were asked to describe an interesting or dramatic life experience.
Women were found to use more words implying feeling, emotion, or
motivation (whether positive, negative, or neutral). Women used more
negations and auxiliary words and made more self-references. Men made
more references to time, space, quantity, and destructive action.
Wood (1966) performed a content analysis on the speech of 36 college
students (18 male, 18 female) who described photographs of a man's
face. Males referred more directly to the details of the picture,
while females were more interpretive and subjective in their
descriptions. Barron (1971) studied the speech of teachers and
students during classroom activities. An analysis of the grammatical
cases employed revealed that females used more participative and
purposive cases and males more frequently used instrumental and
objective cases. Similar to Wood's study, men's speech described
objects and actions related to those objects and women discussed how
people felt and why they behaved as they did.
Bloom and Lahey (1978) describe "use" as consisting of "the
socially and cognitively determined selection of behaviors according
to the goals of the speaker and the context of the situation" (p.20).
It has been frequently suggested that male talk is instrumentally
oriented, concerning itself with the task of conveying ideas and
information (Bernard, 1972). Women's speech is commonly described as
tentative. Lakoff (1975) wrote that tag questions (e.g., "It's cold,
isn't it?) are more frequently used by women than men, as this form of
question avoids assertion and offers the addressee the option of

17
agreeing or disagreeing. Hartman (1976) found qualifiers to be
associated with females in her study of 70 year-old Maine natives. In
Swacker's (1975) study of the speech of college students while
describing pictures all subjects but one who used approximation with
numbers (e.g. "about four books") were female. Baumann (1976),
however, found no sex differences in the use of qualifying prefatory
statements or confirmatory tag questions in her analysis of adults in
various settings. Lakoff (1975) described the disparate ways in which
men and women make requests; men make commands and women state
requests. In an analysis of over 1,000 television commercials
Hennessee and Nicholson (1972) found that men gave nearly 90% of the
commands to buy a particular product.
Studies of sex differences in nonverbal behaviors have focused on
differential abilities in the accurate transmission and reception of
messages and on descriptions and frequencies of specific behaviors
used. One paradigm frequently employed in the study of communication
of affect via facial expressions has one person ("encoder" or
"sender") view a variety of types of scenes on slides or film. The
sender's facial expressions are usually unobtrusively videotaped while
viewing the stimuli and presented to another person ("decoder" or
"receiver"), whose task is to classify the sender's affective
expression into one of the categories of the stimuli being sent.
Using this paradigm, Buck, Savin, Miller, and Caul (1972) found female
pairs to be more effective than male pairs in the transmission and
reception of nonverbal emotional cues. Others using this paradigm
(Buck, 1975; Buck, Miller, and Caul, 1974; Fugita, Harper, and
Wiens, 1980; Woolfolk, Abrams, Abrams, and Wilson, 1979) have

18
likewise found females to be more accurate senders of spontaneous
facial expressions than males. Noller (1980) had each of 48 married
couples send ambiguous messages to each other employing positive,
neutral, or negative affect. Females were found to be better senders
particularly with regard to positive messages. Hall's (1978) review
of 75 investigations showed females to be superior to males in
decoding nonverbal communication in more studies than would be
expected by chance.
The difference in the ability to encode and decode nonverbal
messages has been attributed to noted discrepancies between men and
women in the use of nonverbal behaviors. In same sex dyads, females
interact more closely than males (Aiello and Aiello, 1974; Aiello and
Jones, 1971; Dosey and Meisels, 1969; Pellegrini and Empey, 1970).
Eye contact is also used more between females than between males
(Exline, 1963; Exline, Gray, and Schuette, 1965; Libby, 1970).
Females use touch more than males and respond more positively to it
(Fisher, Rytting, and Heslin, 1976; Jourard, 1966; Whitcher and
Fisher, 1979). Lochman and Allen (1981) looked at the nonverbal
communication of dating couples enacting standardized interpersonal
conflict vignettes from the Inventory of Marital Conflicts task (Olson
and Ryder, 1970). Compared to males, females were found to emit
significantly higher proportions of nonverbal behaviors and were more
consistent in matching self-ratings to their behavior. Noller (1982)
found sex differences in the use of positive, neutral, and negative
messages in her study of 48 marital dyads. Females were more often
coded positive or negative, while males were more frequently coded
neutral. In a study of six nondistressed couples discussing a salient

19
relationship issue, Notarius and Johnson (1982) found that wives
reciprocated their husbands' positive and negative speaker turns while
husbands followed their wives' positive speech with a neutral speaking
turn and showed no consistent pattern of responses to their wives'
negative speech.
Given the finding of more nonverbal expressivity in women, it is
necessary to discuss how physiological arousal, already identified as
integral to communicative processes, interacts with nonverbal
behavior. There are currently two models which make opposite
predictions about the direction of physiological responses concomitant
with nonverbal (particularly facial) expressivity. Discharge or
suppression models (Buck, 1979) posit that low levels of expressivity
lead to increased physiological reactivity as the emotional "energy"
which is not overtly channeled is discharged somatically. Jones
(1950) measured galvanic skin responses in elementary school children
exposed to eleven emotion-arousing situations. Those children who
showed low level electrodermal responses were described as high in
overt expressive behavior, while children showing large electrodermal
responses were described as low in overt expressive behavior. In a
study of 100 delinquent boys performing difficult motor tasks Landis
(1932) found that the 14 boys who became frightened, angry, cried, or
showed signs of pain exhibited a smaller frequency of electrodermal
responding than the whole group. Learmonth, Ackerly, and Kaplan
(1959) correlated skin potential fluctuations during various
interpersonal and physical stressors with personality variables
assessed by the MMPI and the Rorschach. They found that increases in
palmar potential during stress were negatively correlated with

20
personality variables related to expressivity and positively
correlated with variables dealing with restraint and curtailment of
unpleasant or prohibited feelings and actions. Lanzetta and Kleck
(1970) found negative relationships between expression of affect (as
measured by judges from facial and body cues) and skin conductance
lability. Buck, Miller, and Caul (1974) found that more accurate
(expressive) senders, who tended to be female, showed smaller skin
conductance and heart rate responses to emotionally oriented slides.
Buck, Savin, Miller, and Caul (1972) who replicated the finding of
females as "externalizers" and males as "internalizers" reported a
negative correlation between the senders' skin conductance responses
to emotive slides and the accuracy of the observers' ratings. Males
showed more frequent skin conductance fluctuations than women, which
has also been found in classical conditioning situations involving
shock (Graham, Cohen, and Shmavonian, 1966; Shmavonian, Yarmat, and
Cohen, 1965) and in a situation in which observers watched another
person receiving shocks (Craig and Lowrey, 1969). Notarius and
Johnson (1982) found that husbands had a greater tendency to show skin
potential responses to their wives' negative speech during conflict
resolution than did the wives to their husbands' negative speech. In
all, there is much support for the discharge model which suggests an
inverse relationship between overt expressivity and physiological
reactivity.
The second group of models describing the relationship among
facial displays and physiological reactions in response to emotional
stimuli are called "arousal" models. They assume a unidimensional
continuum of responses, thus suggesting a positive relationship

21
between nonverbal and physiological components of emotion. Darwin
(1872) postulated that overt expressive displays regulated the
emotional experience: "The free expression by outward signs of an
emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as
possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions" (p. 22). Izard
(1971) and Gellhorn (1964) proposed that central neural circuits are
triggered by the face; these circuits in turn elicit autonomic
changes and the emotional experience as well. Some support has been
found for the arousal perspective in terms of finding relationships
between expressive behavior and reported quality of experienced
affect. Laird (1974) manipulated the facial expressions of subjects
into either a smile or a frown under the guise of a study of
electromyographic responding. He found that subjects' mood ratings
were affected by their facial expressions, as subjects rated their
mood as more positive and rated cartoons more humorous when smiling
than when frowning. Pasquarelli and Bull (1951) had five subjects
under hypnosis hold the physical expression of one emotion while
receiving the suggestion to experience another emotion. Subjects
reported an inability to feel the second emotion without altering
their physical posture. Studies implementing physiological indices
also provide support for the arousal hypothesis. Lanzetta,
Cartwright-Smith, and Kleck (1976) instructed subjects to conceal or
exaggerate the facial display associated with anticipating and
receiving painful shocks of varying intensities. Self-reports of
pain, skin conductance responses, and expressive behavior were all
found to covary. Using a subject-controlled pain tolerance paradigm,
Colby, Lanzetta, and Kleck (1977) also found changes in the facial

22
expression of pain to be accompanied by parallel changes in autonomic
responding. Vaughan and Lanzetta (1981) instructed subjects to either
amplify or inhibit their facial expressions in response to observing a
model being shocked. They found that the "amplify" group showed more
skin conductance responsivity, heart rate acceleration and activity in
response to the model's expression of pain than the "inhibit" group
and a third group given no facial instructions.
Notarius, Wemple, Ingraham, Burns, and Kollar (1982) discussed
why some studies have found direct relationships between facial
expressivity while others have found inverse relationships. One
explanation given is design differences; between-subjects comparisons
generally support an inverse relationship, and within-subjects
analyses support a direct relationship (Buck, 1980). Methodological
differences have been noted, as some studies expose subjects to
slides, some to shock, some to threat of shock, and some to motion
pictures. Notarius et al. suggest that the different emotional
elicitors may each be associated with different reaction patterns.
External constraint of emotional expression is another difference
across studies. Those studies in which the subjects' expressions were
not constrained have supported an inverse relationship between overt
expression and physiological reactivity, while studies in which the
subjects' expressions were manipulated through instructions offered
support for arousal models. The final explanation offered for
inconsistency in the findings relates to the role of overt expression
in emotional situations. Because facial expressions are subject to
voluntary control, they can be modified in response to the "display
rules" of a given context (Ekman and Friesen, 1969). Autonomic

23
responses, however, are not easily controlled and represent the
effects of previous emotional conditioning. Thus, Notarius et al.
conclude: "We would expect a strong relationship between self-report
of emotion and autonomic reactivity in response to emotional stimuli
but a variable relationship among facial expression, self-report, and
physiological reactivity as a function of the display rules operative
in any given situation" (p.401). In proposing research designs for
examining the typical relationship of nonverbal expressivity and
autonomic reactivity, they recommend unconstrained emotional
expression in interpersonally relevant situations with as few
environmental constraints that might inhibit expression as possible.
Statement of the Problem
From the preceding review it is evident that the course of
marital communication largely depends upon verbal and nonverbal
parameters of the messages being exchanged and which spouse is
sending/receiving a given message. It is also apparent that while
much research has implicated the role of physiological arousal in the
mediation of commmunicative efforts, surprisingly few investigators
have implemented the recording of autonomic responses during dyadic
interaction. In recognizing the empirical nature of the question of
which types of content actually do elicit emotional responses,
Hovland, Janis, and Kelley (1953) called for a twofold program of
research. The first step would be the development of a classification
scheme for separating emotional appeals from others by using a content
analysis for classifying assertions according to their semantic
meanings. The second step would be conducting controlled
experimentation to differentiate those contents which evoke emotional

24
reactions from those which evoke other reactions. In his discussion
of nonverbal dimensions of interactions and their effects on emotional
responsivity Patterson (1976) echoed the sentiments of Hovland et al.,
noting the absence of studies taking continuous data on arousal levels
before, during, and after manipulations of the interaction and stating
that data from physiological recording, behavioral reactions and
verbal reports should ideally be collected. In response to the
mandate by Hovland and his colleagues for systems of classification of
interactive behaviors, a number of verbal and nonverbal coding schemes
have been developed and have been discussed previously (Bales, 1950,
Weiss et al., 1973, Gottman, 1979). Unfortunately, investigations
have faltered in taking the second critical step in the Hovland et al.
and Patterson plans for identifying verbal and nonverbal precipitants
of emotional responding. In order to ascertain the impact on a
listener of a message sent with affect X and content Y, one must first
ensure that the particular affect-content configuration will occur.
Using preplanned vignettes Gottman (1979) has demonstrated that affect
and content can be manipulated through instructional control.
However, no one has attempted to modify the affect and content of
personal, salient relationship issues in couples and observe the
subsequent physiological impact of such messages on the listener. The
present study proposed to do that; content was initially presented to
the experimenter in written form by a spouse around a significant
problem area in the marriage and transformed so that its content was
either mind reading or problem feeling (the two categories found by
Gottman (1979) most likely to occur at the beginning of an interaction
and which best discriminate distressed from nondistressed couples).

25
Affect was manipulated by videotaped modeling and coaching by which
the subject was directed to present the modified message in an
affectively neutral or negative fashion.
Based on the preceding reviews, the following hypotheses were
proposed on the effects of content, affect, and sex of the sender on
physiological responses of the listener during the reading of the
problem description:
Content Effect
Assuming that mind reading statements invoke a defensive set on
the part of the listener, and that a defensive set elicits
physiological responding, problems presented with mind reading content
would elicit in the listener greater physiological reactivity (more
skin resistance responses, more skin conductance responses, larger
skin resistance level changes, and greater heart rate increases) than
problem feeling messages.
Affect Effect
Given the findings on nonverbal affect reciprocity and symmetry
in emotional responsiveness, problems presented with negative affect
would elicit in the listener greater physiological reactivity than
affectively neutral messages.
Content X Affect Interaction
Problems presented with problem feeling content and neutral
affect would elicit least physiological reactivity, followed by, in
increasing order, mind reading content/neutral affect, problem feeling

content/negative affect, mind reading content/negative affect.
Sex effect
Because of the lack of external constraint of emotional
expression on the listener and the concomitant inverse relationship
suggested between affective display and physiological responsivity in
a paradigm of this type, husbands, who are less overtly expressive,
would show greater physiological reactivity to messages than wives.
Greatest discrepancies between husbands and wives would be found on
mindreading messages with negative affect, followed by, in decreasing
order, problem feeling messages with negative affect, mindreading
messages with neutral affect, and problem feeling messages with
neutral affect.

CHAPTER II
METHOD
Subjects
Subjects were sixty-four married couples recruited by means of
advertisements in the classified sections of local newspapers in
Gainesville, Florida. Prior to their participation in the experiment,
couples were informed of the general nature of the experiment and the
time involved (approximately 2 hours) by means of a phone contact.
Couples were paid twelve dollars for their participation.
Apparatus
Two adjacent rooms were used in the study: a subject room 12' 8"
long and 11' 9" wide, in which participants completed questionnaires
and discussed a problem area, and an observation room, 12' 8" long and
9'6" wide, which contained physiological and videotape recording
devices.
Physiological recordings of heart rate and skin resistance were
taken from both members of each dyad using a Narco Physiograph Model
DMP-4B. Heart rate was obtained from a pair of stainless steel
electrodes attached to the left and right midforearms, using a Narco
Hi-Gain coupler Model 7171 and a Narco Channel amplifier Model 7070.
On the Hi-Gain coupler, the Time Constant and Gain was set at .03 X
27

28
100/ and on the Channel amplifier sensitivity was set at 20 mv/cm, and
the low pass filter was set at 10 Hz. Redux Creme was the contact
medium, and the electrodes were secured with adhesive collars. A
Narco GSR coupler Model 7175 supplied a constant 10 microamp current
to obtain skin resistance. Beckman Standard Biopotential electrodes
were attached to the distal phalanxes of the first and second fingers
of the non-dominant hand using 3M Micropore 1/2 inch surgical tape.
Johnson and Johnson K-Y Jelly was the contact medium. Paper speed was
2.5 cm/sec.
Videotape recordings were made using a Panasonic WV-342 video
camera mounted on a tripod and placed across the room from the
subjects, getting a full body view of both participants. Sound was
monitored using two Realistic Highball 2 dual-impedance microphones.
Audio and video signals were recorded on a Sony V0-1600 3/4 inch
videocassette recorder located in the observation room.
A Condor Digital Clock showing hours, minutes, and seconds was
placed between and behind the dyad. A Sony video monitor, driven by
the VTR in the observation room, was used for showing an affect
coaching tape to one spouse. Red and green signal lights, located
between the dyad, were controlled by a switch in the observation room.
An 8 ohm speaker, equidistant from both spouses, was driven by a
Realistic MPA-20 P.A. amplifier, amplifying two two-second
presentations of wideband white noise (rise time = 100 msec.)
pre-recorded and played through the system on a Sony TC-520CS cassette
recorder.

29
Design and Procedure
A 2 X 2 X 2 factorial design was used, with affect (neutral or
negative), sex of spouse sending (male or female), and content (mind
reading or problem feeling) as the factors. Each couple was
consecutively assigned in a randomly predetermined order to its
specific condition.
Two experimenters were used in data collection. Experimenter A
(EA) was responsible primarily for interacting directly with the
couple, i.e. reading instructions to them, giving them
questionnaires, debriefing them. Experimenter B (EB) operated the
physiograph and video recording equipment. Upon the arrival of the
couple, the experimenters introduced themselves, described the study,
and obtained consent. EA read this passage:
Because of the necessity of keeping experimental procedures
standardized, it will be necessary for me at times to read you
specific instructions. We will start with each of you completing
several questionnaires. Your responses on these questionnaires will
be kept confidential among the research team. Throughout the
experiment it will be important that you not discuss, comment on, or
look at each other's questionnaire items. Please read and follow all
directions carefully. I will gladly answer any questions you might
have. Please be sure to write your name in the indicated place on
each questionnaire. Here is your first questionnaire.
Four questionnaires were administered including the Couple's
Problem Inventory, a short checklist of problem areas with duration
and intensity ratings for each problem category, a general information
sheet containing demographic information, and the Locke-Williamson
Marital Relationship Inventory (Locke and Williamson, 1958), a measure
1
of marital adjustment. Spouses were seated in such a way so as to
prevent them from viewing each other's responses. After these

30
questionnaires were completed, EA read both Couple's Problem
Inventories to himself and tried to identify the problem rated as most
troublesome. If the same problem was ranked highest by both spouses,
the couple was informed of this; if there was disagreement regarding
which problem was most distressing, the top three rated problems were
read aloud and EA helped the couple reach agreement on a mutually
troublesome problem. Once the problem was agreed upon, EA read this:
Please complete this Problem Description sheet in the manner
described in the instructions at the top of the sheet. Be sure to
read the directions carefully and follow them exactly. If you have
any questions let me know. Please write clearly or print. Write
about the problem you just indicated was most troublesome.
Each spouse then completed a Problem Description form which
required a written description of the selected problem. The problem
was to be written directly addressing the other spouse "as though you
were trying to communicate to him/her your feelings about the
problem." The problem description was to be between 100 and 130 words,
and numbers on the problem description form corresponding to each word
placement were provided to facilitate staying within these boundaries.'
The spouse assigned to the "listener" condition was then escorted
3
to a waiting room and given a questionnaire to complete. The spouse
assigned to the "sender" condition remained in the subject room and
filled out the same questionnaire. Both experimenters then worked
together in another room on transforming the content of the problem
description to being either "mind reading" or "problem feeling,"
depending upon the assigned condition. Transform guidelines were as
follows: 1) The number of words in the transformed problem
description should be between 80% and 120% of the number used in the

31
sender's original problem description. 2) No fewer than three
mindreading or problem feeling thought units should be incorporated
into the text. 3) Mindreading transforms may contain some problem
feeling statements but must contain more mind reading than problem
feeling phrases. 4) Problem feeling transforms should contain no
mindreading thought units. 5) Similarity of the transformed problem
description should be maximized by using original words, sentences,
and paragraph syntax where possible. (See Appendix 1 for samples of
problem descriptions and their transforms.) After the sender finished
filling out the questionnaire he or she was instructed to watch a
videotape describing the affective manner (i.e. either emotionally or
neutrally, depending upon the assigned condition) in which he or she
was to present the problem written about to the spouse. At this
point, EA turned on the video monitor, while EB started the affect
coaching videotape from the observation room. After the tape was
finished, EA presented the transformed problem description to the
sender and read the following:
In order to assure scientific standardization, I have made a few
slight modifications of the problem description you wrote earlier. I
would like you to read this standardized problem description to
yourself twice and then to read it to me in an
(emotional/non-emotional) manner similar to that you just viewed on
the television.
Subjects in the neutral affect condition were coached to speak in
a non-emotional, businesslike, matter-of-fact manner with moderate
loudness, pitch, rate, inflection, and enunciation. Subjects in the
negative affect condition were coached to speak in a manner conveying
anger and/or impatience, presenting the message loudly with high
pitch, blaring timbre, fast rate, irregular inflection, and clipped

32
enunciation. The experimenter praised the subject when he or she was
affect-appropriate during the practice readings and had the sender
practice more affect-appropriate cues when necessary (i.e. if a
neutral-assigned sender was being negative or if a negative-assigned
sender was not emotional enough).
Following coaching/ the sender was told that the affective set
practiced was to be maintained only during the actual reading of the
problem description to the spouse and that during the discussion
subsequent to the reading of the problem/ both spouses were to express
themselves in whatever manner seemed natural. Both the sender (in the
subject room) and the listener (in the waiting room) were then
dismissed to wash their hands with soap and water in preparation for
the attachment of the sensors (Martin and Venables/ 1980). While both
subjects were out of the room, EB turned on the video camera. When
the subjects returned they were seated in separate chairs at right
angles to and approximately three feet from each other with the
listener on the sender's right. Skin resistance and heart rate
electrodes were attached to both spouses as described previously.
Both subjects completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck
4
and Eysenck, 1964) and another questionnaire. At this time, EB
activated the physiograph, identifying zero baselines and calibrating
both skin resistance channels with an applied 10 kohm signal
deflecting each pen 10 mm. After the verification of all
physiological signals by EB and the completion of the questionnaires
by the couple, EA read the following passage:
In a few minutes (sender) will read the problem description which
he/she wrote earlier in the experiment. Immediately following his/her
reading this problem the two of you are asked to come to a mutually

33
satisfactory solution of the problem. Spend at least 10, but no more
than 15 minutes mutually discussing the problem. Be natural, and try
to come to a real solution that satisfies both of your needs. The
only thing that we ask is that you keep your hands, arms, and body
relatively quiet so that the sensors will not be disturbed. You can,
however, use your face and voice in whatever manner seems most
natural. What and how you say and do is up to you after (sender)
reads his/her problem description. (Listener), you must not talk
until (sender) has read all of his/her problem. (Sender) will
indicate that he/she is done reading by saying, 'OK, this is the way I
view the problem.' Then the two of you are free to talk when and how
you want for from 10 to 15 minutes as you try to reach a satisfying
solution to the problem. Any questions? (Sender), you are to begin
reading in several minutes when the light (point to it) turns green.
Please be silent until then. Prior to the green signal light and your
conversation two tones, a soft and a loud one, will be presented, once
each. Relax now until the green light.
EA then set the digital clock to synchronize with all recording
systems and joined EB in the observation room. The video recorder was
activated and the pre-recorded white noise segments were presented,
with a 75 dB sound at two minutes and a 95 dB sound at three minutes.
At five minutes, EA switched on the green light and the sender read
the Sender's Standard Message (Appendix 2) with neutral affect.
Following the reading of the Standard Message the sender read the
problem description with neutral or negative affect, depending on the
condition being implemented. A ten minute conflict resolution
followed the reading of the problem description, after which both
spouses completed the Conflict Recall Report (a set of questions
concerning each spouse's reactions to their discussion) and two other
6
questionnaires. Couples were informed of the research questions of
interest and thanked for their participation.

Notes
1 The other questionnaire, to be used in another investigation, was
the first half of the Loevinger Sentence Completion Test (Loevinger
and Wessler, 1970) a measure of ego development. Hereafter, all
procedures administered and questionnaires given without direct
relevance to this study are noted.
2 The Problem Descriptions of both senders and listeners will be
content analyzed in a subsequent study.
3 The Trait form (i.e. "How you usually feel") of the Profile of Mood
States (Lorr, Daston, and Smith, 1967).
4 The State form of the Profile of Mood States (i.e. "How you feel
right now").
5 Heart rate and electrodermal responses to the tones will be examined
in a subsequent investigation.
6 The Conflict-Recall form of the Profile of Mood States (i.e. "How
you felt during your just-completed attempt to solve the problem with
your spouse"), and the second half of the Loevinger scale.

CHAPTER III
RESULTS
Manipulation Check
In order to ensure that content and affect were effectively
manipulated, undergraduate students blind to experimental conditions
were used as raters. For content, one rater attempted to determine
whether each transformed problem description was mindreading or
problem feeling, if it contained at least three content-appropriate
thought units, and if it was between 80 and 120% of the length of the
original. Of all the transforms 95.3% were judged to be mindreading
or problem feeling as assigned. Untransformed problem descriptions
were an average of 118.0 words in length, 102.4% of the mean length of
transformed problem descriptions (115.2 words). For affect, two
raters viewed the reading of the problem description on videotape and
rated the intensity of affect on a scale of 0 to 3 with higher scores
signifying more intense affect. Scores of 0 and 1 were called
neutral; scores of 2 and 3 were called negative. At least one of the
two raters judged the sender to be neutral or negative as assigned in
96.9% of the cases. Rater l's ratings agreed with the assigned
condition in 85.9% of the cases; Rater 2's ratings agreed in 88.9% of
the cases. Rater 1 agreed with Rater 2 in 77.8% of the cases.
Perceived similarity of the sender's transformed problem
description to the original problem description was determined by
35

36
examining the response to the following item on the Conflict Recall
Report: "Please recall your original complaint as you wrote it. If
you had only spoken your complaint, how similar would it have been to
what you wrote down as your complaint?" Senders reported a similarity
rating of 6.83 on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 9 (just like),
suggesting a fairly high degree of similarity. An analysis of
variance revealed no significant differences among the various
conditions in response to this item.
To determine how typical the discussion period was, responses to
the question "How much like his/her typical problem-solving behavior
with you was your partner's behavior/style?" were examined. On a
scale of 1 (not at all like) to 9 (just like), the mean rating was
7.22, suggesting that the discussion was more than less typical. An
analysis of variance grouped by sex, content, and affect showed no
significant differences among respondents in any condition on
responses to this item.
Subjects
In obtaining data for 64 couples, it was necessary to run a total
of 78 couples. Data were not usable from 14 couples for the following
reasons: failure to read the standard message (2), failure to employ
negative affect (2), laughter during the standard message or problem
description (3), failure to interact (2), inappropriate verbalizations
not germane to the selected conflict area (1), health problems
directly affecting physiological recording (1), equipment failure (1),
and improper recording of skin resistance levels or event
onsets/offsets (2).

37
Mean age of participants was 30.96 years (SD=11.27). Spouses had
been married an average of 6.78 years (SD=9.29) and had 15.51 years of
education (SD=2.42). Mean marital satisfaction as measured by the
Locke- Williamson Marital Research Inventory was 98.61 (SD=12.83).
The average intensity of the specific problem area discussed on a
scale of 0 to 100 was 50.96 (SD=30.59).
Data Analyses
Analyses of variance were performed on heart rate, skin
resistance responses, skin conductance responses, and the magnitude of
change in skin resistance level during the silent waiting period to
determine if subjects in all conditions were at comparable levels
physiologically prior to the standard message and problem description.
Repeated measures analyses of variance were performed for each of the
four response variables (heart rate, skin resistance responses, skin
conductance responses, magnitude of change in skin resistance level)
for two sequential events: presentation of the standard message, and
presentation of the problem description. Content (mindreading vs.
problem feeling), affect (neutral vs. negative), and sex of listener
(wives vs. husbands) were the grouping factors. Because of
correlations found between physiological measures during the problem
description and both marital satisfaction on the Locke-Williamson and
Neuroticism on the Eysenck scale (see Table 1), analyses of covariance
were also run with scores from each of these self-report measures as
covariates. The intensity of the problem discussed on a scale of 0 to
100 from the Couple's Problem Inventory was also used as a covariate
to control for variations in severity of problems discussed among

38
TABLE 1
Pearson Correlations of Marital Satisfaction and Neuroticism
with Heart Rate, Skin Resistance, and Skin Conductance Responses
During the Problem Description
Heart Rate
r
Skin Resistance |
Skin Conductance
Responses
1
Responses
Marital
r=-.255
1
r=.278
r=.240
Satisfaction
p<.044
p<.027
p<.058
N=63
N=63
1
N=63
Eysenck
r=.242
1
r=.130
r=.201
Neuroticism
p<.054
p<.305
p<.lll
N=64
N=64
1
N=64

39
subjects. Responding during the standard message was used as a
covariate to control for possible differences at that point in the
procedure and thus allow inferences to be made regarding the
contribution of the problem description alone to subjects' responding.
Statistical results reported are analyses of variance unless a
covariate is noted.
Physiological Scoring
Heart rate, frequency of skin resistance responses, frequency of
skin conductance responses, and magnitude of skin resistance responses
were scored for listeners during the last thirty seconds of the five
minute silent waiting period, the last thirty seconds of the standard
message, and the entire reading of the problem description. For heart
rate, the number of R-waves between epoch lines marked on the
physiograph record was counted to the nearest one-tenth of a beat.
For the thirty second silent waiting and standard message epochs this
total was multiplied by two to yield beats per minute. Beats per
minute were calculated for the problem description epoch by taking the
number of beats during the problem description, dividing by the number
of seconds duration, and multiplying this quotient by 60. Frequencies
of skin resistance responses were determined by counting the number of
decreases in resistance of at least 2 kilohms (2 mm) from a slope of
0. This response was expressed as the number of deflections per
thirty seconds. For the thirty second silent waiting and standard
message epochs this was simply a total of the number of deflections.
For the problem description, the number of deflections was divided by
the duration in seconds of the problem description and multiplied by

40
thirty. Skin conductance responses of .2 micromhos or more were
scored for the same intervals as skin resistance responses. Unlike
skin resistance responses, their occurrence was dependent upon skin
resistance level; thus a 2 mm deflection was a .2 micromho skin
resistance response if the skin resistance level was equal to 100
kilohms. At greater resistance levels, a larger deflection was
required to be counted as a response, and at levels less than 100
kilohms a smaller deflection was needed to be counted as a .2 micromho
response. Skin resistance response magnitudes were defined as the
difference between the peak upward excursion (minimum resistance) and
the lowest excursion (maximum resistance) preceding that particular
peak for a given epoch.
Silent Waiting Period Data
Heart rate was marginally different during the silent waiting
period for husbands and wives, F (1,56)=3.58, p<.064, with wives
having slightly higher heart rates (Wives: Mean HR = 76.20 bpm, SD =
8.09; Husbands: Mean HR = 71.61 bpm, SD = 10.66). A borderline
effect was also found for content, £ (1,56)= 3.09, p<.084, with
subjects in the mindreading conditions having lower heart rates during
the waiting period than those in the problem feeling conditions
(Mindreading: Mean HR = 71.77 bpm, SD = 9.10; Problem feeling: Mean
HR = 76.04 bpm, SD = 9.65). A borderline sex by content by affect
interaction was found, F (1,56)=3.75, p<.058, with wives in the
neutral problem feeling condition having the highest heart rate (Mean
= 80.65 bpm, SD = 7.99) and husbands in the negative mindreading
condition having the lowest heart rates (Mean = 65.05 bpm, SD = 6.78).

41
No significant differences for any combination of conditions were
found for the frequency of skin resistance or skin conductance
responses or for the magnitude of skin resistance level change during
the waiting period.
Time of Assessment Effects
Skin resistance responses and skin conductance responses varied
as a function of time of assessment (standard message/ problem
description) regardless of sex, content, and affect conditions [Skin
resistance: £ (1,56) =6.11, £<.017; skin conductance: £
(1,56)=5.61, £<.021]. Both skin resistance and skin conductance
responses increased significantly from standard message to problem
description [Skin resistance: £(63)=2.48, £<.016; skin conductance:
£(63)=2.28, £<.026] (Figures 1 and 2).
Content Effects
There was a tendency for a greater number of skin conductance
responses in the mindreading than problem feeling conditions
[£(1,55)=2.87, p<.096, covariate = standard message] (Figure 3). Time
and content also interacted [£(1,56)=2.98, £<.090], with the change
from standard message to problem description being significant in the
mindreading condition but not in the problem feeling condition,
£(63)=2.71, £<.011 (Figure 4). No main effects for content were found
with analysis of variance.

Number of 2K Ohin SRRs / 30 sec.
42
Standard Problem
Mes sage Dése ription
Figure 1. Skin resistance responses as a function of time
of assessment.

Number of .2 )imho SCRs / 30 sec.
43
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 2. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment.

Number of .2 yimho SCRs / 30 sec.
44
3.0 -
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 3. Skin conductance responses as a function of content.

Number of . 2 jjmho SCRs / 30 sec.
45
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 4. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment and content.
• Mindreading
A Problem Feeling

46
Affect Effects
A main effect was found for affect on the number of skin
conductance responses at a borderline level of significance
[F(l,55)=3.79, p<.057, covariate = standard message] with more skin
conductance responses occurring in the negative than in the neutral
condition (Figure 5). Time by affect interactions were found for both
skin conductance and skin resistance responses [£(1/56)=5.66, £<.021
and £(1,56)=3.45/ £<.068 respectively] (Figures 6 and 7). The number
of responses was not different between neutral and negative conditions
at either standard message or problem description; however, the
change from standard message to problem description was a significant
increase for mindreading statements [Skin conductance: £=3.41,
£<•002; skin resistance: £=3.07, £<.004]. There was no significant
change in frequency of responses in the problem feeling condition. No #-
main effects for affect were found with analysis of variance.
Affect by Content Interaction
Frequency of skin resistance responses varied as a function of
the interaction of affect and content [F (1,56)=4.16, p<.046] (Figure
8). Subjects in the negative mindreading condition had the most skin
resistance responses, more than those in the negative problem feeling
condition [£ (30)=2.09, £<.046]. There were no differences between
subjects in the mindreading neutral and negative, mindreading neutral
and problem feeling neutral, or problem feeling neutral and problem
feeling negative conditions. This interaction was not significant
using responses during the standard message as a covariate.

Number of .2 pmho SCRs / 30 sec.
47
3.0 -
Neutral Negative
Figure 5. Skin conductance responses as a function of affect.

Number of .2 ijmho SCRs / 30 sec.
48
Standard Problem
Message Description
Figure 6. Skin conductance responses as a function of time
of assessment and affect.
9 Neutral
â–² Negative

Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
49
Standard Problem
Mess age Desc ription
Figure 7. Skin resistance responses as a function of time
of assessment and affect.
® Neutral
â–² Negative

Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
50
3.0 -
MR PF MR PF
Neutral Negative
Figure 8. Skin resistance responses as a function of content
and affect.
MR = Mindreading
PF = Problem Feeling

51
Sex Effects
Wives showed greater physiological reactivity to the experimental
situation than husbands as reflected by significant differences in the
number of electrodermal responses and a tendency toward higher heart
rate across procedures [Skin resistance responses: £ (1,49)=4.38,
p<.042, covariate = problem intensity; skin conductance responses: F
(1,56)=5.93, p<.018; skin resistance level change: £ (1,56)=5.10,
£<.028; heart rate: £ (1,56)=3.29, £<.075] (Figures 9, 10, 11, and
12.) Analysis of covariance using responding during the standard
message as a covariate showed borderline sex differences for heart
rate and skin conductance responses [Heart rate: £ (1,55)=2.85,
£<.097; skin conductance: £ (1,55)=3.82, £<.056] and no differences
on skin resistance responses and magnitude of skin resistance level
change.
Sex by Content Interaction
Husbands and wives show differential sensitivity to content for
frequency of both skin resistance and skin conductance responses [Skin
resistance: £(1,56)=5.70, £<.020; skin conductance: £ (1,49)=5.33,
£<.025, covariate=problem intensity] (Figures 13 and 14). Wives in
the problem feeling condition showed the most electrodermal activity,
having a significantly greater number of skin resistance and skin
conductance responses than husbands in the same condition, t
(30)=2.95, £<.006 and t (30) =2.87, £<.007 respectively. There were
no significant differences between wives in the problem feeling and
mindreading conditions. Husbands showed significantly more skin

Heart Rate (beats/min.
52
Wives
Husbands
Figure 9. Heart rate as a function of sex.

Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
53
Wives
Husbands
Figure 10. Skin resistance responses as a function of sex.

Number of .2 pmho SCRs / 30 sec.
54
Wives
Husbands
Figure 11. Skin conductance responses as a function of sex.

Change in Skin Resistance Level (K Ohms)
55
Figure 12. Magnitude of change in skin resistance level
as a function of sex.

Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
56
W H W H
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 13. Skin resistance responses as a function of sex
and content.
W = Wives
H = Husbands

Number of .2 ymho SCRs / 30 sec.
W H W H
Mindreading Problem
Feeling
Figure 14. Skin conductance responses as a function of sex
and content.
W = Wives
H = Husbands

58
resistance responses and marginally more skin conductance responses in
the mindreading condition than in the problem feeling condition, t
(30)=2.54, p<.017 and t (30)=1.80, £<.083. No sex by content
interactions were found using analysis of covariance with responses
during the standard message as a covariate.
Sex by Content by Affect Interaction
Heart rates of husbands and wives were differentially responsive
to the affect and the content conditions, £(1,55)=4.63, £<.036,
covariate=neuroticism (Figure 15). Wives in the neutral problem
feeling condition had the highest heart rates, marginally higher than
those of husbands in the same condition (£<.069), wives in the
negative problem feeling condition (£<.090), and significantly greater
than those of husbands in the negative mindreading condition, who had
the lowest heart rates (£<.016). Husbands in the negative mindreading
condition had marginally lower rates than husbands in the negative
problem feeling condition (£<.081). Wives and husbands in the neutral
mindreading condition did not differ in heart rate, nor did wives and
husbands in the negative problem feeling condition. This interaction
was not statistically significant for skin conductance or skin
resistance responses; however, a comparison of skin resistance
responses (Figure 16) with heart rate shows that within the neutral
affect conditions relative positions of husbands' to wives' responses
are the same to both content categories; for negative affect
conditions, the relative positions of husbands' to wives' responses
are reversed. Skin conductance responses followed a similar pattern
except in the negative mindreading condition (Figure 17). No sex by
content by affect interactions were found using analysis of covariance

Heart Rate (beats/ min.
59
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
74
73
72
71
70
W H
Neutral
Mind-
Reading
W H
Neutral
Problem
Feeling
W H
Negative
Mind-
Reading
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
Figure 15. Heart rate as a function of sex, content,
and affect.
W = Wives
H = Husbands

Number of 2K Ohm SRRs / 30 sec.
60
4.0 -
W H W H W H
Neutral Neutral Negative
Mind- Problem Mind-
Reading Feeling Reading
Figure 16. Skin resistance as a function of sex,
and affect.
W = Wives
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
content,
H = Husbands

Number of .2 ymho SCRs / 30 sec.
61
4.0 -
3.0
W H
Neutral
Mind-
Reading
W H W H
Neutral Negative
Problem Mind-
Feeling Reading
Figure 17. Skin conductance as a function of sex
and affect.
W = Wives
W H
Negative
Problem
Feeling
content,
H = Husbands

62
with responses during the standard message as a covariate.
Nonsignificant Interactions
None of the following interactions for response variables were
found to be statistically significant: sex by affect/ time by sex,
time by sex by content/ time by sex by affect/ time by content by
affect/ time by sex by content by affect.

CHAPTER IV
DISCUSSION
The present study attempted to ascertain some of the
psychophysiological consequences of listening to spouses presenting
experimentally controlled complaints about their marital
relationships. From the preceding results, it is apparent that the
research paradigm did provide an opportunity to observe spouses
present and respond to issues of genuine emotional salience. The act
of simply listening to a spouse reading a personal specific marital
complaint elicited responding at a level significantly greater than
when listening to that spouse reading a standard message. Thus, even
though the communicative environment created was somewhat artificial,
the responses of the participants suggest that this situation was
meaningful and potent.
The use of both analyses of variance and covariance made it
possible to examine potential response differences of various
conditions both during and prior to the problem description period.
When the responses occurring during the standard message were used as
a covariate, a main effect for content was found. Coupled with
significant time by affect and time by content interactions with both
statistical procedures, it is evident that these effects are
attributable to the messages themselves. Thus, across sex and affect
conditions, mindreading statements can be said to have elicited
63

64
significant increases in skin conductance activity, while problem
feeling statements did not. This finding supports the inclusion of
content in an analysis of message impact and suggests that the
relative importance of verbal content to nonverbal affect as an
interpersonal stimulus has perhaps been underestimated. Using the
same covariance analysis, nonverbal affect emerged as a main effect,
as messages delivered with negative affect were responded to
physiologically with increased electrodermal responding, while neutral
messages failed to elicit increased responding. This finding is
consistent with the work of Levenson and Gottman (1982) who found
evidence for increased physiological activity concomitant with
increased intensity of affect. Sex differences found with the
analysis of variance were attenuated but not eliminated with the
covariance analysis, suggesting that the specific marital complaints
were augmenting the already discrepant responding of the different
sexes. Wives showed greater overall responsivity than husbands,
contrary to hypothesis. One explanation for this pattern of results
is that the listeners, even though given no instructions about
generating emotions (as in the Lanzetta studies) or no controls on
what they could say during the conflict resolution period, may have
been constrained in that they had to listen to their spouses and could
not respond until cued by the speaking spouse. Thus, the arousal
model, which assumes a positive relationship between nonverbal and
physiological components of emotion, would probably have been a more
appropriate theoretical basis on which to have made predictions.
It is possible that some of the effects found may not be
explainable exclusively by the specific marital problem presented by

65
the senders, and the statistical procedures employed also help to
identify these sources of variance. It may be that group differences
at the points of the waiting period or the standard message may
account in part for effects found. The slight heart rate differences
during the silent waiting period for sex by content by affect could
explain the finding of the sex by content by affect interaction with
an analysis of variance and a failure to find this interaction when
the initial differences, carried over to the standard message, are
eliminated with covariance procedures. However, another possibility
is that group differences at the points of the waiting period and the
standard message were not independent of the problem description, i.e.
that there was a preliminary "leakage" by the coached sender of the
content and affect of the message about to be delivered (Ekman and
Friesen, 1969). One indication of this is the finding that analyses
of variance were sensitive to interactions of factors (e.g. sex by
content, content by affect, sex by content by affect), yet these
interactions were not significant when the responses during the
standard message were used as a covariate. Thus, covarying out
responses during the standard message not only appeared to enhance
finding main effects, but it also reduced the possibility of finding
effects related to sex differences or affect and content preliminarily
leaked during the standard message or perhaps as early as the silent
waiting period. The design of the present study might be improved to
address this question by initially measuring physiological response
levels prior to affect coaching and content transformation, thus
eliminating the possibility of nonverbal leakage of the nature of the
upcoming problem description.

66
In spite of the aforementioned effects of content and affect
examined separately/ it is evident from the data that various
combinations of these emotional parameters yield different
physiological results/ and these variables should be considered as
they interact. Subjects in the negative condition with mindreading
content did show the greatest number of skin resistance responses/ as
predicted. However/ when the content of the message was problem
feeling/ negative affect subjects showed the fewest skin resistance
responses. Thus/ knowing only the affect of a given message would not
be sufficient for explaining the effect to be expected. Gottman
(1979) found that mindreading statements could be facilitative or
destructive/ depending upon the affect used. With negative affect/
mindreading statements were seen as personal attacks/ and were more
characteristic of distressed couples. With neutral content/ however/
mindreading statements functioned as "feeling probes/" engaging the
other spouse in a nonthreatening manner to agree or disagree with the
attribution in the process of working through a conflict/ and these
were more characteristic of nondistressed couples.
Sex and content were also found to interact/ with husbands and
wives responding differentially to content conditions. Wives showed
the greatest electrodermal responsivity in the problem feeling
conditions/ while husbands showed more responses in the mindreading
conditions. This discrepancy could be related to differences in what
Bloom and Lahey (1978) call "use/" in a sense paralleling the "display
rules" described by Ekman and Friesen (1969) for nonverbal behavior.
Husbands may be more accustomed to hearing the more personally
expressive problem feeling messages from their wives and respond more

67
to the novel mindreading messages. Similarly, because of the tendency
of men to use more instrumental language describing object relations
(Barron, 1971), conceivably including the relationships of other
people to behaviors, wives may more frequently hear husbands make
attributions about their wives' thoughts, feelings, or behaviors than
vice-versa.
The manner in which sex differences influenced the interaction of
content and affect shows yet another important dimension to be
considered in explaining responsivity. Husbands in neutral affect
conditions responded similarly if content was mindreading or problem
feeling. Wives, however, showed high levels of responsivity in the
neutral problem feeling condition. When wives were assigned to
affectively negative conditions, the content seemed to have little
influence over physiological responding. Conversely, husbands in
affectively negative conditions showed a large discrepancy in response
depending upon content. Heart rate was actually lowest in husbands in
the negative mindreading condition, contrary to what was expected.
One explanation for the disparity in responsivity for husbands and
wives is that physiological responding may be paralleling what Gottman
(1979) refers to as "cognitive editing processes." In a sequential
analysis of verbal and nonverbal behaviors of nondistressed spouses he
discovered complementary roles of wives and husbands in conducting
conflict resolution. Upon hearing negative affect, husbands were
likely to be "negative listeners" (i.e. to show nonverbal disapproval
of a message while listening) and to reciprocate the negative affect;
wives, however, were less likely to be negative listeners and also
less likely to return negative affect. During discussion of low

68
conflict issues, Gottman found that neutral affect on the part of
husbands was likely to be perceived as negative by wives and responded
to with disagreement or counterproposals with negative affect. The
reverse was not found to be true; wives' neutral behavior was not
followed by negative affect or content by the husbands. Gottman
concluded that husbands and wives had different tasks in the process
of successful problem resolution. Because of their lack of reciprocal
responding to negative affect wives were seen as responsible for
breaking up negative affect cycles in the interest of resolution.
Similarly, when discussing low conflict issues, husbands were deemed
responsible for maintaining a climate of agreement. When these
response patterns are present in both spouses, the probability for
successfully handling either high or low conflict areas is increased.
Findings from the present study of nonclinic couples suggest a similar
complementarity in wives' and husbands' physiological response
patterns. Wives listening to an expressive problem feeling statement
with neutral affect were unable to respond overtly while listening,
but may have been showing physiologically the disagreement and
counterarguments that would typify their hearing this sort of message.
Husbands show a depressed level of heart rate coupled with the highest
number of electrodermal responses in the negative mindreading
condition. This pattern of responding is suggestive of orienting
which is often seen when presented with a novel stimulus. It is
likely that more instrumental mindreading language coupled with
negative affect is unusual for nonclinic wives. When negative affect
is used by wives it is probably more frequently used in conjunction
with problem feeling statements; husbands in this study, in fact,

69
showed highest heart rates to this combination, suggesting a more
defensogenic response.
The relationship of heart rate and electrodermal activity is an
interesting one, appearing linear in some situations and inverse in
others. In the neutral conditions, heart rate and electrodermal
activity covaried, with both heart rate and electrodermal responses
being higher in problem feeling than mindreading conditions (c.f.
Figures 15 and 16). The opposite was true for the negative affect
condition; heart rates in problem feeling conditions were relatively
higher than in mindreading conditions, while skin resistance responses
were more frequent for mindreading than problem feeling conditions.
This relationship is evident when considering the sex of the listener
as well; relative positions of level of responding for wives to
husbands are similar when considering neutral affect conditions and
inverse in the negative affect conditions (c.f. Figures 15 and 16).
It may be that given increased affect intensity differential demands
are made on cardiovascular and electrodermal systems, further modified
according to the sex of the listener. The correlational data
presented in Table 1 offer another example of how heart rate and
electrodermal measures may be convergent or divergent depending upon
the task. When related to the level of reported marital
couples with higher satisfaction scores had more
responses and lower heart rates than less satisfied couples,
correlating the dimension of neuroticism, conceptualized by Eysenck as
arousability, with heart rate and electrodermal measures, both classes
of responses showed a somewhat positive relationship. One might
cautiously conclude that the pattern of reduced heart rate with

70
increased electrodermal activity is a crude index of attentive
listening, characteristic of satisfied couples, but that defansogenic
responding (i.e. high heart rate and electrodermal responding) is
more typical of neurotic individuals. Less cautiously, it is apparent
that measures of heart rate and electrodermal activity offer more
information when considered together and probably do not provide
sufficient information when only one or the other is used.
The present findings have implications for treatment programs
which are currently being implemented for marital distress. It is
apparent that, at least at a psychophysiological level, the impact of
a given message may vary significantly depending upon the sex of the
speaker and listener. If physiological activity is related to
information processing and conflict resolution, this finding conflicts
with programs which suggest, for example, always speaking in a
neutral, business-like manner for best conflict-resolution results.
It is also apparent that the use of mindreading messages does not
categorically elicit large responses and may, in fact, lead to a
reduction in physiological activity. Some researchers and clinicians,
recognizing the importance of individual and sex differences (e.g.
Noller, 1980) have suggested teaching husbands and wives different
communication skills as necessary, such as teaching husbands to be
more expressive.
Future work in this area should directly investigate the
relationship between physiological responsivity and actual conflict
resolution to see if the data provided by physiological indices are
useful in predicting, on an immediate or delayed basis, the outcome of

71
attempts at resolution. Real-time investigations of unconstrained
interactions around salient relationship issues would be the ideal
situations to examine, as manipulations such as those used in the
present study are somewhat artificial and may interfere with
interpreting conflict resolution solely as a function of the couples'
communication skills and styles. Given that information derived from
psychophysiological measures is found to be both predictive and
nonredundant, the potential arises for implementing intervention
strategies using otherwise untapped data from the interactants as
tools for resolution.

APPENDIX 1
EXAMPLES OF PROBLEM TRANSFORMS
Untransformed Problem Description
You become defensive when I point out things when they're not
meant at you. I get negative and draw away from you. I know I can be
difficult but I'd like you to express your thoughts anyway. I wish
you were more playful and active than you sometimes are. I feel we
haven't truly given our relationship time to develop because we
haven't yet had the free time or money to work towards our goals.
Sometimes you give in to my wants on little things and it hurts in
other areas. I'd much prefer you to speak up or remind me because I
am forgetful.
Problem Description Transformed to Mindreading Content
You become defensive when I point out things when they're not
meant at you. I get negative and draw away from you. You know I can
be difficult but I'd like you to express your thoughts anyway. I wish
you were more playful and active than you sometimes are. You know we
haven't truly given our relationship time to develop because we
haven't yet had the free time or money to work towards our goals.
Sometimes you give in to my wants on little things and it hurts in
other areas. I'd much prefer you to speak up more than you do or
remind me because I am forgetful.
72

73
Untransformed Problem Description
I think we have a problem concerning recreational activities in
that we hardly ever interact with each other indoors or out. You know
how sports minded I am, if you would only spend two or three hours a
weekend watching televised sports or playing a sport outdoors with me
our relationship in this area would be greatly improved. Not only
would we spend more time together, but our health could only improve.
In addition to that, (our son) could sometimes participate which would
keep him occupied in a constructive manner. I know you feel that if
you spent time watching sports with me or playing sports outside
nothing would get done around the house but I think we could set down
and make a schedule to alleviate that kind of problem.
Problem Description Transformed to Problem Feeling Content
I think there is a problem concerning recreational activities in
that there is hardly any interaction either indoors or out. I am very
sports minded and feel our relationship in this area would be greatly
improved if two or three hours a weekend were spent watching televised
sports or playing a sport outdoors together. Not only would more time
be spent together, but I feel our health could only improve. In
addition to that, (our son) could sometimes participate which would
keep him occupied in a constructive manner. I know it seems that
spending time watching sports with me or playing sports outside would
keep things from getting done around the house, but I think a schedule
could alleviate that kind of problem.

APPENDIX 2
SENDER'S STANDARD MESSAGE
I am going to read to you two things. The first is a series of
statements I have been asked to read concerning this marital research
project. The second is the problem description that I wrote earlier;
and which we are to discuss after I read. Here is the first of the
two.
This study's procedures took over a year to design and develop.
The study was designed to learn about aspects of marriage that have
not until now been studied carefully and in a scientific manner.
Therefore our participation in this study will hopefully provide
psychologists with knowledge that will eventually help them to more
effectively help married couples lead more enjoyable relationships.
Our participation in the present research is, thus, greatly
appreciated by the research staff.
The researchers are always concerned with trying to improve their
experiments. Therefore, it is helpful to them if we give them our
impressions about the study and how it might be improved. We will,
therefore, have an opportunity to talk about the experiment at its
conclusion.
Now I am going to read my problem description.
74

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
David Arthur Herraecz was born on February 10/ 1957, to Julius and
Frances Hermecz in Fairhope, Alabama. He graduated from McGill-Toolen
High School in Mobile, Alabama, in 1975 and attended Auburn University
from 1975 to 1979. Majoring in both psychology and sociology, he was
a member of Psi Chi psychology honorary, Alpha Kappa Delta sociology
honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honorary, Alpha Phi Omega
service fraternity, and was the trainer of the Auburn University
mascot, War Eagle IV, from 1976 to 1979. Upon receiving traineeships
from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1979-1980 and again in
1980-1981, he was involved in research in behavioral medicine under
the supervision of Barbara G. Melamed. He received the Master of
Arts in psychology from the University of Florida in 1982. He was
awarded a grant from the Division of Sponsored Research in 1983 to
investigate psychosocial interventions for children receiving medical
treatment for cancer and has published work on behavioral medicine
with an emphasis on children's fears, psychophysiology, and imagery in
Behavior Therapy, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
and Psychosomatic Medicine. He is a student member of the Association
for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, the Society for
Psychophysiological Research, and the Christian Association for
Psychological Studies.
83

I certify that I have read this study and that in ray opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
0aviS, Chairman
Professor of Clinical Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
W. Keith Berg ^
Associate Professor of
Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Wilse B. Wet
Graduate Research Professor
of Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Mickie N.Edwardson
Professor of Journalism
and Communication

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College
of Health Related Professions and to the Graduate School, and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
August 1985
Dean, College of Health Related
Professions
Dean for Graduate Studies and
Research

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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