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Welcome to Behavioral Communication Research Debrief

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"No history of a nation is more enthralling than a history of a single, most simple individual"
Leo Tolstoy, a Russian Writer

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The first study of the research into Behavioral Communication is now complete. If it is the first time you are visiting this site, you are welcome to read the debriefing information below. However, it is mainly intended for those who took part in the project.

I appreciate everyone who spent time and effort participating in the study. Thank you! I also apologize for posting this information later than was originally intended. Below is the summary of group findings:

The purpose of the study was 1) to introduce a new psychological construct, behavioral communication, 2) to develop a way of measuring it, and 3) to understand how the new construct relates to other aspects of personality.

As in any other field of science, psychologists use constructs (e.g., self-esteem, altruism, depression) that help them think about a certain phenomenon. Behavioral communication is proposed as a new psychological construct. From its name, one can see that it is about communication and a means by which we communicate. Specifically, the construct addresses our tendency to communicate by means of indirect messages and behavioral impacts upon others. Let me start with an example from the relationship between two hypothetical people, Robert and Jane.

Imagine that Robert is feeling let down by Jane, who forgot to call him when he thought she should. Sometime later Robert hears the phone ring and it is Jane who has phoned. He starts feeling angry with her as well as unsure about how to express this feeling. Different options go through his mind.

He may, for example, not pick up the phone and wait with responding to the message she would leave for him. Or he may talk to her in a formal voice, like nothing had happened and that he is simply tired or busy. Or he may start contemplating ideas how he wouldn't call her when she is in the same situation. Or he would think of the opposite: he'd give her all the support she needs so that she'd understand that he behaves like a real friend, unlike her. Perhaps, these scenarios do not adequately grasp all the repertoire of behaviors that he may find himself considering or enacting. Nevertheless, they are about behaviors by which he may choose to communicate feelings to his friend.

The idea behind the construct of behavioral communication is that, at times, we all tend to engage in indirect or behavioral communication to convey messages. Even if we are aware of an alternative communication, i.e., saying directly how we felt or feel, we may still choose "behavioral strategy" so as to reinforce our message or simply because we feel that a certain "communication channel" would be more effective than other.

Thus, the construct of behavioral communication concerns the use of behaviors as a substitute of an open or direct form of communication. The behaviors by which we may communicate could be any behaviors that we may find suitable for the context, our personality, or simply how we feel at the moment.

The construct of behavioral communication is a construct of individual differences. This means that some of us more than others tend to engage in behavioral means of communication. Thus, a major goal of the study was to develop a measure that would determine one's standing on the behavioral communication tendency. It presented certain scenarios and asked how likely you would be to respond in one way or another.

It was also of interest to study how behavioral communication relates to other aspects of personality. Some additional measures of personality were included in the study. For example, one asked about your sense of well being.

Let me first share with you some findings concerning the new measure. Then I'll talk about how behavioral communication tendency relates to other features of our personality.

The findings suggest that we are consistent in our use of behavioral communication regardless of with whom we do so. Specifically, people’s behavioral communication scores were similar in their descriptions of how they act toward their spouse and toward a coworker, etc. For example, a husband who says that he tends to withdraw into himself whenever he feels upset with his wife is also likely to say that he acts in a similar fashion whenever he feels upset with his friend or his boss.

In addition, the findings suggest that our tendency to engage in behavioral communication is largely unrelated to our cultural backgrounds, such as race or ethnicity. It is also unrelated to marital status, gender, and education. However, the results suggested this tendency tends to decline slightly as we grow older.

In the analyses of how behavioral communication relates to other aspects of our personality, the following results were found:

I predicted that differences in behavioral communication would relate to differences in how much we understand our internal states and how well we can verbalize them. The findings yielded weak but statistically significant support for such thinking. Specifically, people who seem to be more in touch with their feelings are less likely to report using behavioral communication.

Additionally, the tendency to use behavioral communication was found to relate negatively although weakly to people’s self-esteem. In other words, people who reported that they more often communicate behaviorally also reported holding themselves in lower regard.

The tendency to use behavioral communication also was found to relate positively although also weakly with people’s reported level of distress. The more people tend to communicate behaviorally, the more likely they are to report distress across various aspects of their daily life.

Lastly, behavioral communication tendency was found to have an inverse but also weak relationship with how open people are when they communicate with others. The more openly people prone to communicate, the less behaviorally they tend to do so.

Overall, the results of the present research suggest that behavioral communication is not a feature of either "good" or "bad" aspects of our psychic structure.

Again, I'm very thankful to all research participants,
Michael Ivanov, MS, Ph.D. candidate, Alliant international University.

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