Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Donald J. Kiesler


The present study addressed some of the peripheral statements emanating from Kiesler’s (Kiesler, Bernstein & Anchin, 1976) core communications theory by examining (1) a specific component of the communication style of the obsessive personality, (2) the distinctive emotional engagements the obsessive personality elicits when interacting with others, and (3) a situational determinant that is hypothesized to trigger relatively intense expression of the obsessive’s self-defeating communication style, as well as a higher level of state anxiety.

Specifically, the study examined the effects of a high or low status interviewer upon one expressive measure of speech and upon relationship consequences for groups of psychometcially-defined obsessives and non-obsessives. The speech measure used was the revised edition of the Modifiers category of the Psycholinguistic Scoring System for the Obsessive Personality (Kiesler, Moulthrop & Todd, 1972). Modifiers, representing expressions of doubt and uncertainty, were hypothesized to occur more frequently in psychometrically-identified obsessive personalities, particularly in the high status interviewer condition. The emotional reactions evoked in others by an indecisive communication style were assessed by the Impact Message Inventory-Modifier Scale (Greenwood, 1976). It was hypothesized that more intense emotional reactions synonymous with an indecisive communication style would be elicited in observers by the obsessives, particularly in the high status interviewer condition. A wide range of emotional reactions evoked by the obsessive personality were assessed using the Impact Message Inventory (Kiesler, Anchin, Perkins, Chirico, Kyle & Federman, 1976). Finally, the state anxiety of all subjects was assessed before and after the experimental interview using the Anxiety-State Scale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (Speilberger, Gorsuch & Lushene, 1970). Here again it was predicted that obsessives would display a higher level of state anxiety, especially in the high-status interviewer condition.

None of the experimental hypotheses were supported. The results for the predictions were discussed. It was suggested that the experimental analogue situation may not have been appropriate in some respects, particularly with regard to whether the subject selection criteria were adequate in producing a theoretically and clinically relevant group of subjects. Suggestions were offered to mitigate the possible flaws in the present analogue study. It was noted that the nature of the communication task appears to play a large role in the distinctive communication behavior that is evoked and, therefore, that communication task variables should be investigated in future studies. Finally, it was recommended that single-case design studies, using actual obsessive patients, might be the most viable strategy to study theoretical constructs vis a vis the obsessive personality.


Scanned, with permission from the author, from the original print version, which resides in University Archives.


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