Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech






Communication, Social interaction



Physical Description

1 online resource (101 p)


This study is focused upon an investigation of observable interactive behaviors which might be characteristic of reticence. A reticent individual is defined as one for whom apprehension about participation in oral communication consistently outweighs the projection of gain from the situation.

Previous research in the area of reticence has been focussed on an analysis of the reticent student's attitudes toward communication relying primarily upon subject self-reports via journals and the in-depth interview. This in turn has provided possible areas in which observable reticent behaviors might evidence themselves in face-to-face small group communications with other reticents and non-reticents.

An answer to the following question was sought: In what ways and to what extent are the interactive profiles of task groups with reticent members similar to each other in the amount and distribution of task and social-emotional acts, and to what extent are they different from the groups with no reticent members?

Twenty-four subjects, six reticent and eighteen non-reticent, were selected from the population of students enrolled in Fundamentals of Speech at Portland State University, Spring Term, 1971. Prior to the study, the reticent subjects were identified according to performance on a paper-and-pencil test designed to expose speech fears, and a preliminary interview.

Subjects were divided into six four-person groups. Three of the groups consisted of two reticent and two non-reticent members, while the remaining three groups were composed of four non-reticent subjects. Each group participated in a single fifty-minute discussion. Data from the group interactions were subjected to statistical interpretation based upon the twelve categories established by Robert F. Bales in his Interaction Process Analysis system. The hypotheses tested, and the principal findings, are as follows:

Hypothesis I: The groups with reticent members will have a significantly smaller total of all acts initiated than will the groups with no reticent members.

This hypothesis failed to be confirmed. No significant differences were revealed in the total number of acts initiated. Because of this result, a test was made for differences in the amount of talking initiated by reticent and non-reticent subjects. No significant differences were found. It was therefore ascertained that no differences exist in the number of acts initiated by reticent and non-reticent subjects, nor are their differences in the total number of acts initiated by the groups in which they interact.

Hypothesis II: Within the groups with reticent members, the reticents will address significantly more acts to non-reticents than to other reticicents.

This hypothesis was also unsubstantiated. The reticent person initiates the same number of acts to other reticents as to non-reticents.

Hypothesis III: In a comparison of groups with reticent members and groups with no reticent reticent members, there will be no significant differences in the acts scored in the various categories of the interaction analysis.

Significant differences were found in the distribution of total acts and acts scored in the "task and social-emotional” areas. A further breakdown of the task categories revealed differences in the area "questions and attempted answers." The distribution of acts in the “positive and negative" categories of the social-emotional area revealed no significant differences between the two types of groups.

In short, although the interaction analysis successfully discriminated between the groups with reticent members and groups with no reticent members, the differences are subtle enough to make it impossible to ascertain which students are truly “normal" and which are merely masking the more serious reticent symptoms. It is therefore concluded that, precisely because the reticent student is unrecognizable from his peers, pedagogies applicable to the reticent student should be implemented in the traditional speech classroom.

Further research in the area of reticence is needed in the following four areas :

  1. Delineation of similarities and differences between those reticents characterized by their silence and those characterized by their verbosity.
  2. Determination of the incidence and nature of reticent problems in the elementary and secondary school populations.
  3. Development of pedagogies applicable to the reticent population.
  4. Development of standardized measuring instruments for "reticence" and "attitudes toward communication."


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