Verbal Response Modes as Intersubjective Categories

  • William B. Stiles
Part of the Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy book series (EPPS)


The three-channel hypothesis (Russell & Stiles, 1979) distinguishes three classes of verbal process-coding categories and proposes that each class taps a different channel of interpersonal communication in psychotherapy. Content categories, such as body parts or separation anxiety, concern denotative or connotative meaning of discourse units. The content channel carries information about the speaker’s current concerns, attitudes, and personality dynamics. Extralinguistic categories, such as laughter or hesitation, concern speaking behaviors that accompany or modify language, but are themselves neither semantic nor syntactic. The extralinguistic channel carries information about the speaker’s current (and usually transitory) emotional state—a momentary state of anger, for example, in contrast to an enduring attitude of hostility toward someone. Intersubjective categories, such as question or blame, concern brief relationships of the speaker to the intended recipient; that is, unlike content or extralinguistic categories, intersubjective categories imply the existence of another person (e. g., one questions another person-, one blames another person). The intersubjective channel carries information about interpersonal relationships and social roles, and, in psychotherapeutic communication, about the therapist’s technique.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • William B. Stiles
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

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