The Analysis of Sequence in Social Interaction

  • Thomas N. Bradbury
  • Frank D. Fincham
Part of the Perspectives on Individual Differences book series (PIDF)


Although all behaviors occur over time, it is relatively uncommon for the temporal order or sequence of behaviors to be a matter of great interest in psychological research. Thus sequence, an intrinsic feature of all behavioral phenomena, has been largely ignored in attempts to explore and understand these phenomena. It is particularly noteworthy that this oversight occurs in research on social interaction, where investigators often claim to study reciprocity, patterns, processes, systems, and cycles. Rather than examine the sequential dependencies among behaviors that are strongly implied by these terms, simple rates of behavior are often studied instead. This practice is deficient because it fails to capture the dynamic qualities of social interaction and also promotes inferential error: A behavior that emerges from the combined actions of two individuals is often viewed as being solely determined by the one individual exhibiting the behavior. More generally, “efforts to analyze given actions while ignoring their interactive context seem misdirected, error prone, and noise generating” (Duncan, Kanki, Mokros, & Fiske, 1984, p. 1346).


Marital Satisfaction Likelihood Ratio Statistic Attributional Style Unconditional Probability Target Code 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas N. Bradbury
    • 1
  • Frank D. Fincham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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