What You Need to Know About : Interaction Process Analysis

Robert F. Bales was among the first to investigate communication processes in small decision- making groups. He developed the interaction process analysis (IPA), a tool for coding contributions to discussion. The IPA is a category-based system, and as is often the case with such systems, the distinctions among the categories reflect assumptions regarding characteristics of discussion; it is a deductive taxonomy. Bales assumed that contributions to discussion were purposeful in the sense that they advanced the group toward a desired or optimal outcome and that the purposes or functions of the contributions influence what is said and to whom. Having first appeared in 1950 in his book Interaction Process Analysis: A Method for the Study of Small Groups, the IPA, including its theoretical underpinnings, has been reframed and revised through the years, most notably by Bales himself. A consistent feature of the IPA is a systems approach, with equilibrium a key concept; group members endeavor to maintain a balance between focusing on the task and interpersonal relationships within the group. The IPA reflects this assumption, most notably in framing contributions to discussion as either task or socioemotional (i.e., relational) in nature.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.

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Edwina Ayu Kustiawan