Functional units of interaction.

Lecture 5

Communication as interaction (interactive side of communication)


1. Communication as interaction (interactive side of communication)

2. Types of interaction

3. Functional units of interaction.

4. Theories of interpersonal interaction

5. Various forms of human interaction

6. Interaction in a group

7. Psychological aspects of the formation of organizational interaction

1. Interaction (interaction) is only one of the aspects of communication traditionally developed in social psychology. Since the early 1960s, no less close attention has been paid to another aspect – the so-called social perception, or interpersonal perception. The main representatives of this line of research are M. Argyle, A. Megrabyan, E. Hall, whose works, surprisingly, are almost never presented in Russian translation. However, their discoveries are known to the domestic reader by retellings – primarily in the book by A.A. Bodalev “Perception and understanding of a person by a person”, as well as in many popular books devoted to the problems of the emergence of mutual sympathy and affection, the interpretation of non-verbal components of communication, etc. . And the actual communication, i.e. the exchange of information (both speech and non-verbal, non-verbal) is the subject of another area of communication research.

The interactive side of communication is a conditional term denoting the characteristics of those components of communication that are associated with the interaction of people, with the direct organization of their joint activities. The study of the problem of interaction has a long tradition in social psychology. Intuitively, it is easy to admit the undoubted connection that exists between communication and human interaction, but it is difficult to separate these concepts and thereby make experiments more precisely oriented. Some authors simply identify communication and interaction, interpreting both communication in the narrow sense of the word, others consider the relationship between interaction and communication as a relationship between the form of some process and its content. Sometimes they prefer to talk about the connected, but still independent existence of communication as communication and interaction of interaction. Some of these discrepancies are generated by terminological difficulties, in particular, by the fact that the concept of “communication” is used either in the narrow or in the broad sense of the word. If we adhere to the scheme proposed when characterizing the structure of communication, i.e. to believe that communication in the broad sense of the word (as a reality of interpersonal and social relations) includes communication in the narrow sense of the word (as the exchange of information), then it is logical to start up such an interpretation of interaction when it presents as another – in comparison with the communicative – side of communication . Which “other” – this question still needs to be answered.

If the communicative process is born on the basis of some joint activity, then the exchange of knowledge and ideas about this activity inevitably implies that the mutual understanding achieved is realized in new joint attempts to further develop the activity, to organize it. The participation of many people at the same time in the activity means that everyone should make their own special contribution to it, which allows us to interpret the interaction as the organization of joint activities.

The question of what “other” side of communication is revealed by the concept of “interaction” can now be answered: the side that captures not only the exchange of information, but also the organization of joint actions that allow partners to implement some common activity for them. Such a solution to the problem excludes the separation of interaction from communication, but also excludes their identification: communication is organized in the course of joint activity, “about” it, and it is in this process that people need to exchange both information and the actions themselves.

The psychological content of the exchange of actions includes three points: a) taking into account the plans “ripened in the head of another” and comparing them with one’s own plans; b) analysis of the “contributions” of each participant in the interaction; c) comprehension of the degree of involvement in the interaction of each of the partners. But before characterizing each of the indicated psychological processes, it is necessary to somehow describe the structure of interaction.

There have been several attempts in the history of social psychology to provide such a description. Thus, for example, the so-called theory of action, or the theory of social action, was widely used, in which a description of the individual act of action was proposed in various versions. Both sociologists and social psychologists have addressed this idea. Everyone recorded some components of the interaction: people, their connection, the impact on each other and, as a result of this, their changes. The task has always been formulated as a search for the dominant factors motivating actions in interaction.

An example of how this idea was realized is the theory of T. Parsons, in which an attempt was made to outline a general categorical apparatus for describing the structure of social action. Social activity is based on interpersonal interactions consisting of single actions. A single action is some elementary act; they subsequently form systems of action. Each act is taken on its own, in isolation, from the point of view of an abstract scheme, the elements of which are: a) the actor; b) “other” (the object to which the action is directed); c) norms (according to which interaction is organized); d) values (which each participant accepts); e) the situation (in which the action is performed). The actor is motivated by the fact that his action is aimed at the realization of his attitudes (needs). In relation to the “other”, the actor develops a system of orientation and expectations, which are determined both by the desire to achieve the goal and by taking into account the possible reactions of the “other”. Five pairs of such orientations can be distinguished, which give a classification of possible types of interactions. It is assumed that with the help of these five pairs it is possible to describe all types of human activity.

This attempt turned out to be unsuccessful: the scheme of action, revealing its “anatomy”, was so abstract that it had no significance for the empirical analysis of various types of actions. It also turned out to be untenable for experimental practice: on the basis of this theoretical scheme, a single study was carried out by the creator of the concept. Methodologically incorrect here was the principle itself – the allocation of some abstract elements of the structure of individual action. With such an approach, it is generally impossible to grasp the content side of actions, because it is determined by social activity as a whole. Therefore, it is more logical to start with the characteristics of social activity, and from it go to the structure of individual individual actions, i.e. in the exact opposite direction. The direction proposed by Parsons inevitably leads to the loss of the social context, since in it the entire wealth of social activity (in other words, the totality of social relations) is derived from the psychology of the individual. Another attempt to build the structure of interaction is related to the description of the stages of its development. At the same time, the interaction is divided not into elementary acts, but into the stages that it passes through. This approach was proposed, in particular, by the Polish sociologist J. Szczepanski. For Szczepanski, the central concept in describing social behavior is the concept of social connection. It can be represented as a consistent implementation of: a) spatial contact, b) mental contact, c) social contact (here it is a joint activity), d) interaction (which is defined as “the systematic, constant implementation of actions aimed at causing an appropriate reaction from side of the partner …”), and finally, e) social relations (mutually conjugated systems of actions). Although all of the above refers to the characteristic of “social connection”, such a form as “interaction” is presented most fully. The alignment of steps preceding interaction is not too strict: spatial and mental contacts in this scheme act as prerequisites for an individual act of interaction, and therefore the scheme does not remove the errors of the previous attempt. But the inclusion of “social contact”, understood as joint activity, among the prerequisites for interaction changes the picture in many respects: if interaction arises as the realization of conscientious activity, then the road to studying its content side remains open. Quite close to the described scheme is the scheme proposed in Russian social psychology by VN Panferov.

Interaction types

There is another descriptive approach in the analysis of interaction – the construction of classifications of its various types. It is intuitively clear that in practice people enter into an infinite number of different types of interaction. For experimental studies, it is extremely important to at least identify some of the main types of these interactions. The most common is the dichotomous division of all possible types of interaction into two opposite types: cooperation and competition. Different authors designate these two main species with different terms. In addition to cooperation and competition, they talk about agreement and conflict, adaptation and opposition, association and dissociation, and so on. Behind all these concepts, the principle of distinguishing different types of interaction is clearly visible. In the first case, such manifestations are analyzed that contribute to the organization of joint activities, are “positive” from this point of view. The second group includes interactions that in one way or another “shatter” joint activity, representing a certain kind of obstacle to it.

Cooperation, or cooperative interaction, means the coordination of the individual forces of the participants (ordering, combining, summing up these forces). The attributes of cooperation are such processes as mutual assistance of participants, their mutual influence, their involvement in interaction. Cooperation is a necessary element of joint activity, generated by its special nature. A. N. Leontiev named two main features of joint activity: a) division of a single process of activity between participants; b) a change in the activity of each, since the result of the activity of each does not lead to the satisfaction of his needs, which in general psychological language means that the “subject” and “motive” of the activity do not coincide.

How is the direct result of the activity of each participant connected with the final result of joint activity? The means of such a connection are relations developed in the course of joint activity, which are realized primarily in cooperation. An important indicator of the tightness of cooperative interaction is the involvement of all participants in the process. Therefore, experimental studies of cooperation most often deal with the analysis of the contributions of the participants in the interaction and the degree of their involvement in it.

As for the other type of interactions – competition, here at the ordinary level, negative characteristics of this process are most often offered (including even identifying it with enmity), which was noted in the above definition. However, a more careful analysis of competition allows us to endow it with positive features. A number of studies introduce the concept of productive competition, characterized as humane, honest, fair, creative, during which partners develop competitive and creative motivation. In this case, although single combat is preserved in the interaction, it does not develop into a conflict, but only provides a genuine competitiveness. There are several degrees of productive competition, which differ in the measure of such quality as “softness/hardness”: a) competition when the partner does not pose a threat and the loser does not die (for example, in sports, the loser does not drop out, but simply takes a lower place in the ranking) ; b) rivalry, when only the winner is the unconditional winner, the other partner is in absolute loss (for example, the situation of the world chess championship), which means a violation of partnership, the emergence of elements of conflict; c) confrontation, when on the part of one participant in the interaction there is an intention to cause damage to another, i.e. rivals turn into enemies. The boundaries between these degrees are, of course, conditional, but it is important that the last degree can directly develop into a conflict.

The conflict is sometimes considered as a special form (or type) of interaction and is defined as the presence of opposite tendencies in the subjects of interaction, manifested in their actions. The specificity of the socio-psychological angle of view on the conflict lies in the simultaneous analysis of two components: the conflict situation and its representation in the minds of the participants. This gave grounds for discussing the most important general theoretical problem of conflict – understanding its nature as a psychological phenomenon. In fact: is the conflict just a form of psychological antagonism (i.e., the representation of a contradiction in consciousness) or is it necessarily the presence of conflict actions . A detailed description of various conflicts in their complexity and diversity allows us to conclude that both of these components are mandatory signs of a conflict.

The tasks of its study can be successfully solved only if there is an adequate conceptual scheme for studying the conflict. It captures at least four main characteristics of the conflict: the structure, dynamics, function and typology of conflicts . Although the structure of the conflict is described differently by different authors, its main elements are practically accepted by all. This is a conflict situation, the positions of the participants (opponents), the object, the “incident” (trigger), the development and resolution of the conflict. These elements behave differently depending on the type of conflict. The ordinary idea that any conflict necessarily has a negative meaning has been refuted by a number of special studies. So, in the works of M. Deutsch, one of the most prominent conflict theorists, two types of conflicts are called: destructive and productive.

The definition of destructive conflict is more in line with the ordinary idea. It is this type of conflict that leads to a mismatch of interaction, to its loosening. A destructive conflict often becomes independent of the cause that gave rise to it, and more easily leads to the transition “to the individual”, which gives rise to stress. It is characterized by a specific development, namely the expansion of the number of involved participants, their conflict actions, the multiplication of negative attitudes expressed against each other, the sharpness of statements (“expansion” of the conflict). Another feature – the “escalation” of the conflict means an increase in tension, the inclusion of a false perception of an increasing number of both the traits and qualities of the opponent, and the situations of interaction themselves, the growth of prejudice against the partner. Understandably, resolving this type of conflict is particularly difficult.

A productive conflict often occurs when the clash is not about the incompatibility of personalities, but is generated by a difference in points of view on a problem, on ways to solve it. In this case, the conflict itself contributes to the formation of a comprehensive understanding of the problem, as well as the motivation of a partner who defends a different point of view – it is perceived as more “legitimate”. The very fact of allowing a different argumentation, recognizing its legitimacy contributes to the development of elements of cooperative interaction within the conflict, indicates the emergence of elements of a friendly atmosphere, and thus opens up possibilities for its regulation and resolution.

The constructive functions of the conflict are manifested in the following: firstly, it acts as a source of development, improvement of the interaction process (developing function); secondly, it detects the contradiction that has arisen (cognitive function); thirdly, it is called upon to resolve the contradiction (instrumental function); fourthly, it has objective consequences associated with a change in circumstances (perestroika function). Of course, for the same participant in the interaction, the same conflict can have positive and negative consequences. The same conflicts can be constructive in one respect and destructive in another.

The destructive functions of conflict are obvious. First, in a conflict situation, almost all people experience psychological discomfort, tension, depression, or excessive excitement. Secondly, the system of interconnections is broken. Thirdly, the effectiveness of joint activities decreases. In this regard, almost all people have a negative attitude towards conflicts and strive to avoid them, although it can be noted that there are subjects who have serious psychological problems, who, not always realizing, themselves initiate the emergence of conflict situations.

There are several types of conflict situations. The criteria for typology are functions, subjects of interaction, types of behavior of participants, etc. From the point of view of subjects of interaction, conflicts are interpersonal, intergroup and intrapersonal. Interpersonal conflicts are collisions of interacting people whose goals are either mutually exclusive and incompatible in a given situation, or oppose or interfere with each other. Such a conflict is accompanied by acute emotional experiences of the participants in the interaction. It should be noted that the emotional experiences of the subjects are an important condition for the conflict. They exacerbate contradictions and provoke extreme actions. The calm, tolerant attitude of the subjects to the conflict situation and its causes determines the most favorable opportunities for the transition from the strategy of rivalry to the strategy of compromise and, perhaps, even cooperation. Intergroup conflicts arise due to the confrontation of groups in a team or society (their features are discussed in the chapter “Intergroup Relations”).

Intrapersonal conflicts are determined by the personality’s internalization of multidirectional value orientations in the process of upbringing and socialization. Such a conflict is a clash of relatively equal in strength and significance, but oppositely directed motives, needs, interests, and inclinations in one person. Intrapersonal conflicts are usually studied within the framework of personality psychology as a special area of psychology that has its own subject of study. However, in social psychology, intrapersonal conflicts are considered in connection with the social characteristics of their formation in violation of relations with loved ones in childhood and in connection with the contradictory relationship of such a person with the social environment in adulthood. There is no doubt that an intrapersonal conflict carries with it the problems of a person’s social adaptation, blocks decision-making, and forces an individual to resort to the most ineffective interaction strategies.

In a conflict situation, it is very important how the subjects of interaction imagine it. There may be conflicts that do not have a substantial basis, i.e. there are no real contradictions between the subjects, but the subjects themselves believe that they exist. Such a conflict is regarded as false, in contrast to a genuine one, in which real contradictions exist and are recognized by both parties. In addition, the conflict can be displaced or double, when the real, most significant contradictions between the subjects are hidden behind external, insignificant contradictions. In other words, a displaced conflict is an explicit conflict, behind which one can find a hidden one that underlies the obvious one. This happens when, for some reason (most often due to social control), individuals cannot even admit to themselves the causes and sources of a genuine contradiction.

Among the various types of conflicts, the most difficult can be considered the so-called latent, i.e. hidden conflict. This conflict should have occurred, but does not occur because, for one reason or another, it is either not recognized by the subjects of interaction, or is hidden by them behind socially acceptable forms of behavior. The specificity of this type of conflict lies in the fact that it has practically no constructive functions and contributes to the development of cynicism and hypocrisy among its participants. Such a conflict can be especially dangerous for children who observe similar attitudes of their parents and from childhood get used to the so-called double moral standard.

Conflicts with close people are experienced most difficult. Therefore, the most difficult conflicts are personal and industrial. Family and work, personal life and professional activity are the main areas of human life that are associated with the self-affirmation of the individual and thus determine its particular vulnerability. It is in these areas that he interacts with others for the maximum amount of time. Suffice it to say that, for example, among the causes of suicides, family conflicts are in one of the first places. As for production contradictions, they can be caused not only by the individual characteristics of the subjects of interaction, but also by the specifics of professional work.

A large number of conflicts are observed in the field of professional activity “man – man”. Among them, one of the most conflicting is pedagogical activity. The problem of pedagogical conflict belongs to the category of so-called universal psychological problems. Almost all conflicts, one way or another connected with the processes of education and upbringing, fall into the category of pedagogical ones. In the pedagogical environment, it is customary to have a very negative attitude towards conflicts, while some students tend to see conflict as a source of interest and new sensations. Pupils can sometimes even deliberately provoke the emergence of a conflict situation, especially in cases where the relationship at the level of “teacher – student” is uninteresting, monotonous, lacking dynamics.

Functional units of interaction.

The process of human interaction consists of functional units of interaction – acts, or actions. The act as a unit of human behavior was first studied by D. Mead. Subsequently, the structure of the act proposed by him was used in numerous psychological studies in the study of the phases of contact (A.B. Dobrovich), the analysis of the organization of the conscious behavior of an individual in a group (T. Shibutani), etc. Each action can be considered as a unit of communication (interaction). Action consists of four phases: the prompting phase, the clarification phase, the direct action phase, and the completion phase. The drive or impulse phase includes the first stimuli to communicate. This may be the approach of a familiar person, a phone call, etc. In this phase, a person switches from one activity to another. The second phase is related to the perception of another person, situation and information. At this phase, the perceptual selection of significances is carried out. Since perception is always selective, the clarification of the situation occurs depending on the personal meanings of the perceiver. Having clarified the situation and assessed it, the individual performs the necessary action. At the last stage, the action is curtailed and the equilibrium of the individual with the environment is restored. Particular attention should be paid to the second phase of the act, since it is this phase that determines the main meaning of the action through the subjective attitude of the individual.

E.Bern introduced the concept of transaction to designate a functional unit of communication. A transaction is an interaction of two ego-states of individuals, where the sub -ego-state is. the actual mode of existence of the self-subject is understood. There are three main ego-states in which a person can be. The ego-state “parent” is manifested in a person’s desire to comply with the norms of social control, to implement ideal requirements, prohibitions, dogmas, etc. The main tendency of human behavior in this state is obligation. The “adult” ego-state reveals itself in a person’s desire to realistically assess the situation, rationally and competently resolve all issues. The ego-state “child” is associated with the emotional experiences of the individual.

Long before the emergence of E. Berne’s theory, the domestic psychologist A.F. Lazursky, developing at the beginning of the century the problems of characterological analysis of the social manifestations of personality, identified three main mental functions – intellect, will and feeling. He noted that “…individual differences in the reaction of the individual to the environment underlie what we call the division of personalities according to their mental content. In essence, the allocation of three basic mental functions has a long tradition, up to theories of an esoteric order. With the advent of psychology as a science, this tradition was supported by French psychologists and, above all, by T. Ribot. E.Bern studied a special aspect of this problem. There is no doubt that the “adult” ego-state is determined by intellectual activity; ego-state “parent” – by volitional activity; ego-state “child” – emotional activity.

E.Bern noted that during the interaction, the ego-states of the subjects of communication may or may not coincide. He investigated the key problems associated with this phenomenon and developed a unique theory (one might say, a whole trend in psychology) – transactional analysis. Based on the provisions of this theory, it is possible to study some patterns of human communication, especially since, despite the dynamics of ego states present in the behavior of each person, most people have a dominant (or leading) ego state that determines the characteristics of their interaction in most life situations.

The main actions of a person are aimed at adapting to external conditions. However, this adaptation is not always successful enough. The person may have negative social habits (for example, excessive familiarity in communication) or misjudge the situation. As a result, the interaction may be ineffective. Not all people are inclined to draw conclusions from their social mistakes. Rather the opposite. Man repeats his mistakes over and over again. It is extremely difficult to change negative patterns of interaction, since they are carried out at the level of habit, which is part of social control and regulates the behavior of the individual.

Any interaction includes a large number of actions as functional units. With all their diversity, they add up to a system of behavior that is most characteristic of a given subject. To describe the types of behavior, an attempt was made to determine the main indicators of its specificity, taking into account the nature of interaction in the process of communication between subjects. Two such indicators were singled out: a person’s attention to the interests of other people; attention to their own interests. Each individual is characterized by the desire to protect their interests. However, existing among others, a person is obliged to take into account, to one degree or another, the interests of others. By the ratio of focus on oneself and focus on a partner, one can judge the development of a strategy for human interaction . Under the interaction strategy, we will understand the totality of the dominant features of human behavior in relations with other people, manifested in a particular social situation. There are five main interaction strategies: rivalry, compromise, cooperation, adaptation and avoidance (R. Blake, D. Mouton, K. Thomas). In modern social psychology and psychodiagnostics, these strategies are usually associated with human behavior in a conflict situation. However, they can also be considered in relation to ordinary social situations in connection with the peculiarity of the criteria underlying their definition.

Rivalry consists in the desire of a person to achieve satisfaction of his interests to the detriment of another. Competition and competition are types of rivalry. With such an interaction strategy, only one of the parties remains a winner. This strategy often leads to conflict, as competing subjects strive to get their way at any cost, persistently defending their point of view. They do not think about the interests of others and have difficulty in matters that relate to the agreement. In order to come to an agreement, it is necessary to take the position of the other. Competing subjects are interested in the fact that the interests of their competitors are not satisfied. In such a situation, a vicious circle arises. On the one hand, it is impossible to solve a problem without interacting with a partner. On the other hand, it is precisely the loss of a competitor that is the key to success. Thus, with this strategy, only the strongest opponent can win. The other, accordingly, is defeated.

In most social situations of interaction, a compromise strategy is used , which is characterized by the desire of the subjects of interaction to make mutual concessions and realize their interests, taking into account the interests of the opposite side. Since the subjects are inferior to each other, they cannot fully realize their interests, therefore, a compromise involves the allocation of basic and secondary needs. Basic needs are necessarily realized in the process of interaction. Thus, the problem is solved taking into account the interests of both parties, which sacrifice only secondary needs. The wide prevalence of compromise is due to the specifics of social situations, which are rarely favorable for the subjects of interaction so that the interests of both parties are fully satisfied. However, sometimes such situations do arise. In this case, a cooperation strategy is implemented.

Cooperation is such an interaction strategy that allows partners to come to an alternative that fully satisfies the interests of both parties. This strategy is quite rare, because many conditions are necessary for its implementation: firstly, a relatively favorable social situation; secondly, the psychological compatibility of the participants in the interaction; thirdly, their desire to go towards each other, etc. In their psychological essence, cooperation and compromise are similar, since both strategies are associated with an agreement that both sides come to.

Strategies of rivalry, compromise and cooperation are among the active strategies characteristic of proactive and enterprising people who are confident in their abilities. Individuals with a less active social position and reduced self-esteem are more likely to choose coping and avoidance strategies. Accommodating means sacrificing one’s own interests for the interests of another person. Avoidance is characterized by both the lack of desire to satisfy the interests of another person, and the lack of a tendency to achieve one’s own goals.

In the life of every person there are situations when he is forced to resort to certain strategies of interaction. In some conditions, one strategy is the most appropriate, in others, another. However, most individuals have a dominant interaction strategy, resorting to it most often. There is no doubt that interaction strategies are related to “human values. Systems of value orientations are formed at the personal level. Their central motive is either the interests of the social community, the ideas of selflessness, which do not imply real reward (altruism); or individual interests, regardless of the interests of other people, which become a means of achieving selfish goals (selfishness); or the balance of interests of individual and public is observed.

Pedagogical conflicts are caused by a number of circumstances. Firstly, the very activity of the teacher is one of the most stressful. When, in the mid-1950s, research was carried out in our country on the psychology of labor on a national scale, the work of a teacher, in its psychophysiological intensity, was equated with the activity of test pilots and mountaineers. Modern conditions have not made the work of a teacher less stressful.

4. Theories of interpersonal interaction

one; THE THEORY OF EXCHANGE (Homans, Deutsch, Blau, Tibbo)

A) People interact, exchanging information with each other, some benefits. If a person receives the necessary benefits from the interaction, then the contact continues.

B) A person strives for “maximum gain”

C) The law of aggression – if a person does not receive the reward he expected, then aggression becomes more valuable to him than interaction

D) “The law of saturation” – the more often a person received a certain reward, the less valuable the repetition of this reward will be for him

E) “Principle of least interest” – a person who is less interested in the continuation of the social situation of exchange and communication, has a greater ability to dictate his terms of exchange, receives power

B) “Principle of monopoly” – if a person has a monopoly right to a certain reward that others, the participants in the exchange, want to receive, then he imposes his will on them – relations of power

G) People strive for a symmetrical exchange, so that the rewards of the participants are proportional to their costs.


A) People observe, comprehend each other’s intentions, put themselves in the place of another person, adapt their behavior to the expectations and actions of other people

B) People realize social expectations – “inspections” of each other, norms of behavior, rights and obligations of their social role

C) People realize social roles through “imitation” in childhood, through “performance” and “choice” of those roles and groups where a person is valued


A) People interact with each other if they feel sympathy, location, attraction for each other

B) Sympathy occurs if:

—contact frequency

– physical attractiveness

– “equal” in terms of attractiveness and intelligence, status

similarity of interests, opinions,

– similarity of origin

– mutual complementarity is important for the continuation of relations

we like those who like us

– we like those who are kindly attentive to us, understand us

– physical sexual attraction

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