Evaluating the Scope and Theoretical Mechanisms of Person-Centered Social Support: The Case of the Comforting Computer Program

Stephen A Rains, Corey A. Pavlich, Eric Tsetsi, Chelsie Akers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the utility of verbal person-centeredness (VPC) as a feature of social support messages has been demonstrated in numerous studies, questions remain about the scope and theoretical mechanisms that explain VPC effects. Two experiments were conducted to evaluate whether the salutary effects of VPC extend to generic VPC messages and to explore the role of validation as a theoretical mechanism. Participants discussed a personal problem with a fictional computer program named “ListenerBot” that provided standardized responses containing high or low levels of VPC. Participants who received high VPC feedback from ListenerBot experienced a greater reduction in emotional distress than participants who received low VPC feedback. Path models consistently showed that high VPC feedback validated participants’ feelings, which led them to reappraise their situation and ultimately reduced their emotional distress. VPC, however, did not impact participants’ discussion of their thoughts and emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCommunication Research
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • emotional distress
  • emotions
  • person-centeredness
  • social support
  • supportive communication
  • theory of conversationally induced reappraisal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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