Effects of interpersonal touch on clients' perceptions of counselors and the counseling interaction

Date
1984
Authors
Wheaton, Janilee
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Altmetrics
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Research Projects
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Psychology
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Abstract

The major purposes of this study were: (a) to discover whether or not interpersonal touch between counselors and clients affects client perceptions of counselor attractiveness and credibility and leads to greater counselor influence ability which would be predicted from Strong's (1968) social influence model, and (b) to replicate previous research showing that counselors who touch are not perceived as more sexual than counselors who do not touch. Counselor physical attractiveness and client comfort with touch were included in the experimental design as covariates;The subjects for this experiment were 119 female and 95 male undergraduates who were randomly assigned to either the Touch or the No-Touch conditions. The subjects participated in analogue counseling sessions during which each subject/client met with one of six trained undergraduate counselors for 30 minutes to discuss his or her interpersonal life;The dependent variables included the Counselor Rating Form (Barak & LaCrosse, 1975) and its subscales (expertness, attractiveness, and trustworthiness), a depth of self-disclosure questionnaire, a measure of perceived sexuality, and two measures of counselor influence ability. Physical attractiveness of the counselor was individually rated by each subject after initially meeting the counselor. The subjects' comfort with touch was measured in a separate experiment;ANCOVA and ANOVA procedures revealed that: (a) counselor touch enhances perceived trustworthiness of the counselor, (b) counselor touch is not likely to be perceived as sexual in nature except in the case of a highly physically attractive female counselor meeting with a male subject, (c) subjects who are comfortable with touch respond to female counselors' touch with deeper levels of self-disclosure and greater perceptions of influence ability while male counselors' touch has the opposite effect, and (d) counselor touch seems to mediate the effects of counselor physical attractiveness on client perceptions;It was concluded that traditional research paradigms may not be appropriate for the study of interpersonal touch. A case study approach was recommended for future research.

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Clinical Psychology
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