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First Impressions of Therapists: the Effect of Therapist Gender, Gaze, Smiling and Subject Gender

Description: Conceptualization psychotherapy as an interpersonal influence process emphasizes how a therapist is perceived by a client. Factors affecting a client's early impressions of a therapist could influence therapeutic interactions since first impressions are relatively stable. The study investigated effects of nonverbal behavior and gender during a simulated initial meeting between a therapist and client. Undergraduates (N = 466) viewed a male or female therapist interviewing with a new female client. Therapist gaze .(100%, 80%, 40%) and smiling (high, low) were manipulated. After subjects viewed one of 12 videotapes, they completed questionnaires rating therapist expertness, trustworthiness, attractiveness, masculinity and femininity. A comparison of the therapist with subjects' expectations of a therapist in general was obtained by pre- and post-testing utilizing a measure of client expectations. MANOVAs were performed on all ratings except expectation scores, where an ANCOVA was utilized. Main effects for therapist gender indicated the female therapist was rated as significantly more expert, attractive, trustworthy and feminine than the male (ps < .81). For ratings of masculinity, subject gender interacted with therapist gender (p < .001). Wain effects showed that high smiling was rated as more attractive and more feminine (ps < .01). Smiling and level of gaze interacted on ratings of trustworthiness, expertness and masculinity (ps < .04). The 100 per cent and 80 per cent gaze levels increased expertness, trustworthiness and masculinity ratings. Smiling affected expertness at the 80 per cent level, and trustworthiness and masculinity at the 40 per cent level. Analysis of the expectation scores resulted in a three-way interaction between subject gender, smiling and gaze (p < .02). The results suggested that female subjects expected more responsive therapist behavior. The results suggested that the ratings of the male and female therapist reflected both the use of sex stereotypes and the influence of the therapist role. ...
Date: August 1988
Creator: Ziegler Kratz, Nancy Ann