Willingness to Self-Disclose and Attraction for the Therapist as Functions of Subject-Therapist Matching on Conceptual System and Attitude Direction


Robin Foster

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The main purpose of the investigation was to study willingness to -self-disclose and attraction for the therapist as functions of matching subjects and construed therapists for similarity/dissimilarity of attitude direction and concreteness/abstractness of conceptual system. A secondary purpose was to investigate willingness to selfd^ sclose and interpersonal attraction as functions of the conceptual system of the subject and the professional status of construed therapists.

A pool of undergraduates was given the "This I Believe Test" (Harvey, Hunt, and Schroder 1961) which were independently scored by two judges and used to select 16 male and 16 female subjects clearly representative of Harvey et al.'s (1961) most concrete and most abstract conceptual systems, in a therapy analogue study, subjects indicated willingness to self-disclose to a female therapist in a possible interview. Subjects were then presented with construed attitudinal responses attributed to four fen,ale therapists of either high cr lew professional status. The four responses each subject received included the following variations of subject-therapist matching: (1; matched attitude direction/matched conceptual system; (2) matched attitude di recti or,/unmatched conceptual system; (3) unmatched attitude direction/matched conceptual system; and (4) unmatched attitude direction/unmatched conceptual system. Subjects indicated their attraction for each construed therapist (Modified Interpersonal Judgment Scale) and their willingness to self-disclose to each construed therapist in a possible interview (Modified Twenty Topics, Foster 1976).

Willingness to self-disclose and attraction for the therapists were analyzed in separate 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 (sex of subject x conceptual system of subject x conceptual system of therapist x attitude agreement x therapist status) analyses of variance.

As hypothesized, there were no sex differences for willingness to self-disclose prior to receiving attitudinal information attributed to therapists. However, contrary to the hypothesis, abstract subjects demonstrated significantly more willingness to self-disclose prior to receiving attitudinal information attributed to four female therapists. Interestingly enough, regardless of the attitude direction and conceptual system represented by the four construed therapist responses, abstract subjects demonstrated greater willingness to self-disclose than concrete subjects. As hypothesized, subject-therapist matching on both attitude direction and conceptual system led to greater willingness to self-disclosure and greater interpersonal attraction than matching on neither attitude direction nor conceptual system. Furthermore, support was found for the hypothesis that the relative importance of matching for attitude direction versus conceptual system would be different; for concrete and abstract subjects. For concrete subjects, as hypothesized, subject-therapist matching on attitude direction was more important than matching on conceptual system, as indicated by willingness to self-disclose and interpersonal attraction. As expected, for abstract subjects, matching on conceptual system was more important than matching on attitude direction when the measure of interpersonal attraction was used. Contrary to the hypothesis, willingness to self-disclose was not significantly greater when abstract subjects were matched for conceptual system only, rather than attitude direction only. As expected, concrete subjects were more willing to self-disclose when exposed to high-status versus low-status construed therapist responses. However, concrete subjects were not more attracted to high status therapists. As hypothesized, abstract subjects exposed in the high-status condition did not differ from those exposed to the low-status condition in willingness to self disclose and interpersonal attraction. Also, as hypothesized, there wereno sex differences for willingness to self-disclose and interpersonal attraction for subjects exposed to either the high or low therapist status condition.

Results were discussed in terms of the different orientations to authority shown by concrete versus abstract individuals, as well as their different characteristic openness to information. It was noted that behavioral tendencies could be predicted on the basis of Harvey et al.'s (1961) conceptual systems theory. It was suggested that the individual's characteristic manner of acquiring and processing information is an important area of investigation that has been neglected in the self-disclosure literature as well as in the psychotherapy vi 1 i literature.

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