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«NASA CONTRACTOR REPORT 177459 ^^2MMVN1CATION TRAINING FOR AIRCREWSA A REVIEW OF THEORETICAL AND PRAGMATIcTsPECTS OF TRAINING PROGAM DESIGN Charlotte ...»

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Do the gains in assertive behavior from participation in workshops, groups, or individual therapy hold up in real life? This is the key research issue facing assertiveness training today. Do good results transfer out of the laboratory or therapy setting into the person's actual everday living situation? To date, the results are equivocal. Some studies indicate success in generalization to real life, whereas others do not. Part of the difficulty involves setting up valid ways of measuring transfer. Gathering adequate followup information is crucial, yet doing so is difficult, (p. 128) 2.2.3.2 Match Between Validation Studies and Training Programs This section assesses the relation between existing validation studies and the commercial assertiveness training programs which might be used as the basis for aviation training programs. In general, validation studies have focused on assertiveness training in a therapeutic model, which involves repeated sesions with a therapist or trainer, over an extended period of time, either individually or in a group. As far as we have been able to determine, there have been no studies using the seminar model, in which one to three days of intensive training is offered3. Another important difference between existing studies and possible training models for the aviation situation is the identity of the subject population.

Let us first consider length of training. In general, commercial assertiveness training progams last between one and three consecutive days, with no followup training available. As noted above, most of the assertiveness training programs whose effects have been studied are structured more like therapeutic encounters, typically involving one o Commercial training firms, when questioned about validation, offer only customer testimonials as proof of the effectiveness of their training.

hour sessions over periods of from 2 weeks to more than 6 months. (Ruben, 1085) in an annotated bibliography on assertiveness training research from 1073 to 1083 shows no research using the seminar model, in the 802 articles and 81 books surveyed. The therapeutic model permits review of how the training is working in the subjects' real world situations, dbcussion of how to handle developing problems, and reinforcement by the therapist for initiation of assertive behavior. It remains an open question whether the results obtained from testing long-term assertiveness training can be generalized to short, intensive programs.

Let us now consider the characteristics of the subject population studied in the materials reviewed above, and compare them with the characteristics of the potental population for aviation training studies. The issue of subject selection in research on assertiveness

training has been dbcussed by (Curran, 1070):

The description of subject-selection procedures in many studies on social skills training is vague and unclear. In many cases it does not appear that any valid criteria were used other than convenience. In many cases it is unclear whether the selected subjects were actually performing inadequately in social situations, regardless of whether this poor performance was due to an actual deficit or the result of some inhibitory process. Often sujects are 'nominated" as being eligible candidates for social skills training, but it is unclear what criteria the various individuals doing the nominating were using and whether these criteria were consistent across nominators. In those cases where subjects were assessed on purported measures of social skill prior to treatment, the lack of normative data still leaves it unclear whether these subjects were socially incompetent.

Even if the subjects selected for a study are socially incompetent, they may be judged incompetent for different reasons; that is, one individual may have been nominated because of a low rate of positive behavior while another individual may have been nominated because of a high rate of obnoxious, antisocial behavior. The selected subjects may also be heterogenous with respect to many other variables, (p. 342) In the studies we have examined, there appear to be three basic sources of subject populations for assertiveness training studies.

1. Self-referred patients, who have sought therapy because they perceive some problem with their social relations (see, for example, (Eisler et al., 1075)).

2. Institutionalized patients, chosen to be the least deteriorated of the available patient population. Given the conditions for psychological institutionalization, these are usually severely disordered or psychotic patients (see, for example, (Wagner, 1068), (Nydegger, 1072)).

3. College students, of course, are the most commonly used subjects. They may be randomly chosen from undergraduate psychology courses (sse, for example, (Young et a/., 1073), (McFall and Lillesand, 1071)). They may be partially self-referred by being given the opportunity to volunteer for an experiment in which they will recieve some assertiveness training (see, for example, (Rimm et a/., 1074)). Or they may be selected from the general population in undergraduate psychology courses by some measure of deficit in assertiveness (see, for example, (Friedman, 1071)).

In contrast, training in the civilian or military aviation context does not admit selfreferral. Subjects are required to take the training as part of their ongoing career training, whether or not they may feel that they have any problem in communication or social relations. It might be argued that this situation is analogous to experiments studying a random sample of college students, since such students are also not selfreferred. However, the two situations are not comparable, since adolescents' reception of social skills training is likely to be more favorable than that of adult professionals.





Therefore, it can not be assumed for the aviation context that the results of such obligatory training would be the same as that of voluntary training. Although this factor may make it difficult to generalize the results of exisiting evaluation studies to an aviation population, it could also be an advantage for research on the effects of communiations training on aircrew members, since lack of self-referral would eliminate one source of subject selection bias.

2.2.4 Conclusions As the above discussion indicates, asertiveness training has not been subjected to a thorough and controlled evaluaiton. Differences in the definition of assertiveness, and difficulties in defining the desired results have resulted in a wide variety of inconclusive or non-generalizable studies. Furthermore, the applicability of assertiveness training to the aviation context is unclear, since there there are great differences in the characteristics of the subject population and the model for delivering training. Finally, assertiveness training focuses on individual communication, and therefore has little or nothing to contribute to the smooth functioning of group communication.

2.3 Social and Linguistic Assumptions of Assertiveness Training Thus far, we have considered the psychological background of assertiveness training, and attempts to validate it as a therapeutic method. We turn now to wider issues: the relation of assertiveness training to the linguistic and social context in which the assertive behavior is to be performed.

2.3.1 Social Assumptions of Assertiveness Training The basic assumption of assertiveness training is that interpersonal problems are problems of communication; that is, people fail to get what they want because they fail to communicate clearly and assertively. It is assumed that if someone can learn to present his needs and wants clearly and assertively, he can be assured of accomplishing them, or at least of suffering no negative consequences for having spoken out. People's fears of communicating clearly are treated as neurotically based.

–  –  –

Consider the following example, from (Zuker, 1983) (p. 62), which is typical of

assertiveness training publications and programs:

Suppose that your boss has asked you to work overtime several nights this week. You feel put upon and think that your boss has no concern for your personal life. You might approach the boss in this way.

I SEE (what you objectively perceive in the situation) that you've asked me to work overtime three times this week.

I THINK (what you think or imagine is true; your assumptions) that you are not aware of or concerned about my personal life.

I FEEL (your feelings or reactions to the thought) pressured, exploited, taken advantage of, upset, anxious.

I WANT (a positive, clear description of what you want) to be given at least four days' notice when you need to have me work overtime.

I INTEND (what you are prepared to do to see that you get what you want) to remind you every Friday to review and estimate the workload for the next week and fill me in on what your anticipated needs will be.4 This example does not take into account tone of voice, which clearly could have a major effect on the success or failure of the communication.

Notice that this example focuses on the boss's potential misunderstanding of the worker's desires. If the worker does not explain that he/she is unwilling to work late, the boss can not know. As it stands, this may or may not be true. However, it leaves out a wide

variety of larger social and economic issues, including:

• Is the worker paid for overtime?

• Was there an agreement about overtime work at the time of hiring?

• Is the corporate culture a 0 to 5 culture, or is the assumption that everyone works longer hours to prove that they are dedicated members?

• Is there a union, and is the worker a member?

• What influence does the boss have on the worker's career path?

Without considering the answers to these questions, it is naive to assume that improved communication is all that is necessary to improve the situation.

Consider the application of this critique to the aviation training situation. Previous research (Goguen and Linde, 1083) found that subordinates tend to be more indirect, thus less assertive, than superiors. Assertiveness training has been proposed as a remedy.

However, we must consider not only the nature of the communication, but also the social context. First, assertiveness training does not take account of the operational reasons for the hierarchical command structure of both military and commercial aviation, or the ways in which it should function to facilitate brief and efficient communication. By focusing entirely on the individual, assertiveness training is not able to consider differing group organizations and their optimal modes of functioning. In addition, we must know what the social and career consequences are for a subordinate if he speaks assertively, whether in an emergency situation, or during normal flight. It is likely that subordinates fear that their assertive communications will be perceived as insubordinate by superiors, and therefore we must also consider what the consequences are of being perceived as insubordinate by superiors.

• Does the captain or other leader have the right to report him for insubordinate behavior?

• To make note of his behavior on his permanent record?

• To influence his career path through informal communications networks?

Answers to these questions could help us determine whether a subordinate's indirect communication is the result of a neurotic fear of directness, the result of a lack of social skills, or is perhaps a well-considered conclusion about the nature of the social situation.

2.3.1.1 Research on the Effects of Assertive Behavior. t. _• In general, works on assertiveness training have concentrated on the value of assertiveness for the person being trained, and have ignored the issue of how assertive behavior is perceived by others, that is, the effect of assertive behavior on both interpersonal relations and objective job performance. A number of recent studies have attempted to investigate the impact of assertive behavior, and have found that people exhibiting such behavior are judged as competent, but less likeable.

• (Rosen and Jerdee, 1075) found that managers judging the effectiveness of employees presenting a grievance recieved more favorably a polite, pleading approach by male employees than an aggressive, threatening approach.

• (Kelly et a/., 1080) and (Kelly et a/., 1082) found that undergraduates, in rating a videotape showing a male or a female model behaving either assertively or unassertively, viewed the assertive models as more skilled and able, but as less likeable.

• (Keane et al., 1083) found that two patient samples, psychiatric and nonpsychiatric, viewing videos of males and females behaving passively and assertively, judged the assertive behavior to be skilled and capable but significantly less likeable than passive behavior.

• In a similar study, (Keane et a/., 1083) found that black nonpsychiatric subjects, viewing videos of males and females behaving passively and assertively, judged the assertive behavior to be skilled and capable but significantly less likeable than passive behavior. (Note that the expected differences between black and white subjects were not found.) These results suggest that fears of behaving assertively in a professional situation may be well-founded, particularly if, as in most aviation situations, one may be dependent on superiors' assesments of one's personality and suitability for the job, as well as one's technical competence.

A similar assessment has been made by (Linehan and Egan, 1070):



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