Examining Functional Communication as Egocentric or Group-Centric: Application of a Latent Group Model
Functional communication in small groups is generally treated as a medium (i.e., reflecting and explained by individual proclivities) or as constitutive (i.e., interaction has independent effects on outcomes). Rather than approach the problem as either/or, we assume that functional communication consists of both processes. To explore this assumption, we applied two models that offer contrasting views on this debate—Hewes's (1986, 1996, 2009) socio-egocentric model and Gonzalez and Griffin's (2002) latent group model—to four published group interaction datasets to examine the extent to which communication has individual- and group-level characteristics. Analyzed individually, the data exhibited a large proportion of egocentricity but very little group-level connections. An analysis of the combined and recoded data, however, revealed that discussion consists of both egocentric and group speech, but that the patterns differ. We then discuss the theoretical implications for observed patterns at different levels of analysis in the data.
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