Date of Award


Document Type



The purpose of this investigation was to measure whether, after group treatment, open ward hospitalized psychiatric patients would demonstrate an increase in ability to describe other people by means of interpersonal constructs. Measuring the ability to describe other people, or more precisely cognitive complexity, has never been undertaken with a hospitalized psychiatric patient population nor has the effect of group treatment on cognitive complexity been examined.

Responses investigated included cognitive complexity before and after four weeks of treatment, variability in description of others depending on sex of the other person and whether he or she was liked or disliked, and improvement after four weeks of treatment and on a two-month follow-up. Cognitive complexity was considered in its possible relationship to symptomatology, intelligence, diagnosis, patients' conceptualization of control of their destiny, improvement after treatment, and certain factors involving group process.

Two groups of psychiatric patients on open wards at a VA hospital were compared. One group received Human Relations Training Laboratory exercises and had autonomous group sessions for four weeks. The other group received more traditional Group Psychotherapy and had a therapist present for alternate sessions for four weeks. Subjects were comparable in age, education and intelligence. The cognitive complexity measure was a free response paper and pencil instrument on which subjects were asked to identify and describe two liked males, two liked females, two disliked males and two disliked females. Experimental findings may be summarized as follows:

1. Neither group increased in cognitive complexity after treatment. Human Relations Training Laboratory patients decreased significantly more than Group Psychotherapy patients.

2. Psychiatric patients described liked females with greatest facility, implying that they are most adept in. such interactions. They described liked and disliked males with equal facility and had greatest difficulty describing disliked females.

3. When sex is or is not considered, patients produced a greater variety of constructs to describe people who are liked as opposed to people who are disliked.

4. No significant relationship was found between degree of cognitive complexity and degree of symptomatology.

5. Patients manifested equal degree of symptomatic improvement after both types of treatment as rated by the staff and on self-ratings.

6. A significant correlation between intelligence and cognitive complexity was obtained within the intelligence range represented in a patient population.

7. The Rotter I-E score, which measures a person's sense of control of his overall environment, was not correlated with cognitive complexity, which hypothetically measures a person's sense of control of interpersonal relations.

8. Differences in cognitive complexity were not found among the diagnostic categories of depressive reaction, anxiety reaction and personality disorder.

9. Less than half of the 29 Human Relations Training Laboratory patients answering the follow-up were working. More than half of the 27 Group Psychotherapy patients responding were working. However, more Group Psychotherapy patients had jobs waiting when they entered treatment, and several had just left the hospital.

10. Cognitive complexity was not correlated to prominence or hyperdependency within the group, but it was related to a tendency to engage in conflict. Cognitive complexity was correlated to participation in group discussion. These conclusions applied only.