Awards News

2014 Richard Moreland Dissertation of the Year Award

Conversational flow: The Emergence and Regulation of Solidarity Through Social Interaction

University of Groningen

Namkje Kooudenburg Ph.D.

The central aim of this dissertation was to study whether such micro-characteristics of the form of dialogue influence processes at a more macro-level, such as the emergence and regulation of social structures. Two conclusions are drawn: First, it appears that subtle aspects in the form of conversation (e.g., brief silences, interruptions) reveal information about both the closeness and the quality of underlying social relationships. Second, the form of a conversation provides means to regulate and maintain the solidarity within the group. In small groups, core characteristics such as social norms, status hierarchies and shared realities “define the group” in the sense that they are affirmed through communication between members. In smoothly flowing conversation, the group members’ actions towards each other reflect the social structures that exist within the group. Behavior that deviates from this framework poses a potential threat to the stability of the social system. Indeed, when a low status group member interrupts a high status other, this may threaten assumptions of group hierarchy and thus call in doubt the solidarity. Because disruptions of the normal flow of conversation may signal that something within the social system is wrong, this should normally (i.e., when the continuation of those systems is valued) elicit behavior that is aimed at re-establishing unity. Thus, solidarity is not only maintained by sanctioning deviants, but also by more subtle cues in communication that inform people about the status of the relationship between speakers.

Dissertation Award Guidelines:

Each year, the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy of the American Psychological Association gives an award for the best dissertation research on small groups. The research can apply any methodology to the analysis of any type of group. People who wish to compete for the award first submit an abstract, which is read by a committee of three division members. The three best abstracts are identified by the committee and the authors are asked to submit full copies of their dissertations. The same committee reads those dissertations and then selects the final winner.

The committee for the latest (2014) award was Dr. Richard Moreland (chair), Dr. Dennis Kivlighan, Dr. Flip Robison, and Dr. Catherine Shea (who won the 2013 award). The three finalists were Dr. Namkje Kooudenburg (University of Groningen), Dr. Florian Landkammer (University of Tubingen), and Dr. Jamie Perry (Rutgers School of Business).

The winner of the prize was Dr. Koudenburg, whose dissertation was entitled “Conversational flow: The emergence and regulation of solidarity through social interaction.” Dr. Koudenburg won $1000, a commemorative plaque, and a three-year membership in the division. She will receive her award at the annual Business Meeting of the division at this year’s APA convention in Toronto.

The same contest will be held again this year. People who completed dissertations during calendar year 2015 are encouraged to submit abstracts of their work to Dr. Richard Moreland ( by March 1st of 2016.

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