“First impressions”: Perceptions of communicative abilities in people with traumatic brain injury
Issue: Vol 2 No. 1 (2011)
Subject Areas: Linguistics
People who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) often have difficulties with social interactions, as well as developing and maintaining relationships. This may be due to deficits in pragmatic language abilities that have been documented in the research. These deficits can cause a person that has endured a TBI to make a negative first impression; this may lead social partners to make poor judgments about the person’s personality or mood. The aim of this study was to examine untrained observers’ ‘first impressions’ of the communication skills of people with TBI and to determine if any differences exist between untrained observer impressions and the first impressions of speech language pathologists. Twenty-four untrained observers and 12 Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) viewed videotaped recordings of four people with TBI. The participants completed a two part observations sheet. In the first section, observers wrote a description of the speakers’ communication skills. In the second section, observers provided three self-generated lexical items that best described the speakers’ communicative ability. Descriptive textual linguistic analysis and thematic categorization were used to focus analyzes on the perceptions of the untrained observers and assess what particular aspects of the speakers' communication were viewed as problematic. In contrast to the SLPs, the untrained observers’ responses focused on the non-verbal behaviors of people with TBI in a negative manner. The results suggest that (a) a greater focus on non-verbal behaviours may be an important aspect of therapy, and (b) professionals may benefit from input from non professionals when judging the readiness of people with TBI to interact successfully in the community.
Author: Kacia McCaghren, Jacki Guendouzi