Lsa

Landaueretal. (1998)

n/a; 2 strategies with focus either on low (content approach) or high (style approach) frequency words

computer

representational

semantic

n/a

content/ style

cause (Peterson, Schulman, Castellon, & Seligman, 1992). Intensive coding training is offered.

The CAVE technique has been applied to a wide variety of text sources, including therapy protocols, newspaper articles, presidential addresses, personal letters, and TAT protocols. People's explanatory styles have been successfully linked to optimism, depression, and health behaviors (Peterson, 1992). The strength of the CAVE analysis lies in its theoretical foundation, its broad applicability, and its real-world relevance (Peterson, 1992).

Content analysis of conceptual/integrative complexity. Suedfeld, Tetlock, and their colleagues have developed a text analysis system to assess a person's information processing and decision making. Conceptual/integrative complexity (IC) measures the degree of differentiation and integration achieved in describing a phenomenon (Suedfeld, Tetlock, & Streufert, 1992).

Originally the Sentence/Paragraph Completion Test (S/PCT) was used as a source for assessing IC. In the S/PCT participants write open-ended answers to a series of sentence stems, such as "When I am criticized . . .," "When I don't know what to do . . .," or "When a friend acts differently. ..." Each answer is then rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (no evidence oj either differentiation or integration) to 7 (high differentiation and high integration). In general, a high degree of differentiation is achieved when a phenomenon is acknowledged as having multiple causes and dimensions. Integration is obtained when interconnections are made between the acknowledged dimensions (Baker-Brown et al., 1992). IC scores are positively correlated with the total number of words in a text, the average sentence length, and the number of words with more than three syllables (Coren & Suedfeld, 1990).

Because the rating process involves subtle semantic inferences about the author's intention, intensive coder training is required (Suedfeld et al., 1992). More recently, IC analysis has been extended to the study of archival material. IC has been linked to a variety of social psychological topics such as attitude change, attribution, problem solving, and interpersonal communication (Suedfeld et al., 1992).

Summary and evaluation. Three influential thematic content analysis approaches have been reviewed. Several other coding systems are available but could not be included here (e.g., personal causation, deCharms, 1968; uncertainty orientation, Sorrentino, Roney, & Hanna, 1992; object related-ness, Rosenberg, Blatt, Oxman, McHugo, & Ford, 1994; for a more exhaustive review, see Smith, 1992). With regard to the four-dimensional conceptual framework, thematic content analysis is instrumental in its aim and thematic in its approach. It focuses either on verbal content (e.g., IC) or style (e.g., CAVE) and typically is specific in bandwidth. The fact that thematic content analysis involves human judges who make inferences about the meaning of a statement is typically considered a threat to its reliability. Generally, however, when quality standards such as appropriate test administration, careful judge training, and duplicate scoring of materials are met, good reliabilities are achieved (Schultheiss & Brunstein, 2001; Smith, 1992).

The main weakness of thematic content analysis lies in the time that judges spend coding verbal material. It has become increasingly attractive to replace moderately reliable and expensive human judges by perfectly reliable and cost-effective computer coders (cf. Hogenraad, 2003). Shapiro (1997) pointed to a weakness in this argument: Computer-based systems typically consist of two components, a processing device with the text analysis routine (e.g., the word count algorithm) and a dictionary with the linguistic information (e.g., lists of emotion- or achievement-related words). Whereas the processing device is 100% reliable, the deeper problem lies in the fact that coding ambiguity is shifted from the coding procedure to the construction of a comprehensive dictionary. Still, beyond their incomparable efficiency, computer codings also have the advantage of facilitating cross-study and cross-laboratory comparisons of findings.

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