In 1995, I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship grant (Breast Cancer Research Program of California #1FB-0383) to create a technology for the study of change over time in the emotional expression of metastatic breast cancer patients as they participated in David Spiegel's supportive-expressive group. I was also funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Mind-Body Network grant awarded to David Spiegel, M.D. to create an extension of this coding system to investigate the social interaction linked to emotional expression in these groups.

I created, with contributions from Bita Nouriani, Jennifer Boyce, Sanjay Chakrapani, Diana Edwards, Barbara Symons, Julie Choe, and Casey Alt, a new type of system for the coding of emotion and behavior in group settings by layering separate levels of coding (© 1996 Stanford University). We can make multiple passes through each videotape to code each behavior of interest, merging them using the vitc timestamp to create a complete dataset with each type of behavior as it changes over time. In this way, we can test hypotheses to examine how emotional expression changes over time in the group, if each woman is supported by the group in her emotional expression, and whether there are particular topics more likely to speed the therapeutic process.

How are coders blind to hypothesis?

  • We assign random numbers to each videotape
  • Coders are prohibited from knowing any hypotheses while being an active coder
  • Upon leaving the lab, coders are debriefed as to specific hypotheses--None have guessed the hypotheses.
  • Coders are prohibited from sharing with each other the knowledge of a specific group member's death, or to name specifically events discussed on tape
  • Coders are unaware with whom their tapes are compared for kappa.
  • Tapes are assigned randomly in ways that would make it difficult to establish an order for the sequence of events.
  • Coders discuss emotional reactions to the viewing of these videotapes as a regular part of weekly lab meetings to reduce secondary post-traumatic stress reactions. During these discussions, coders could talk about their reactions to events on tape, but cannot name a particular woman or discuss her disease course.

Our Hardware / Software

A coding station running the James Long System
We code through a software/hardware connection (James Long System) linking a vcr with the computer.  The software samples from the keyboard at 30 times per second making the collection of nearly continuous data possible. We therefore have frame-by-frame coded data, but the task of the coder is merely to strike the key associated with a particular code. Layering of the data is accomplished through merging time-synchronized codes in the multiple layers.

For More Information

Giese-Davis, J., Piemme, K. A., Dillon, C., & Twirbutt, S. (2005). Macro-variables in affective expression in women with breast cancer participating in support groups. In J. Harrigan, K. R. Scherer & R. Rosenthal (Eds.), Nonverbal behavior in the affective sciences: A handbook of research methods (pp. 399-445). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(Please e-mail Janine Giese-Davis for a login to download)