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By Robert F. Bales. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, xix + 396 pages, 1999. $49.95 (cloth).
Small group research has gone through many periods of growth and decline in the past fifty years. Through it all, Robert F. Bales has remained a central figure. He has been credited with inventing the field and, since his retirement from Harvard University in 1986, continues to be active in team-based consulting. The book represents the culmination of his work on social interaction in small groups.
The structure of Bales' Social Interaction Systems is unusual. It begins with a reprinted introduction to SYMLOG: System for the Multiple Level Observation of Groups. This introduction was written for practitioners, and previously published by the SYMLOG Consulting Group (SCG). It then presents the tools that SCG developed to explain group dynamics to its clients. The second section of the book provides an extended discussion of values, citing both SCG's normative data and the empirical basis for the value space as demonstrated in the 1960s by the work of Arthur Couch. The third section returns to the observational beginnings and rehashes much of the data and many of the findings from research conducted with Interaction Process Analysis (IPA) in the 1950s. The final section returns to the issue of values, to assert that …