Using Sequence Analysis to Identify Conversational Motifs in Supportive Interactions

Denise Haunani Solomon, Susanne Jones, Miriam Brinberg, Graham D. Bodie, Nilam Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This study demonstrates how sequence analysis, which is a method for identifying common patterns in categorical time series data, illuminates the nonlinear dynamics of dyadic conversations by describing chains of behavior that shift categorically, rather than incrementally. When applied to interpersonal interactions, sequence analysis supports the identification of conversational motifs, which can be used to test hypotheses linking patterns of interaction to conversational antecedents or outcomes. As an illustrative example, this study evaluated 285 conversations involving stranger, friend, and dating dyads in which one partner, the discloser, communicated about a source of stress to a partner in the role of listener. Using sequence analysis, we identified three five-turn supportive conversational motifs that had also emerged in a previous study of stranger dyads: discloser problem description, discloser problem processing, and listener-focused dialogue. We also observed a new, fourth motif: listener-focused, discloser questioning. Tests of hypotheses linking the prevalence and timing of particular motifs to the problem discloser’s emotional improvement and perceptions of support quality, as moderated by the discloser’s pre-interaction stress, offered a partial replication of previous findings. The discussion highlights the value of using sequence analysis to illuminate dynamic patterns in dyadic interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3155-3179
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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