Taxonomy of Verbal Response Modes (VRMs)

Developers: William B. Stiles

Year of publication: 1978, 1992

Date last updated: 21 October 2019

Setting in which the tool was originally developed/validated: psychotherapy, medical interviews, many other sorts of discourse

Restriction to setting(s): None

Target group: May be used to code any sort of verbal communication.

Language(s): English

Translations(s): Dutch, Spanish

Specific constructs/behaviours:

Verbal response modes; speech acts (technically, interpersonal illocutionary acts);

Verbal techniques; dimensions of interpersonal relationships.attentiveness-informativeness; distinctiveness-acquiesence; presumptuousness-unassumingness

Tool topics:

Intended application: Research

Reference(s) to development/validation paper(s):

Stiles, W. B. (1992). Describing talk: A taxonomy of verbal response modes. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Reference links:

Tool/manual available: Yes.

Tool description by the author:

The verbal response modes taxonomy (Stiles, 1992, Describing Talk) is a general-purpose classification of speech acts. It concerns what people do when they say something rather than the content of what they say. It can be used to describe the relationship of speaker to other in any sort of discourse.

Each utterance (defined as a simple sentence; independent clause; nonrestrictive dependent clause; multiple predicate; or term of acknowledgment, evaluation, or address) is coded as reflection (R), acknowledgment (K), interpretation (I), question (Q), confirmation (C), edification (E), advisement (A), or disclosure (D). The pragmatic intent of each utterance is assigned according to three principles of classification, which place the utterance into one of the eight mutually exclusive categories, which are exhaustive in the sense that every comprehensible utterance can be coded.

Each utterance is also coded for its grammatical form using the same eight categories. For example, "I have pain when I move my legs" would be coded as disclosure form (first-person singular) and disclosure intent (reveals subjective experience), abbreviated DD. On the other hand, "I went to the emergency room last week" would be coded as disclosure form (first-person singular) and edification intent (transmits objective information), abbreviated DE.

Additional information on copyright or other matters: See website for a downloadable manual and a very dated but nevertheless effective computer-assisted coder training program.