The Use of Video Analysis Software in Behavior Observation Research: Interaction Patterns in Task-oriented Small Groups


  • Sabine C. Koch Heidelberg University
  • Jörg Zumbach Heidelberg University



video analysis, pattern analyses, behavior observation, social interaction, communication, gender, groups, Problem-Based Learning, knowledge co-construction


In two projects at the University of Heidelberg we tested the video analysis software THEME (MAGNUSSON, 1997) in order to identify communicative patterns in task-oriented small group interaction. In an instructional psychology project with a cognitive science background we analyzed collaborative knowledge construction processes within a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) session (ZUMBACH & REIMANN, 2000). In this study we found that before and after a training phase interaction patterns in a learning group would change in quality and quantity. Participants displayed, e.g., more complex interaction patterns in the final discussion—after an individual learning phase—than in the beginning, and this change of patterns was comprehensively visualized by the THEME output graphics. In an interdisciplinary project of psychologists and linguists we analyze observed and perceived gendered interaction and gender construction processes at the workplace in same-sex and mixed-sex team conversation (KOCH, KUBAT, KRUSE & THIMM, 2001). The focus is on power-related and support-related behavior as well as on qualities of the behavior, including verbal and nonverbal patterns. A turn- and sequence based coding scheme has been developed to analyze data from 20 teams that have been audio-visually taped during two or three of their routine team meetings at the workplace. Using THEME we were able to find two specific interaction patterns that would not have been easily detected without the help of the software. The multimedia tool THEME, developed by Magnus S. MAGNUSSON from the University of Reykjavik in Iceland, combines different multivariate methods and thus helps to detect behavioral patterns over time that cannot easily be "eyeballed". The program searches for particular types of repeated syntactical real-time patterns based on probability theory, regardless of the unit of behavior. In this article we describe the use of the THEME software and address its potential within social sciences research. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0202187


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Author Biographies

Sabine C. Koch, Heidelberg University

Sabine C. KOCH, psychologist, and dance/movement therapist, M.A., DTR, (born 1967) studied Psychology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and Madrid, Spain. She holds an M.A. in Dance- and Movement-Therapy from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia (USA). During her studies in movement- and dance therapy she specialized in movement observation and movement analysis. Currently she is working on her PhD about nonverbal communication of gender at the workplace in an interdisciplinary project of psychologists and linguists funded by the German Science Foundation ("Organization – Professionalization – Gender") at the University of Heidelberg using qualitative as well as quantitative methods from social psychology and linguistics like, e.g., content analysis, discourse analysis, video analysis, LABAN and KESTENBERG movement analysis, structural analysis and pattern analysis. Her research fields are: nonverbal communication and interaction, behavior observation, gender, small group research, status, power, support, movement analysis, and rhythms.

Jörg Zumbach, Heidelberg University

Joerg ZUMBACH (born 1973) has a diploma in Psychology from Heidelberg University. He is researcher and lecturer at the department of Instructional Psychology at the University of Heidelberg ( His current research focuses on teaching and learning with computers and computer networks, collaborative learning with and without technology especially analyzing Problem-Based Learning. Most of his book and paper publications are in the fields of Cognitive and Instructional Psychology examining learning processes in technology-based situated learning environments.




How to Cite

Koch, S. C., & Zumbach, J. (2002). The Use of Video Analysis Software in Behavior Observation Research: Interaction Patterns in Task-oriented Small Groups. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(2).