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Robert Freed Bales

Robert F. Bales, Ph.D., author/inventor of SYMLOG

Robert Freed Bales, Ph.D. (1916-2004), Harvard University, is the author and inventor of the SYMLOG® (a SYstem for the Multiple Level Observation of Groups) system. In his search for universal features, Bales redefined the fundamental boundaries of social interaction, and established criteria for the behavior and values of leaders and followers. Bales offered a new "field theory," an appreciation of the multiple contexts in which people live.

Widely published and one of the most often quoted social psychologists, Bales worked closely with SYMLOG Consulting Group until his death in 2004. His last book, Social interaction systems: Theory and measurement (1999), is the culmination of a half century of work in the field of social psychology. He was a pioneer at the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University and a seminal member of the Harvard Project.

Led by Talcott Parsons, Gordon W. Allport, Henry A. Murray, and Clyde M. Kluckhohn, the Harvard Project was intended to establish an integrative framework for social psychology. That framework would take into consideration the interaction, the context and content of communication, and the value-orientation of the participants.

Bales devoted his life’s work to developing this integrative framework, and saw this as a personal involvement that went far behavior the classical experimental approach to the study of groups. His work and findings allowed for an understanding of polarizations as they actually exist in interaction -- between conservative and liberal, individualistic and authoritarian, and libertarian and communitarian orientations.

Bales repeatedly emphasized that the mental processes of individuals and their social interactions take place in systematic contexts that can be measured. Hence, they permit explanation and prediction of behavior in a more exact way than in past traditions.

The significance of his work has been repeatedly recognized by scholars and practitioners alike. He received awards from the American Psychological Foundation (1983), the American Sociological Association Cooley-Meal Award (1983), and the California Psychological Association Award (1999) from the Division of Industrial and Organizational Psychology for his fifty years of work.

He maintained an active collaboration with the SYMLOG Consulting Group (SCG) until his death in 2004.

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SYMLOG vs. other models
  • SYMLOG and KAI
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  • SYMLOG and Blake and Mouton Leadership Grid
  • SYMLOG and DiSC
  • SYMLOG and Belbin
  • SYMLOG and Situational Leadership
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