Quantifying the effectiveness of an evidence-based rapport-building training programme
The development of rapport in an information-gathering context has been experimentally (and anecdotally) associated with a range of beneficial outcomes. These are primarily, but not limited to, enhanced information elicitation. While this is positive, this assertion to date is based on research employing somewhat vague and divergent definitions of rapport as a construct, a range of experimental manipulations to examine the effects of building rapport, and disparate measurement frameworks. Such a lack of consensus in how rapport has been defined, manipulated, and measured, creates clear challenges associated with developing effective evidence-based guidelines relating to training and measuring rapport.
In response, the first goal of this project is to systematically map and evaluate the research literature on rapport. We will conduct a Study Space Analysis and an accompanying Systematic Review of the literature to create a robust evidence-base for understanding the moderating variables involved in rapport-building and maintenance.
A Study Space Analysis provides the means to conduct a thorough and systematic evaluation of the literature. It does so by identifying and mapping study attributes, namely the independent and dependent variables, and cross-study variables such as methodologies and areas of study focus. It can assist in identifying regions of concentration and inattention. In doing so, it can alert investigators to both where there is a sufficient evidence base to inform guidelines and procedures (e.g. surrounding the training of rapport), as well as the specific areas within the literature-base that have been neglected. In turn, this reveals unstudied questions and consequently provides a guide for further research.
A second goal of the project is to draw upon the results of the Study Space Analysis to identify where there is a sufficient evidence-base to inform guidelines and procedures related to effectively training rapport-building and maintenance. Research shows there might be individual differences in naturally-occurring levels of rapport-building skill. However, it also suggests that these behaviours can be understood, taught, and intentionally used in an interaction to generate rapport for the purpose of facilitating trust and cooperation. Thus, via an empirical study, we will develop and pilot a reliably-informed evidence-based rapport-building training programme, to explore the extent to which rapport can be effectively trained, as well as the boundary conditions that moderate the effects of training.
As a whole, we seek to influence practitioner guidelines on the use of rapport in an information-gathering context, as well as influencing future research directions to grow the evidence-base.