Study of application and validation of the Ethological Coding System for Interviews (ECSI)

Lya K. Paas Oliveros, Javier Villanueva Valle, Susana I. González Arredondo, Ana Fresán, Iván Arango de Montis, Martin Brüne, Jairo Muñoz Delgado



Background. Psychotherapeutic diagnosis is largely based on verbal explorations and/or psychological tests. In contrast, the relevance of non-verbal communication is often disregarded. Here, we aim to provide a tool to measure and assess non-verbal behavior in clinical interviews, based on the Ethological Coding System for Interviews (ECSI), developed by Troisi (1999), which was translated and validated in Spanish. An ethogram is a catalogue of behaviours or patterns of behaviour, which are operationalized and grouped in categories such as affiliation, flight, assertiveness, relaxation and so forth.

Method. Study 1. The ECSI was translated into Spanish. Three “blind” observers registered the frequencies of the behavioral patterns of the patient. The recordings were made in 15 seconds intervals during the first and the last 10 minutes of a clinical interview. An inter-observer reliability of r=0.989, p<0.001 was obtained. Study 2. Based on the first study, it was considered pertinent to add behavioral patterns, as well as rearranging and redefining the proposed categories. The three “blind” observers performed the same task as in study 1 with a second video-recording. Aside from the frequency of the observed behaviours, the duration of the behavior was measured. An inter-observer reliability of r=0.993, p<0.001 was obtained.

Results and discussion. The ECSI has proven a reliable and valid tool for the examination of patients’ nonverbal behaviour during interviews. It is hoped that the ECSI can be added to the diagnostic process during psychotherapeutic sessions.

Key words: Human ethology, ethogram, clinical interview, nonverbal behavior.


Human ethology; ethogram; clinical interview; nonverbal behavior