It is crucial to keep in mind that Interact results are predictions from a theory of human relationships, not reports on what has been observed in actual interactions. Interact results certainly can be wrong for any of the following reasons.
- The theory itself - the supposition that people conduct themselves so as to experience events which confirm sentiments about situational identities and actions. If that theory is wrong, then the results from Interact would be wrong, even massively wrong.
- Cultural variations in ratings. Interact's predictions derive from EPA ratings of identities, behaviors, modifiers, and settings. The EPA ratings are the way culture gets into the program, and if the ratings are different than those that you would provide, then Interact will be describing a culture which is foreign to you. For example, a set of ratings from Belfast, Northern Ireland, produces some predictions that seem strange to Americans though they are plausible on the whole to an Irishman.
- Errors in ratings. Suppose that by a fluke of chance all of the male raters judged "man" as too active, relative to the sense of a man's activity that prevails in the general population. Then Interact, working with the faulty measurement, would make an error in reproducing culture - for example, making predicted behaviors for a man too exuberant.
- Errors in equations. Interact incorporates human psychology through complicated equations that describe how feelings about things change as a result of events. These equations have to be defined through research in order to be realistic, but research operations are subject to various kinds of problems that could produce subtle errors in the equations, errors that could cause predictions to be erroneous. Perhaps some alternative equations are better and will become the standard equations eventually. If so, then the equations now in use are producing errors in predictions.
- Lexical errors. Interact has to work with words in order to make concrete verbal predictions, and some errors arise because rules governing word usage are not fully understood, thus they cannot be incorporated into the program. For example, you could come upon an Interact prediction that one person "buries" another which is bizarre because "bury" should not be used as a verb describing social interaction. Interact screens words in terms of the kinds of social institutions that are operative, eliminating the worst errors of this kind. However, misusages still creep in and make some Interact predictions look strange.
- Misconceptions. For example, Interact predicts that the victim of a deviant act might be given a stigmatized identity by others. You might believe that this is an error because it is unjust - the victim should not be blamed. But in this case YOU would be wrong. Interact correctly predicts derogation of the victim, a phenomenon that actually occurs among humans.
One function of a good theory is to offer new insights and to correct fallacies. So keep an open mind when Interact predicts something about human relationships with which you don't agree. The peculiar prediction may be an idea worth checking out!
Note. From David R. Heise and Elsa Lewis, Introduction to Interact, documentation for programs Interact, Tech, and Attitude, distributed by Wm. C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa 1988-1993.