Behavior: Human Potential: The Revolution in Feeling

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The pervasiveness of the human potentials movement is demonstrated by the inroads it has made even in relatively conservative cities like Cincinnati, where T groups and encounter groups have become an integral part of business and civic activities. Procter & Gamble and Federated Stores, for example, both use human potentials groups to increase the effectiveness and morale of their staffs. After hours, some of the employees, inspired by their office training, conduct private encounter groups of their own. Methodist and. Episcopal church leaders regularly schedule group training sessions for their laity, and the University of Cincinnati sponsors sensitivity groups both to improve the workings of its own departments and to aid the community at large. Even the police department is involved. Next month new recruits will be given 40 hours of group sensitivity training to give them a better understanding of the problems and ways of the city's minorities. N.T.L.'s approach represents what might be called the conservative end of the human potentials movement. At the other, or liberal end are Esalen and all its imitators and derivatives. Somewhere in between lies the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, Calif., a loose confederation of 53 psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, educators, clergymen and journalists.

Its informal objective might be described as that of the movement's interpreter to those who have heard of it and want to know more.

The very eclecticism of the human potentials movement has brought it criticism even from within its own ranks. Robert Driver, founder and operator of Kairos, San Diego's human growth center, has compared it to "a tree which is growing too fast without putting down proper roots." The movement also attracts a great many persons who join it for the wrong reasons: "Already," says Driver, "we see some growth experiences that are used merely to blow out the tubes every six months or so."

Re-entry Problem. There is genuine concern as well at the lack of follow-up procedures to determine the long-term effect of the group experiences. Says Psychologist Richard Parson, an Esalen adviser, "All research shows that people have the most tremendous subjective reaction after it is over—as a rule, more than 80% say they are overwhelmingly responsive. But the objective results—testing—show virtually no lasting effects. It is difficult to show as much as a 5% change in anybody even after the most intense encounter." The movement admits the need to learn why the benefits appear to be short-lived. But follow-up procedures cost big money and the movement is still a deficit operation. This year, for example, Esalen broke even for the first time since its gates opened in 1962.

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