The History of SAVI®

We are a small team with passion for our work

The beginnings – emerging new ideas

SAVI emerged in the 1960s. The field of group dynamics and group psychotherapy was still young, the focus on education was growing, and theoreticians Kurt Lewin and von Bertalanffy had pioneered two important new ways of thinking: Field Theory and General Systems Theory. At the same time, Shannon and Weaver had developed their Information Theory looking at the importance of communication as information.

The General Systems Committee of the American Group Psychotherapy Association was exploring an emerging recognition — that if you looked at a group of people (a business, a family, a country, etc.) as a system, rather than a collection of individuals, you could understand, explain, and make predictions about that group from this perspective.

Goals in creating SAVI

Within this world of ideas, two graduate students at Temple University — Yvonne Agazarian and Anita Simon — united around a complementary set of interests. Agazarian began with a focus on theory.

  • What is the difference between a collection of people and the phenomenon “group”?
  • How can one use communication to describe the properties of a group in a way that lets you compare it to other groups, research it, and experiment with it?

Anita Simon was in the process of studying observational systems and tools to describe and analyze the effects of teacher behavior on students’ learning, values, and behavior. To achieve that, she wanted to tie observations to theory.

Agazarian and Simon both wanted a system that would allow them to describe how a group was working in specific, objective terms, and then connect that assessment to outcome measures like productivity, morale, efficiency and cohesion.

The tool they developed was SAVI, a three-by-three matrix. that classifies verbal communication behavior. SAVI allows you to diagnose how likely the overall pattern in any conversation will be in transferring information, in other words communicating. It also offers ways to change our verbal behaviors so we can solve real-world problems, like deciding where to meet or where to go on holiday.

Cornerstones of SAVI Theory

This list contains references to the works that were central to the development of the theory behind the SAVI Grid.

Bales, Robert F. (1950). A set of categories for the analysis of small group interaction.. American Sociological Review, 15:257-63.

Bennis, W. G., & Shepard, H. A. (1956). A theory of group development. Human Relations, 9 (4), 415-437.

Blake, Robert F. and June Mouton. (1965). Managerial Grid.  Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Illinois: Rowe, Peterson & Co..

Flanders, Ned A. (1966). Interaction analysis in the classroom: Manual for observers. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, School of Education.

Gibbs, Jack R. (1961). Defensive communication.  Journal of Communication, 11:141-48.

Howard, A., & Scott, R. A. (1965). A proposed framework for the analysis of stress in the human organism. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 10, 141-160.

Korzybski, A. (1948). Science and sanity: An introduction to non-Aristotelian systems and general semantics, (3rd ed.) Connecticut: International Non-Aristotelian Library, Institute of General Semantics.

Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper & Row.

Lewin, K., R. Lippitt and R. White. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created ‘social climates’. Journal of Psychology, 10:271-99.

Miller, George A. (1957). Communication and information limiting factors in group formation. Symposium in Preventive and Social Psychology. Washington, D.D.: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Printing Office.

Raven, Bertram H. and Jan Rietsama. (1957). The effects of varied clarity of group goal and group path upon the individual and his relationship to his group. Human Relations, 10:29-44.

Ruesch, J., & Bateson, G. (1951). Communication: the social matrix of psychiatry. New York: Norton.

Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1964). The mathematical theory of communication. Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

White, Ralph and Ronald Lippitt. (1960). Leader behavior and member reaction in three ‘social climates’. Group Dynamics – Research and Theory, Dorwin Cartwright and Alvin Zander, eds.: Evanston, Illinois: Row Peterson & Company. Pp. 527-53.