Date of Award

May 2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Mike Allen

Committee Members

Erin Ruppel, Tae-seop Lim, Mary Lynn Henningsen


competition, compliments, forensics, relational framing, turbulence


Prior research highlights the social benefits competitors gain from participation in intercollegiate forensics. Although competitors often interact with members of opposing teams, however, little empirical research exists explaining how competitor interactions unfold and how the outcomes of these exchanges contribute to the larger social environment between competitors in the intercollegiate forensics community. Using a framework informed by relational framing theory (RFT; Dillard et al., 1996) and relational turbulence theory (Solomon et al., 2016), this study explores how competitors make sense of compliments from their opponents. Collegiate forensics competitors (N = 121) were recruited to participate in an online survey and asked to recall an interaction in which the competitor received a compliment from an opponent (i.e., member of another team). Participants then completed relational framing, involvement (Dillard et al., 1996) and turbulence scales (Solomon et al., 2016). A mixed-method research design was used to assess participant responses and scale ratings to determine associations between related concepts. Findings indicated forensics competitors feel motivated and encouraged by opponent compliments and primarily enact an affiliative frame to make sense of interactions with other competitors. Five categories of compliments were derived from the inductive qualitative analysis and themes highlighted how many participants and opponents developed “supporterships” by reciprocating support and creating space for competitor similarities and disclosures to surface. However, correlational analyses showed that enacting a dominant frame was associated to lower perceptions of relational turbulence, suggesting participants felt the relationship was most stable when framing the other competitor as a clear opponent rather than something else. Affiliation was not significantly related to increased levels of turbulence, however, and none of the derived compliment categories influenced participant frame enactment. This study extends RFT to opponent relationships in the forensics context and contributes to the body of forensics research by highlighting implications for competitor interactions.