Sunday, 7 August 2005


When Ingham and Luft first presented "The Johari Window" to illustrate relationship in terms of awareness, they were surprised to find so many people, academicians and nonprofessionals alike, using, and tinkering with, the model. It seems to lend itself as a heuristic device in speculating about human relations. (To read an article by Dr. Dorothea von Ritter-Rohr explaining the Johari Window in more detail, click here--PDF file.) It is simple to visualize the four quadrants which represent the Johari Window:

QUADRANT I. The area of free activity or public area, refers to behavior and motivation known to self and known to others.
QUADRANT II, The blind area, where others can see things in ourselves of which we are unaware.
QUADRANT III. The avoided or hidden areas, represents things we know but do not reveal to others, (e.g., a hidden agenda, or matters about which we have sensitive feelings).
QUADRANT IV. Areas of unknown activity, in which neither the individual nor others are aware of certain behaviors or motives. Yet, we can assume their existence because eventually some of these behaviors and motives were influencing our relationship all along.

In a new group, Quadrant I is very small; there is not much free and spontaneous interaction. As the group grows and matures, Quadrant I expands in size, and this usually means we are freer to be more like ourselves and to perceive others as they really are.
Quadrant III shrinks in area as Quadrant I grows larger. We find it less necessary to hind or deny things we know or feel. In an atmosphere of growing mutual trust, there is less need for hiding pertinent thoughts or feelings.
It takes longer for Quadrant II to reduce in size, because usually there are "good" reasons of a psychological nature to blind ourselves to the things we feel or do.
Quadrant IV changes somewhat during a learning laboratory, but we can assume that such changes occur even more slowly than shifts in Quadrant II. At any rate, Quadrant IV is undoubtedly far larger and more influential in an individual's relationships than the hypothetical sketch illustrates.

Quadrant I refers to behavior and motivation known to the group, and also known to other groups.
Quadrant II signifies an area of behavior to which a group is blind, but other groups are aware of this behavior, e.g., cultism or prejudice.
Quadrant III, the hidden areas, refers to things a group knows about itself, but which is kept from other groups.
Quadrant IV. the unknown areas, means a group is unaware of some aspects of its own behavior, and other groups are also unaware of this behavior. Later, as the group learns new things about itself, there is a shift from Quadrant IV to one of the other quadrants.


  1. A change in any one quadrant will affect all other quadrants.
  2. It takes energy to hide, deny, or to be blind to behavior which is involved in interaction.
  3. Threat tends to decrease awareness; mutual trust tends to increase awareness.
  4. Forced awareness (exposure) is undesirable and usually ineffective.
  5. Interpersonal learning means a change has taken place so that Quadrant I is larger, and one or more of the other quadrants has grown smaller.
  6. Working with others is facilitated by a large enough areas of free activity. This means more of the resources and skills in the membership can be applied to the task at hand.
  7. The smaller the first quadrant, the poorer the communication.
  8. There is universal curiosity about the unknown area; but this is held in check by custom, social training, and by diverse fears.
  9. Sensitivity means appreciating the covert aspects of behavior, in Quadrants II. III. IV. and respecting the desire of others to keep them so.
  10. Learning about group processes, as they are experienced, helps to increase awareness (larger Quadrant I) for the group as a whole as well as for individual members.
  11. The value system of a group and its membership may be noted in the way unknowns in the life of the group are confronted.
  12. A centipede may be perfectly happy without awareness, but after all, he restricts himself to crawling under rocks.
Using this model, we may illustrate one of the general objectives of the laboratory, namely, to increase the area of free activity in Quadrant I so that more of the relationships in the group are free and open. It follows, therefore, that the work of the laboratory is to increase the area of Quadrant I while reducing the area of Quadrants II, III and IV. The largest reduction in area would be in Quadrant III, then Quadrant II and the smallest reduction in Quadrant IV.

An enlarged area of free activity among the group members would immediately imply less threat or fear and greater probability that the skills and resources of group members could be brought to bear on the work of the group. It suggests greater openness to information, opinions and new ideas about oneself as well as about specific group processes, since the hidden or avoided area, Quadrant III, is reduced. It implies that less energy is tied up in defending this area. Since more of one's needs are unbound, there is greater likelihood of satisfaction with the work, and more involvement with what the group is doing.

The Initial Phase of Group Interaction
Applying the model to a typical meeting of most groups, we can recognize that interaction is relatively superficial, that anxiety or threat is fairly large, that interchange is silted and unspontaneous. We also may note that ideas or suggestions are not followed through and are usually left undeveloped -- that individuals seem to hear and see relatively little of what is really going on.


Luft, J. (1970, 2nd Ed.) Group processes; an introduction to group dynamics. Palo Alto, CA: National Press Books.
To read an article by Dr. Dorothea von Ritter-Rohr explaining the Johari Window in more detail,
click here. (PDF file)