Suggestsions about taking off on studies based in constructivisim

Tue, 15 Mar 1994 17:26:37 -0500 (EST)


On occasion I have queries about how one might launch into
studies based on constructivism.

I wrote the following in response to one such recent inquiry.

Perhaps some of the networkers would add, detract, subtract, or
allow to remain intact the text appended here!!!!

Mr. XXX:

Thank you for your confidence in seeking my advice on your
research program.

Students frequently address this kind of question to me. I
do wish that I could offer you a simple solution.

As you know, standard and traditional research in psychology
depends on using methods that allow one to perform metric and
statistical operations which are accepted as reasonable
approaches to scientific knowledge-making. Personal construct
psychology assumes an approach to knowledge -- both the knowledge
of the investigator and the knowledge of the target of the
investigation -- which differs sharply from the concepts of
knowledge which prevailed when those statistical and metric
methods were developed.
We are not interested in measuring "things out there." We
wish to lay out the shape of a person's constructions whatever
led to his/her developing of those constructions.
I do not believe that quantification of those constructions
requires the same assumptions about "the nature" of constructions
which had gone into the efforts to measure "the nature" of a
personality, or "the nature" of INTELLIGENCE.
For example, if one followed an ontology and an epistemology
which led him/her to believe that INTELLIGENCE "exists out
there," then one needed to accept the concept of RELIABILITY.
Does one RELIABLY measure what is out there. Then, the whole
metric venture depends on the acceptance of the idea that such
"things" as INTELLIGENCE are distributed "normally."
If a person uses the construct STUPID-INTELLIGENT to make
judgments about people, his/her application might fail to
[Areplicate normal distribution [Adams-Webber and others have shown
that constructs are generally applied in a roughly 33 percent
negative, 66 percent positive fashion.] As personal construct
psychologists we cannot enter into a discussion of whether or not
the person applies that construct "correctly."
Further, following the findings of human application of
FUZZY SET LOGIC, a personal constructivist would find it
difficult to decide that he/she has shown that the person being
studied applies the construct RELIABLY. We would expect that
meaning emerges in context, and in order to understand a person's
application of that construct, we would need to know much about
his/her personal construct system and much about the context in
which the construct was applied -- for the construct system is as
much a part of the context as is whatever one speaks of when
he/she speaks of "the world" [read Pepper, WORLD HYPOTHESIS;
Landfield (Ed.),The 1976 NEBRASKA SYMPOSIUM; and Hayes, Hayes,

Accepting these points, we also know that journals will
remain under the control of persons who have developed their
views of science under the umbrella of mechanism, positivism, and
turn of the century statistical ideas.

So, to launch a research program, one must, at least, act in
ways which allow one to circumvent journal editors.

For these reasons, my advice centers on developing methods
to assess the construct systems which people use to construe one
domain of the world in which they are immersed.
The object of this venture should be (1) to assess the kinds
of constructs which people generally (based on socially shared
constructions) and uniquely use to construe that domain, (2) to
develop quantifications which are applicable to such systems, and
(3) to be able to show relationships to particular kinds of
construing to particular elements of the contexts in which those
construction systems might be used.
Thus, one should be able to tease out ways to quantify both
structural measures and content measures, and then should be be
able to show how such measures relate to other parts and features
of a system, as well as to other elements of the context in which
such systems are used.

My work has centered around attempts to work out the
construct systems which people use as they construe themselves as
parents. We [James Jaccard and I] have worked on our Parent Role
Repertory Grids system for over ten years. We have collected, in
systematic studies, over 200 grids -- by a method using personal
computers. We have teased out measures and we have found
relationships which we regard as interesting and significant.
Unfortunately, we have had a difficult time convincing the
mainstream psychological journals that our articles are worthy of
publication. We have not yet given up!!!!

In your particular case, you are interested in cross
cultural work. I can think of few domains which cross cultures
as clearly as does the domain of the personal role of PARENT.
I can send you a copy of the manual which we have put
together to describe our work. [While we were developing the
PAREP, we also developed a version of a grid which might be used
to assess personal constructions of SELF. The data collection,
statisical analysis, etc., parallel those of PAREP. We have not
used this grid in systematic studies.]

When we designed PAREP and SELFGRID, we were guided by the
idea that someone should be able to take our general structure
and change various statements in the QUICKBASIC programs to adapt
the approach to whatever domain one might be interested in

At any rate, one may study the manual, and consider the
possibility that you might find our work to be a useful base from
which to proceed.

We are not "marketing" these programs. If you are
interested, and believe that you can find them useful, we will
send them to you. If you are able to do so, we welcome your
making a contribution [about 25.00 dollars] toward the actual
expenses of distributing the material [discs, paper, postage,

At any rate, I do hope that this lengthy discussion helps
you to find a direction in your efforts to take a constructionist
approach to your work.