Re: Narratives v/s Grids

Jack Adams-Webber (
Thu, 28 Jul 94 08:18:29 -0400

> To continue the interesting thread on narratives v/s grids --
> Jim Mancuso wrote recently:
>>> "The move to use a grid-type analysis to look at the sources of
>a person's narrative needs to be considered rather thoroughly. We need to
>explore the potential of thinking of grids in that way. <...>
> If we think of narrative as a construction of a construction process,
>we can claim that narrative may be construed as having elements, just as
>does any construction process. We can think of those elements as "slots"
>in the narrative. As one constructs a narrative to guide his/her self
>functioning he/she draws from his/her hierarchically organized system
>of two-poled constructs to fill in those slots. A grid approach could be
>regarded as having utility in extracting the constructs which a person
>retrieves to build a narrative/construction. <...>
> Thus, the use of a grid-like assessment device, particularly when
>the participant's responses are assessed relative to the response patterns
>within the grid, can provide formalisms by which to express the meanings
>implicit in the responses in terms of the context provided by the overall
>personal construct system.
> In short, I believe that as we work out the available approaches,
>we will find useful ways to explore the construct systems which persons use
>to "fill the narrative's slots" as they construct the narratives which are
>used to frame the flow of putative inputs.
> And, I believe, we need not shy away from using supplied constructs
>in order to explore the ways in which the respondent organizes those
>constructs within the system of signs he/she uses to respond to the
>constructs which are supplied". Jim Mancuso <<
>Rue Cromwell, on the same subject, added:
>>> <...> "My own view is that the two groups need each other more than they
>realize. Much conceptual development is yet needed in PCP, and I know that
>Kelly himself would be the first to applaud and to take pride in building the
>platform. Rep grid methodology will not have achieved any substantial
>contribution until it is able to subsume the "narrative." The "narrative"
>approach in PCP will not have achieved any substantial contribution until it
>is also able to subsume the quantitative algorithms of the rep grid and their
>recent analytic innovations. <...>
> As for rep grid science and narrative, the rep grid is essentially at
>the point of dealing with narrative constructions limited to the verb "to
>be." Very very little (if any?) is done in the way of rep grid matrices
>which deal with "subject-action verb-object" constructions and the
>overarching sequential linkings which glue them together into a human or
>science story. Call it "antecedent-consequent" or "cause-effect"
>constructions for a start. As for narrative type PCP scientists/clinicians,
>I likewise see no movement toward consuming the elemental constructive
>structures. After all, a lot of people on this side just don't like
>numbers!" <<
>You said it, Rue. I personally don't have a problem with numbers as long as
>they FOLLOW qualitative and idiographic methods rather than preceed them.
> Suzanne Huffman joined this thread and made an insightful comment:
>>> "Rue, there are a few of us trying to move beyond "to be" - I ask for
>stories, use them as elements in grids and do narrative analysis. Pat
>Diamond talked about astronomy some, I'll share how I use this metaphor. My
>MDS plots are astronomy, locating construct and element points in
>experiential space. The stories are involved in the astronomy - naming the
>constellations and understanding the personal myths involved in them. This
>is confusing to many researchers - if you have numbers, aren't you doing
>hypodeductive work? For me, no - I'm using a statistical procedure as a
>hermeneutical tool, as Diana Taylor recommends." <<
> This dialogue prompts a possibility. I am teaching undergraduates and
>I would very much like to obtain written texts from them to understand their
>constructs/counstruals in some particular domain. However, there is a
>technical difficulty -- that of analysis. Traditional manual coding
>(Alphabase, Ethnograph, etc) of qualitative data is not set up to find
>semantic differentials in a pcp-type of way. However, (and I'm guessing
>there are some computer/AI folks out there who are willing to help), if a
>software program could classify words from a text, rank them on the basis of
>complexity (e.g., how many thesaurus meanings does the word have, what
>context was it used in: verb, preposition, adjective, etc..)
> I realise that I am thinking about an intelligent system for construct
>analysis which would first use elicited TEXT, (not just bipolarities or
>triadic distinctions), and then do the battery of stat measures, that would
>be something. I was once told that this is still not possible with the
>present level of natural language processing and thus may remain somewhere
>between wishful thinking and science-fiction. But I feel it will happen,
>hopefully soon. My garden-variety spell-checker, for example, is able to
>identify not just characters and words but even grammatical usage and phrases.
> So, do you y'all think the quant v/s qual debate could be resolved by
>technological means? What do expert programmers think about this?
> (Calling Jack, Ken, Mildred, Jeremy, ... anyone online?)

Assuming that you may mean 'Jack Adams-Webber' (I am hardly an "expert
programer" - although I do have one of those exotic birds working part time
in my lab), if you (or anyone else on this net) really want to know what I
happen think about this so-called 'debate', then have a boo at the follwing

Adams-Webber,J. (1993). The robot's designer's dilemma. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF
PSYCHOLOGY, 106, 300-303.

Alternatively, you can attend the XI International Congress on Personal
Construct Psycholoy in Barcelona (July, 1995) where I have agreed to join
Jerome Bruner in a plenary debate on the topic of "PCP and constructivism
in Psychology". I have no specific idea yet what I might have to say at
that time; but it is quite clear to me that anyone who plans to engage in a
dialogue with Bruner must be prepared to discuss some of the complexities
of narrative thinking with him (wish me luck!).

>Hemant Desai
Jack Adams-Webber Tel: 905 (688) 5544 [x 3714]
Department of Psychology Fax: 905 (688) 6922
Brock University E-mail:
St. Catharines, Ontario