Re: Individual differences

Rue L. Cromwell (cromwell@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Mon, 15 May 1995 09:25:32 -0400 (EDT)

Dear Bob:

>Perhaps someone has a theory or might like to comment on an
>observation I made while completing repertory grids with 40
>mental health staff. I found participants were generally either
>good at generating constructs or rating elements.

This may relate to an observation we (Ken Sewell, Charyle Langelle, and
myself, in a paper on personal construction of traumatic stress, in the
forthcoming volume based upon the Townsville PCP Congress, edited by Beverly
Walker et al.) made concerning a marked asymmetry in hierarchical cluster
analysis (HICLAS) of grids of hospitalized patients with MPD (now, DID,
multiple personality, dissociative identity disorder) with respect to
construct clustering vs. elements clustering. (How's that for a complex
sentence?) The DID patients had remarkably simplistic hierarchical
solutions of elements (both real people and alter personalities), whereas
they had very complex (appearing fragmented, disorganized) solutions of the
constructs. One thought was, like you, that this was an artifact (e.g.,
relating to the parameters and algorithms of the HICLAS program). Another
thought (which we also mentioned briefly in the paper) is that some people
"think" in terms of "person icons" (i.e., element typologies) and other
people "think" in terms of "personal constructs" (with some variation or
combination on the continuum, of course). Following from this provisional
premise, of course, it would appear that people who wind up being
hospitalized and diagnosed with DID surely think in terms of "person icons."
The caveat here, I must say, is that these data are limited, our thoughts
are far from being well substantiated, but that this dimension (of element
vs. construct facility) may well be worth following up in further research
on people in general. Accordingly, I would encourage you to pursue what
might be the correlates of the individual difference you observed.

Very few
>people were good at both, while I found one person who struggled
>with both.

No question but that I agree with you and Bill Warren that inability to
complete the grid (elicit constructs or rate them) is related to obsessive
compulsive characteristics, so much so that one must be careful of circular
thinking (i.e., with inability to complete the grid in a normally
intelligent individual, I would be tempted to suspect OCD even without
external evidence. I well remember the frustration of an individual
administration of a routine grid where I simply had to give up after
prolonged prompts and encouragement.



This finding may be an artifact of using case
>scenarios as elements in the repertory grid. People with what
>could be labelled obsessional qualities probably had the most
>trouble rating elements.
>I am not aware of attention in the literature on this issue. Any
>Bob Green.

Rue L. Cromwell