Re: Introductory Comments

Robin Hill (BSRAH@TWP.AC.NZ)
Mon, 20 May 1996 12:27:58 +1300

To those looking for the a reference for non-Rep. Grid techniques
such as FVB analysis and Pyramid technique. I learned of these
techniques from:

Landfield, A.W. & Epting, F.R. (1987) _Personal Construct
Psychology: Clinical and Personality Assessment._ New York: Human
Sciences Press.

This book, is an excellent introduction to PCP. Of the few I've
read, I rate it alongside Bannister & Fransella's "Inquiring Man."
In their book, Landfield & Epting have a section on construct
elaboration techniques. These procedures are described in that
section. I suggest that those who are interested actually obtain a
copy of that book. I could not describe these procedures any better
than Landfield & Epting.

My understanding of Pyramid technique is different from that
described by Beverly Walker. (As an aside, I find this to be a good
demonstration of PCP theory at work, especially the sociality
corollary, whereby those of us reading these postings learn by the
process of negotiating similarities and differences in
understanding). What Beverly described, as laddering down, I have
been calling Act Laddering - a term coined by Little (1983) to refer
to Hinkles procedure of asking "How" questions to reach lower
levels of subordinancy.

This is my understanding of Pyramid technique, as per my
interpretation of Landfield & Epting. The procedure expolits the
notions of similarity and difference in eliciting implied or aligned
constructs from previously derived constructs. Say, our client
produced the construct "warm -- cold" from a triad or dyad Rep test
(not full grid, however). This construct may be written at
top-middle of a page. The client is firstly asked a similarity
question about one pole of the construct: "What sort of person is
warm?" The client may respond "A friendly person." "Friendly" is
written directly below the word "warm." The client is then asked a
difference question based on that response. "What sort of person is
not friendly?" The client's response may be "A hostile person." This
would be written to the side of the word "friendly" in the format of
a bipolar construct: friendly --- hostile.

Attention would then be turned to the other pole of the intial
construct, in this case "cold" and the same procedure followed. Move
vertically down the page from "cold" with a similarity question and
then horizontally across the page with a difference question. The
client may resond that a cold person is also an unreasonable person,
and that the contrast of this is a reasonable person. Landfield &
Epting claim that in this fashion a second level of associated
constructs have been elicited: Friendly vs. hostile, and, reasonable
vs. unreasonable.

The process is repeated using both of these second level constructs,
that is, using each of the four poles identified. Again, moving
vertically with a similarity question and horizontally with a
difference question. This would give us a third level of associated
constructs - and there would be four of them.

Hence, we begin at the top of the page with one bi-polar construct.
Below it we have two associated constructs. Below that we have four
associated constructs - and the structure fans downwards and outwards
across the page as a pyramid.

Pyramid procedure, to this stage elaborates on the initial construct,
produces synonyms or near equivalents and identifies construct
relationships. Compared to laddering technique, however, it does not
make levels of superordinacy explicit. I think of it as a sort of
clinical interview technique designed to enrich the information
provided by the client.

To provide information about superordinacy (if that is your interest)
and in view of Devi's description of a value (which I too subscribe
to), to clarify values you should consider superordinacy, Landfield
& Epting suggest that you can append other construct elaboration
techniques to pyramid technique. They suggest you append a
procedure, which to me is similar to what I call Act Laddering,
whereby you ask How and When style questions. The person would be
asked either some or all of the following questions: How would you
know if a person was characterised by this pole? How would you know
that a person is not characterised by this pole? When would a person
be characterised by this pole? When would they not? What would a
person say, do, think or feel if (if not) characterised by this pole?

Following from my earlier example, a client might respond that they
recognise a friendly person, when they are smiling, and recognise a
hostile person as one who avoids eye-contact. A person might be
friendly WHEN they are presented with no threat, but hostile WHEN
someone invades their territory in some way. A frindly person may
SAY encouraging things, approach people, THINK all people are
basically good and FEEL comfortable.... and so on....

These construct elaboration techniques occur on the basis of
implication links between constructs. These links are outlined in
Hinkle's dissertation. Just to throw another one at you.... When I
read Gaines & Shaw (1981) and their description of entailment, they
seemed to be describing something which had the same flavour as
implications grids, resistance to change grids and so on.
Entailment is too complicating for me to describe over the net, so I
suggest you read Gaines & Shaw (1981) unless someone else has a nice
neat synopsis that they could provide.


Gaines, B.R. & Shaw, M.L.G. (1981) New Directions in the Analysis
and Interactive Elicitation of Personal Construct Systems. In M.L.G.
Shaw (Ed.) _Recent Advances in Personal Construct Technology.
London: Academic Press.

Little, B.R. (1983) Personal Projects: A rationale and method for
investigation. _Environment & Behaviour_. _15_, 273-309.

By they way - Little (1983) might be of interest on another account.
I frequently use his notion of Personal Projects, as elements for
construct elicitation. I ask them to list their recent personal
projects (running a marathon, helping my son get through school,
closing the deal with XXXCorp, Performance appraisal of subordiante
Y) and then apply them to triad elicitation. I find it very
successful, especially in vocational counselling and workplace
objectives setting.

Dr. Robin Hill

Senior Lecturer & Research Leader
Department of Business Studies
The Waikato Polytechnic
Private Bag 3036
Hamilton 2020
New Zealand