Re: Introductory Comments

Robin Hill (BSRAH@TWP.AC.NZ)
Tue, 21 May 1996 09:27:45 +1300

John, and others who are interested,

It appears that there are two notions of "pyramid technique" floating
around the PCP community. I guess its just a difference in labelling
and nothing more.

What you describe, John, is Laddering Technique as developed by Denis
Hinkle. And, "yes" the result of this technique provides a
pyramid-like structure (cognitive map?) with relatively few
superordinate constructs at the top and rather more subordinate
constructs at the bottom. I guess we all have different labels for
the outcome. You call it a "pyramid," I call it a "cognitive map,"
others might call it a "construct system."

What I described as "Pyramid Technique", by comparison, is the
technique labelled as such by Landfield & Epting. The process of
moving down by asking a similarity question and across by asking a
difference question. The result is shaped like a pyramid.

It is that technique alone (similarity and difference questions) that seems
not to make superordinacy explicit. Superordinacy does become more
explicit when you add the WHY, WHAT and WHEN questions to it. Hence,
I'm in full agreement with what you say, John.

At the end of your posting you say

>I also wonder if people see your pyramids and how they are used after
>they are generated.

Which pyramid do you refer to? The cognitive maps derived from
laddering technique, or the pyramids derived from so-called Pyramid
Technique of Landfield and Epting?

No matter which, the answer is easy. I have never actually used
Pyramid Technique, except for my own personal devices in elaborating
_my own_ constructs. I have never used it in counselling nor in
organisational intervention. As I stated in an earlier posting, I
sometimes use this technique to generate alternative words when
trying to solve a crossword.

However, use of the "pyramids" generated by laddering technique is
quite different. Much of what I do, professionally, is based on
laddering technique as _the_ key procedure. Hence my "clients" do see
the pyramid or cognitive map. Indeed we write and draw the map out
together, and the clients negotiate the map. I may have said this
before, but here goes..... they "negotiate" the cognitive map in two
senses of the word. They negotiate meaning and wording with me, and
make changes, additions and subtractions as they wish. They also
negotiate it, as one negotiates any map by running their fingers from
place to place along drawn lines. The cognitive map (or pyramid)
becomes the very basis for developing their policies for action. If
the client wishes, these graphic depictions can be translated into
prose. This generally doesn't occur, since the clients are able to
"read" their cognitive map, having played the central role in
generating it.

If you follow my "warm ---- cold" example through from the earlier
posting, when describing "Pyramid Technique" you will see why I
believe it does not make superordinacy explicit. The initial
construct was "warm --- cold." The next two were "friendly ---
hostile" and "reasonable --- unreasonable." Which of these is
superordinate? It is not until we add the WHY, WHAT and WHEN
questions that superordinacy unfolds (and largely because many of us
in the PCP community use laddering technique as our definition of what
is superordinate and what is subordinate - as per an article by
Fransella in 1972)

I'm not sure that I'm really an expert on these techniques, but I
seem to be providing much of the information here. I assume
therefore that everyone else thinks I'm doing a good enough job. If
not, then please jump in -- I'm on the learning curve too. Thats why
I subscribe to this mail-list.

Dr. Robin Hill

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