Limitations on PCP

John Mayes (
Wed, 07 Apr 1999 04:00:17 +1200

Jim Maxwell Legg asks the following:-

`With the following, I don't wish to open up a can of worms, but have a
real need to understand something in terms of my own techno-ideological bias.
Please, put yourself in my shoes and imagine you just came across the
following snippet of internet research.

6.04 Limitation on Teaching. '


I referred this to Dr Valerie Stewart who replies as follows:-

Dear Jim,

You may consider me thoroughly in your shoes as the statement was new to me.
On the other hand, I've never been a member of the sort of committee that
lays down these guidelines.

I would offer the following general thoughts. The first is that there seems
to me (this is purely personal) to be a frequently-expressed attitude that
Grid is something that a psychologist does' to' someone else, whatever the
relationship. I have a personal crusade to try to change this to something
that a psychologist does' with' someone else. For example, whenever I teach
Grid I remind people all the time that Grid is just a way of structuring a
conversation (which brings in its train the need to teach people about the
importance of feedback, getting the client to help with the interpretation,
etc). If you regard Grid in this light, then in no way is it a 'test' in
the sense that most psychologists understand psychological testing. And in
fact it's just a structured way of asking questions, and you could neither
forbid it nor patent it.

My second thought refers however to your suggested use of Grids for
selection and promotion purposes. I ask people to think very very carefully
before doing this, for the following reasons:

1. the corollary of Grid being free from observer bias is that it's
impossible to fake. Try giving me a construct that's not yours. So if
people feel under pressure to give the 'right answer' (whatever that may
be) then they tend to clam up and give little beyond propostisional
constructs. The other party needs to feel very secure indeed about the
contract - real and psychological - between them and the interviewee, what
will happen to the data, etc. Personally I only use it for
selection/assessment in organisations where I am personally trusted and
likely to be around for a long time - i.e. not a 'hit-and-run' job.

2. The US restrictions on validation of tests can't in my view be
used to make a test case out of Grid because it is a procedure not a test.
Each person's experience of it will be different, depending on content,
purpose, contract, and of course the skills of the interviewer. So none of
the standard validation techniques can be applied to it.

3. Still with selection and promotion purposes, but with other
purposes in mind also: Grid used thus would almost certainly put the
administrator in the position of construing someone else's construing. This
isn't an ethical use of Grid in my view - and it then raises the question
of who else would get to see the data?

4. Finally on this and related points; factor analysis methods are
bound to lose some of the details of the data, and so the analysis could be
challenged on that basis. You can perhaps imagine the court battle where
two lawyers on a discrimination case get their expert witnesses to go
mano-a-mano about the most appropriate method of analysis. This is one
reason why we chose dentritic analysis and differentiation for Enquire
Within. It loses nothing about the interrelationships within the data and
is very easy to use interactively.

To sum up from my point of view: Grid isn't a test, and so can't be tested
against some of the APA criteria. Where it is vulnerable, from what I've
seen, is that it often isn't well taught. In particular I wish that more
emphasis be given to:

1. Grid is a conversation and useless without feedback.

2. Each Grid is and should be different.

3. People will not commit or be able to cooperate with what Grid
asks of them unless they have practised construct elicitation and know the
nature of the contract.

4 .The best interpreter of what a Grid means is almost always the
client, but in any case don't construe other people's construing.

4. Don't look to any analysis method to get you out of a hole which
you've created for yourself by not having a good contract or otherwise
collecting duff data.

Hope this helps.

Valerie Stewart

John Mayes