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The Psychology of Personal Constructs and the Repertory Grid (Interview) Technique: Methodological Reflexions and Methodical Practice

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Moritz Sowada.

Limited to 20 participants. Anyone welcome. Preferred allocation to FERSA members. First come, first served. Email ms871 to book your place.

In this workshop, we will start with the discussion of the Psychology of Personal Constructs which was established by George A. Kelly, an American psychologist, therapist and educator, in 1955. His main motivation for developing this new theory of personality was a critique of the paradigm of Behaviourism that dominated the psychology at that time. While Behaviourism, as Bannister and Fransella point out, “sees man […] as a just-cleverer-than-the-average-rat” (1974, 10) the Psychology of Personal Constructs defines man as “man-the-scientist” (Kelly 1963, 4). In a nutshell, with this metaphor Kelly links the basic assumptions of the Psychology of Personal Constructs which consists of the Theory of Personal Constructs and the philosophical position of Constructive Alternativism: Each “individual man formulates in his own way [so-called personal] constructs through which he views the world of events [and actively construes reality]. As a scientist, man seeks to predict, and thus control, the course of events” (Kelly 1963, 12). With regard to their accuracy and validity these personal constructs are tested continuously in different ways, e.g. that man compares them with the events after they have occurred and/or “goes to one’s social context to validate one’s construing“ (Warren 2004, 40) and if necessary modifies his constructions.

To collect these personal constructs consisting of two dichotomous poles Kelly developed the Repertory Grid (Interview) Technique which we will practice in the workshop following the discussion of the theoretical basics of the Psychology of Personal Constructs: “The simplest, and probably the most [...] useful type of approach to a person’s personal constructs, is to ask him [or her] to tell us what they are” (Kelly 1955, 201). The Repertory Grid Technique is a structured interview procedure to investigate the personal constructions of reality of the interviewees. Firstly, the interviewee is asked to name so-called elements. These elements depend on the object of research, e.g. persons (politicians, clients, beloved persons etc.), things, events and so on form such elements. In a second step, the interviewee puts three of the collected elements together in a specific way: Two elements are construed as being alike and a third element is dichotomously separated from the other two. This description of the three elements with two dichotomous attributes is named the personal construct which presents a repertory from the personal construct system of the person that contains a variety of different personal constructs to describe different events and things. The elements as well as the personal constructs are written down in a special worksheet, a grid. Thirdly and lastly, if the Repertory Grid Technique is practised qualitatively (for the methodological argumentation see Thieme 2012), the interviewee is asked to explain his or her personal constructs, e.g., by giving examples. These narratives can be recorded and transcribed. The transcription can be used for different methods of interpretation.

References
  • Bannister, Don & Fransella, Fay 1974, Inquiring Men. The Theory of Personal Constructs, London, Reading & Fakenham: Cox & Wyman.
  • Kelly, George A. 1955, The Psychology of Personal Constructs. Volume One. A Theory of Personality, New York: Norton & Company.
  • Kelly, Georg A. 1963, A Theory of Personality. The Psychology of Personal Constructs, New York & London: Norton & Company.
  • Thieme, Nina 2012, Kategorisierung in der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. Zur theoretischen und empirischen Erklärung eines Schlüsselbegriffs professionellen Handelns, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
  • Warren, Bill 2004, Construing constructionism: some reflections on the tension between pcp and social constructionism, in: Personal Construct Theory & Practice, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp. 34 – 44.

This talk is part of the FERSA Workshops series.

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