8.1 CAPTURING PERSONAL VALUES

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The last time you elicited a repertory grid, you may have noticed that some

constructs seemed to be rather more important to your interviewee than

others. Just a feeling you got from the energy with which s/he expressed

them, or from the kinds of implications that seemed to follow from the way in

which s/he used them.

You may have deliberately used the techniques of laddering down

(introduced in Section 3.2.3 and developed in Section 4.4.1 as a way of

expressing constructs in more specific, behaviourally defined detail) and

of pyramiding (outlined in Section 4.4.2 as a way of identifying a variety of

different, more detailed aspects of a given construct: while you’re at it, take

another look at Figure 4.1). You might have wondered: if constructs can be

8.1 Capturing Personal Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185

8.2 Prioritising Personal Values: Resistance-to-

Change Technique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197

Things to Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

Things to Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208

laddered down so that they’re more precise and detailed, can they be laddered

up to arrive at more general variants? If constructs can ‘contain’ more specific

ones, can they themselves be contained within superordinate ones; is there a

hierarchy operating?

Indeed there is, andit’s given animportant status in Kelly’spersonal construct theory.

Namely, personal constructs do not operate in isolation fromeach other, but forman

integrated system. He expressed this formally as the ‘Organisation Corollary’: ‘Each

person characteristically evolves for his experience in anticipating events, a

construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs.’ You can

look at this in twoways, in terms of implied meaning, or in terms of structure.

A construct can be superordinate, because, when a person uses it to make a particular

statement about a set of elements, s/he is also making a number of other,

implied, statementswhich follow fromit.

warm ^ cold

friendly ^ unfriendly untrustworthy ^ trustworthy

Here, forexample, inagridwhosetopicis‘people Iknow’, you’vepyramided the superordinate

construct ‘warm^cold’ into two subordinate constructs, so you discover that

for this individual, themeaning of ‘warm’ implies friendliness and trustworthiness; or,

conversely and equivalently, themeaning of ‘cold’ implies unfriendliness and untrustworthiness.

Now, if your interviewee changed their mind about a particular person’s standing on

the ‘warm^cold’ dimension, s/he might give a different rating on the ‘friendly ^

unfriendly’ and ‘trustworthy^untrustworthy’ constructs as well. To the extent that

change in one construct is implied by change in another, there is a structural

connection between the constructs. So, if you asked your interviewee which

construct would change if ratings on‘warm^cold’changed, s/hemight reply,‘Well, by

and large, people who’re warm tend to be friendly, but the connection to their trustworthiness

isn’t as strong; sometimes warm people can be untrustworthy, after all’.

This is actuallya complex issue, and I’mchoosingmy wordswith some simplification.

It hingesonthe extent towhich thereare different ‘flavours’of contrastingimplicit poles

for any single emergent pole. If you want to pursue this further, read Riemann (1990)

for an empirically based study, or Yorke (1978) for some implications for educational

research.However, let’s keep it simple for themoment.

There is awell-developed formof grid called an‘Implications grid’, which can be used

to identify the shape of the data structure, and hence the way in whichmeanings are

organised in a person’s construct system. It was first described by Hinkle (1965), and

you can learn about it most conveniently in Fransella et al. (2004). There are also

two different ways in which constructs can be in a superordinate^subordinate

relationship to one another. Your best way of learning more about this is to read

Kelly’s original account of what he calls ‘abstracting across’ and ‘extending’ the

‘cleavage’of a superordinate construct; see Kelly (1963: 57^58).

Let’s keep it simple, then, for the moment. A set of constructs on any topic is

part of a broader system of constructs, a system that forms a hierarchy. Some

constructs are superordinate, and others subordinate, to each other, and the

simple repertory grid which you learnt about in Chapter 3 simply taps into

part of that hierarchy.

Constructs towards the top of the hierarchy:

. are more general in their relevance; they usually have a wide range of

convenience;

. express personal preferences more strongly; they tend to be more valueladen;

. may relate to fundamental beliefs about oneself and one’s place in existence;

these are known as core constructs;

. to the extent that they are personally central in this way, are likely to be

resistant to change.

You’ve encountered this issue already, during the discussion of core versus

peripheral constructs in Section 5.3.3.