4.2.7 Supplied Constructs

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You’ll notice that the 10-step procedure, and many of the details in section

3.2.3, assume that you’re eliciting the interviewee’s own constructs. That’s the

fundamental definition of a repertory grid. It tells you what the interviewee’s

own constructs are. However, your purpose in using a grid is to understand

how the other person construes, and, when you come to analyse the grid, that

objective can be achieved to some degree by seeing how the interviewee uses

constructs which you have suggested and supplied.

For example, some kinds of content analysis (see Section 7.3) require you to

obtain the interviewee’s ‘overall summary’ of the elements, by asking him or

her to rate all the elements on a construct which summarises his or her overall

view. A topic of ‘good (and poor) lecturers I have known’ would have the

construct, ‘overall, more effective as a lecturer – overall, less effective as a

lecturer’, supplied by the interviewer for the interviewee to use, if that

construct hadn’t yet been elicited spontaneously. A topic of ‘the people in my

life I find approachable when I need help’ might have the supplied construct,

‘overall, more helpful – overall, less helpful’, and so on.

Or you may be doing a piece of work in which you want to see how the

interviewee’s constructs relate to some other construct which may not be in the

interviewee’s repertoire but which is nevertheless important to you. (You

might be interested to know how the interviewee views the management style

of his colleagues. You supply the construct, ‘authoritarian – participative’, and,

in the analysis, look to see which of the interviewee’s constructs are being used

in a similar way: see step 6 of Section 6.1.2.)

It’s important to remember that the grid is now amixture of constructs from the interviewee’s

repertoire, and constructs from your own. This is legitimate ^ indeed, in

some kinds of research, grids have been used which consist entirely of supplied

constructs, since this simplifies the analysis of whole sets of grids. Each interviewee

works with identical constructs. However, you have to remember that something

rather different is beingmeasured in these circumstances.

Peopleare drawingontheirownexperienceandjudgement to expresssimilaritiesand

differences; so they are, indeed, construing the topic in question. To the extent that

they provide different ratings from each other, you can say that their differing,

personal construct systems are being tapped, and that you’re learning something of

the different ways inwhich each of themconstrues.

However, left to their own devices, theymay never have chosen to use constructs of

the kind supplied.You’d have discovered much more about each individual person if

you worked only with the constructs you have elicited from that particular person ^

with his or her personal constructs!

This matter of elicited versus supplied constructs has had substantial research

attention in its own right. You won’t be surprised to learn that people find their own

constructs more useful (Landfield, 1968) and meaningful (Cromwell & Caldwell,

1962) than supplied constructs, though there is some debate about the extent to

which the richness and complexity of individual interviewees’ thinking is, or is not,

characterised better byallowing themto use their own constructs (Collett,1979).

Think of this issue as follows:

. If you want to discover what the interviewee’s own constructs are, and how

s/he uses them, don’t supply any of your own.

. If you want to check a personal belief about the interviewee’s own constructs

and how s/he uses them, supply a construct related to that belief and see

how it compares with the interviewee’s own. Section 6.1.2 tells you how to

do so.

. If you want a reflection of the different ways in which a sample of people

construes an issue, but you don’t need to capture the respondents’ own

personal constructs, then don’t elicit any constructs at all. Supply your own

for all of them to use.