4.4.2 Pyramiding Technique

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‘Hold on!’ you might argue. ‘When you’re laddering down, there is surely

more than one way in which a person can answer that ‘how’ question!’

A person can feel comfortable with someone because the other would help

in a crisis, or because the other never ever challenges things that the person

says, or because the other person’s reaction to events always includes the

funny side of those events – or, indeed, for a great variety of reasons. Why

pick on a particular one to write down as the construct at step 6 of the

procedure?

As with so much of grid technique, the answer is: it depends what you’re

wanting to do! Why, in particular, are you interviewing the other person? The

answer may relate to the topic of the grid, or to the circumstances in which the

topic is being investigated. There are times when you’d want to identify

constructs at a detailed level from a particular point of view, using the

qualifying phrase technique described in Section 3.2.3. Here, you’d be content

with a simple laddering procedure which expresses the construct most

precisely from that point of view.

There are other times when you want to investigate the variety of a person’s

construing – the range of a person’s points of view, if you like. For example,

the grid may be about feelings towards people, and whether the interviewee

feels comfortable with other people is just one thing you wish to learn about.

Or the grid may be about what an interviewee understands by the idea of

trusting other people – trust may be the topic – and you seek as many different

aspects of that superordinate concept as possible. In this case, where you want

to understand the range of a person’s construing, there is an alternative to

laddering, called ‘pyramiding’.

The procedure is a little more involved than in laddering. (Refer to the lower

half of Figure 4.1). Now add the following substep to step 6 of the basic 10-

point grid-elicitation procedure.

6b As before, put a ‘how’ question to the interviewee.

‘How can I tell?’; ‘in what way?’; ‘can you give me an example of the kind of

thing you mean?’; ‘what kind of X is like that?’ about the emergent pole of the

construct.

Write the answer down below the emergent pole of the original construct.

Ask what is the opposite or contrasting pole of the construct you wrote

down above, and write it down.

Go back to the implicit pole of the original construct and ask a ‘how’

question to the interviewee about it.

Write the answer down below the implicit pole of the original construct.

Ask what is the opposite or contrasting pole of the construct you wrote

down above, and write it down.

Stop at that point, or repeat the ‘how’ question in more detail still, about the

constructs you’ve just written down, noting the emergent poles, and asking

in each case what their opposite is.

Apply the remaining steps of the basic grid procedure to all of the

constructs you arrive at.

As you can see, the shape of the data structure you’re creating is rather like a

pyramid: hence the name given to this procedure by Landfield, who first

developed it (Landfield, 1971: Ch. 8).