5.2 A STANCE TOWARDS ANALYSIS

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You’ll notice that the techniques have been grouped and ordered, according to

the extent to which the interviewee can recognise the implications of the

analysis. As soon as you move away from the grid interview as a social

encounter, and come back to the reasons for which you’re conducting the

interview, the investigatory or research design which you’re following, and

the kinds of analysis you’re going to make of the interviewee’s grid material,

then issues of stance, expertise, and communication are raised. Without

making a song and dance about them, we need to consider them briefly, since

they’re rather important.

You’ll recall doing Exercise 4.2 after you’d read the previous chapter.

(Assuming you did the exercise. I hope so. Life is pointless otherwise.) The

purpose was unremarkable. I wanted you to practise pyramiding, the

technique I’d just described. In doing so, though, I asked you to do two things.

Firstly, I asked you to take on a reason in inspecting the grid which would not

necessarily be anticipated by the interviewee. Here, you were addressing a

research question (whether there is a relationship between the importance of a

construct and the ease with which subordinate constructs can be identified)

that your interviewee may not have shared. You had objectives different to

those of your interviewee. Secondly, you were asked to express a personal

opinion about the constructs: to characterise them.

All analysis has those two properties. The objectives of the person doing the

analysis may differ from those of the person who provided the material, and

the person doing the analysis is involved in making judgements about that

material.

Doesn’t this negate, you might wonder, all the assumptions outlined earlier

about the interviewee being the definitive authority about his or her own

constructs? Moreover, if we were right about constructive alternativism (that

there’s always more than one way of making sense of anything), how on earth

can we claim to an authoritative analysis? Who am I to decide what sort of

constructs a person has? What kind they are? They’re not mine, so whence the

privileged view? More generally, how much of myself do I put into any study

as a result of the analysis that I do?

The simple answer is that you have asmuch right to make your sense of the world as

your interviewee has. The judgements and interpretations you make of the material

you analyse are as much part of your own view of the world as the material you’re

analysing is part of the interviewee’s. If interviewees believe that constructs are

found under gooseberry bushes, that is their right. They are the final authority in

managing the interpretations they make of their own worlds.But, by the same token,

youhaveyourownunderstandings, andtheseincludeyour interpretations of the other

person.You are the final authority in managing any interpretation of your interpretations.

You may have good reason, based on your own experience, for believing that

gooseberry bushes don’t come into it and that one should look elsewhere for

constructs.

But what if the interviewee doesn’t agree with your analysis and conclusions?

That’s a bit more complicated, isn’t it? I understand the reason for being a

faithful recorder and taking the interviewee at their word in eliciting the

constructs themselves, as we discussed in Section 4.1. ‘Credulous listening’ is

all very well, but ‘credulous analysis’ is a flabby way of resolving a

disagreement of interpretation, I’d have thought.

Okay, let’s look at it step by step.

Firstly, there is the question of representation.Given that you have jointly negotiated

the interviewee’s meanings, and that you initiated the encounter in the first place, it

doesmeanthat you’reresponsibleif youmisrepresent theinformationtheinterviewee

provides, just as the interviewee must live with the consequences of his or her own

way of construing.Before you do your analysis, you have to get the basic information

down accurately, evenif you believe that information to be‘erroneous’ in someway.

Next. You have access to a body of knowledge and technique (personal construct

theoryand repertory grid technique) which the interviewee has not.

The purpose of all analysis, investigation, and research is to cometo understandings

which are useful ^ which seemto lead to accurate predictions about what willhappen

next.Thisis truewhether we’re talking about the investigationthat isbeing carried out

by theintervieweetryingtounderstandhisorherexperience, or the onebeingcarried

out by you as you try to make sense of your interviewee as part of your own investigatory

or research purpose.

Now, your own activities are informed by a body of knowledge, personal construct

psychology, to which a lot of people subscribe; a lot of work has been done on it. It’s a

consensus that hasemerged because it made sense in the past to those who seek to

understand other people, and it may (I do not say will) lead to predictionswhichwork

better than your interviewee’s. And, provided you have used the techniques as they

are intended, you are likely to come to conclusions which those other people would

also have come to, given the sameinformation.

So if, after all that, you and the interviewee still disagree, then, ultimately, all you can

do is agree to differ, and see whose predictions turn out to bemore accurate.

Either of you could be unsuccessful in those predictions. The interviewee because

s/he’sstopped checkingsomepart ofhisorherbeliefs, perhaps.Andyou, becauseno

technique or procedure isperfectly reliable, orbecause you’vemade amisjudgement

inmakinginferencesintheanalysis, orbecauseyouand the collegialconsensushave

yet to realise that the interviewee’s understanding is indeed more effective than their

own sincetheappropriate evidenceisnotyet in, or isunrealisedby themto berelevant

to the issue in question. In themeantime, you’re both trying to get by in understanding

the bit of theworld that’s engaging you at that time.

I can’t be sure if this line of reasoning works with people who are in spectacular,

bizarre, and distressed disagreement with others ^ I’m thinking of some of the

clinical patients with whom the repertory grid can be used as part of diagnosis and

treatment. I rather think that it does, but it’s notmy field.

Now, take this line of reasoning one step further. In talking about a body of knowledge

to which many people subscribe, I’m saying that knowledge is socially defined. (This

argument isbest outlinedin Berger & Luckmann,1976.) Personalunderstandingsmay

have to relate to a constituency. Indeed, to more than one constituency (you will

probably have heard of role conflict, for example?), and the people in those constituenciesmay

varyinwhat theyexpect andunderstandwhenthey, inturn, seek theirown

meaning in existence.Whatever you discover by means of your analysis will also be

given sense andmeaning by other people; they will construe your construing of your

interviewee’s construing! Thisneeds thinking about, and carriesimplications for your

choice of analysis technique.

In fact, your choice of analysis technique depends on three factors:

(a) how well it summarises your interviewee’s meanings

(b) how well it allows you to draw inferences and conclusions from them

(c) how well it communicates this to your own constituency.

If you’re a student reading this book to help prepare a term report, bear your

lecturer’s expectations and knowledge of grid technique in mind. This is

particularly important in the case of doctoral students and their supervisors:

what kinds of analysis does your supervisor expect, and what is s/he

comfortable with given the subject matter of your dissertation? Repertory

grids are not a widely known technique. How much explanation of what

you’re doing will you have to provide them? How important is it to them that

you take an approach that comes over as quantitatively inspired? And how

will you explain it all to them?

If you’re a manager or professional with an occupational application in mind,

the issue of communication with a constituency is the same, but the question is

slightly different. When you write the report and executive summary of your

grid-based job analysis/development review/OD intervention, how can you

best summarise the results of your analysis without all the technical jargon?

Finally, if you’re neither a student nor a manager – simply someone who’s

interested in understanding other people – you also have a constituency, and

that’s the interviewee him- or herself. How well can you explain the basis of

your analysis if s/he asks you about the ways in which you have come to your

understanding of his/her understanding?