8.1.1 Laddering Up to Arrive at Values

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When you laddered down, you asked the question ‘How, in what way?’ You

did it in two ways: simple laddering down, as in Section 4.4.1, and

pyramiding, as in Section 4.4.2.

In contrast, when you ladder up, you ask the question ‘Why?’ The question is

asked in two stages, one of which establishes the preferred pole of a construct,

and the second of which establishes why your interviewee has made this

choice: what its meaning is for him or her. The procedure runs as follows.

(1) Take the first construct in your interviewee’s grid. Write it down at the

bottom of a fresh sheet of paper.

(2) Ask the interviewee which pole of the construct s/he prefers. This can be

done in a variety of ways depending on the context and the meaning

expressed by the construct:

. ‘Which end of this construct do you prefer?’

. ‘If the construct applied to you, which end would you rather be described


. ‘Which end of the construct feels nicer/good to you?’

 (3) Ask the interviewee why s/he prefers that pole. Again, there is a variety of

ways in which you can ask this question, and the word, ‘Why?’, used by itself,

is best avoided. ‘Why?’ is a very abrupt word, if you think about it. You are not

asking your interviewee to justify themselves, but to explain the importance the

choice has for them. Far more preferable are the following:

. ‘Why, for you, is this important?’

. ‘That’s interesting! What’s happening here, I wonder?’

. ‘What follows as the result from this particular choice? For you, I mean.’

If there isn’t a clearly preferred pole, combine steps 2 and 3 into a single

question that asks the interviewee about the status of the contrast being made:

‘Why is this an important distinction to be making about this topic?’

(4) Write the answer down immediately above the preferred pole of the

previous construct, as a word or short phrase.

(5) Identify the contrasting pole. You’re identifying the interviewee’s reason

in the form of a second construct, superordinate to the one you started with at

step 1. Since this second construct is a construct, it has to have two poles! Read

out the reason you were given, and ask what contrast is being offered. Any one

of the following would do.

. ‘Now, what’s the contrast for [the words written down at step 4]?’

. ‘What would the other end of that construct be?’

. ‘And what would you be contrasting that with?’

(6) Write the answer down above the non-preferred pole of the previous

construct. You now have two constructs, the original and the superordinate

one above it.

(7) Repeat steps 2 to 6 for this new, superordinate construct. Which end of

the construct is preferred and why? – the personal importance; and the

opposite is? Write the result down, above the previous constructs.

(8) Repeat step 7 until your interviewee can’t go any further. You’ve arrived

at a personal value.

(9) Take the next construct in your interviewee’s grid. You’ve laddered

upwards and found the topmost construct for the first construct in the original

grid; now see what other personal values your interviewee has: repeat steps 2

to 8, starting off with the second construct of the original grid and working


 (10) Do this, that is step 9, repeating steps 2 to 8, for each of the constructs in

your interviewee’s original grid. If at any step you can both see that a

particular construct at step 9 leads to one of the same personal values you’ve

already identified at step 8, stop what you’re doing and just go on to the next

construct in the grid. Remember, we’re dealing with a hierarchy. We talk of

constructs being in pyramidal structures; what we mean is that a single

superordinate construct can have several subordinate constructs below it. And

so, your interviewee is quite likely to draw on the same personal value for

several of his or her original constructs. That is in the nature of personal

values. They aren’t specific to particular behaviour or situations, but give

personal meaning to many.

And there you have it, a set of ladders, vertical structures, one for each value.

The constructs at the top express your interviewee’s personal values, or, at

least, those values which s/he finds useful and relevant to this particular topic.

At this point, pause, and examine Tables 8.1 and 8.2, which give a worked

example of steps 1 to 8 for the grid shown in Figure 2.1 (way back in

Chapter 2!). Remember, you must start with the lowest construct and work

upwards! Go through the procedure above, following it in the two tables.

Table 8.3 shows you the results of this procedure applied to the remaining

constructs of the original grid. They’re the result of steps 8 and 9, in other

words. Familiarise yourself with this basic procedure before you continue. The

best way is by applying it to one of your own grids.

So try Exercise 8.1 before going any further.