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Exercise 8.1 Explore Your Own Personal Values

Take one of the grids which you have prepared earlier (for example, the one

about ‘my friends’ which you elicited in Exercise 3.1). For you, what personal

values underlie friendship?

You may find it helpful to take some photocopies of Figure 8.2 and use it as a

worksheet, writing each original construct in at the bottom and working

upwards. Obviously, there are no ‘right answers’ to this exercise, so I can’t

provide you with any direct feedback in Appendix 1. What I can do, though, is

ask you some questions.

If you’ve done this exercise properly, the answer to each of them will be

predictable. For the reasons why, see Appendix 1.14 before reading on in the


You will need one of these for each personal value you ladder. Write the result of each

iteration into the spaces below, starting from the bottom.

Figure 8.2 A worksheet for laddering upwards

(a) When you did this exercise, did you sometimes arrive at the topmost level

without using up all of the spaces in Figure 8.2?

(b) On your way ‘up’ the ladders, did you sometimes get stuck at what you

suspected was the same level, just saying the same thing in different


(c) At step 3, towards the top of any of the ladders, did it feel absurd to be

asking yourself for a reason for your preference?

(d) Did you nevertheless press on and try to find a superordinate construct?

(e) When you did steps 9 and 10 to identify new personal values, did you find

that you were converging on one of the values you had already identified

in one of your previous ladders?

It’s important that you read Appendix 1.14

now to see the reasoning involved. Then return

to Section 8.1.2.

Exercise 8.2 Which of Your Values Are Resistant to Change?

(Otherwise Known as ‘How Much Would You Charge the Devil

for Your Soul?)

Working with the same values which you obtained as a result of Exercise 8.1

(just the ones at the top of the various ladders you prepared, remember!),

compare each with each, using the format shown in the resistance-to-change

procedure outlined in Section 8.2.

I can’t provide you with any ‘answers’ to this exercise, since I don’t know your

values, and I have no way of knowing how you might prioritise them.

However, you may glean some hints and guidelines about the procedure if

you tackle the questions given in Exercise 8.3 below; these do have right


Exercise 8.3 Working with Value Hierarchies

Address each of these questions in order, noting your response. Then check

against the answers given in Appendix 1.15.

(a) You have identified two personal values:

fair play – injustice

top-down leadership – participative leadership

and you present them as follows: ‘Which would you rather have, ‘‘Fair

play’’ at the cost of ‘‘participative leadership’’, or ‘‘top-down leadership’’

at the cost of ‘‘injustice’’?’ Is there a problem, and if so, why?

(b) You offer your interviewee the following choice:

A contrast-B

wisdom at the cost of penury and starvation


B contrast-A

comfort and survival at the cost of terminal stupidity

Your interviewee’s response is that she can’t possibly choose between the

options. ‘I can’t bear to be thought terminally stupid, but I can’t possibly

make a choice that would have me starving to death! Sorry!’ Which of the

following responses are appropriate?

. ‘That’s okay. Don’t worry, let’s go on to the next comparison.’

. ‘Tricky, isn’t it? Can you think of some circumstances in a comfortable

life in which you could put up with stupidity? At least you’d survive

and perhaps do something about the stupidity in due course. There

again, with sufficient wisdom you might be able to work out a way of

surviving. Which is your preference?’

. ‘No. I insist that you make a choice. The analysis will fail unless you give

me a preference.’

(c) Given Table 8.7 with six choices, the interviewee has chosen the option

shown in boldface in each case. Show the resulting personal values


Table 8.7 Choices made in Exercise 8.3, Question c

Either at the or

cost of

at the

cost of

Fair play Top-down





Fair play Unhappiness Contentment Injustice

Fair play Unpredictability Predictability Injustice



Unhappiness Contentment Top-down




Unpredictability Predictability Top-down


Contentment Unpredictability Predictability Unhappiness


Hitherto, my reading suggestions have been designed to deepen your

knowledge of repertory grid technique and related theory, without necessarily

providing you with different perspectives and opinions to my own. At this

point, you might like to look at something different.

Mantz Yorke’s classic paper of 1978 provides you with a useful refresher on

some of the issues we’ve dealt with so far in this guide, and opens up

discussion on the extent to which constructs may vary in the ways in which

implicit poles relate to emergent poles. Welcome to the strange world of bent


. Yorke, D.M. (1978) ‘Repertory grids in educational research: some

methodological considerations’. British Educational Research Journal 4, 63–74.

He developed this theme in the following paper:

. Yorke, D.M. (1983) ‘Straight or bent: an inquiry into rating scales in repertory

grids’. British Educational Research Journal 9, 141–151.

Secondly, something on values.

. Horley, J. (1991) ‘Values and beliefs as personal constructs’. International

Journal of Personal Construct Psychology 4, 1–14.

provides an overview, while

. Horley, J. (2000) ‘Value assessment and everyday activities’. Journal of

Constructivist Psychology 13, 67–73.

is a short and neat paper in which real-life personal activities were used as

elements, and all the personal values were supplied rather than being

laddered up from a set of initially elicited constructs. Its usefulness is less as an

example of personal values elicitation, and more as a short account of the

stability, over time, of personal value choices.