Characterising Others

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It is also possible to provide characterisations of other people. The ‘child

characterisation sketch’ relies on tape recordings rather than requiring a

written account, and invites one person (in this case, a child’s parent) to talk

genuinely and thoughtfully about another person (the child). The elicitation

starts by asking the parent to describe the personality of the child as

completely as possible. The people who developed it (Davis et al., 1989)

suggest that the interviewer should start the interview somewhat conventionally

before introducing the technique to the interviewee. In Section 3.1.1,

you’ll recall that I emphasised the importance of a variety of process issues,

including making the interviewee feel at ease. However you do it, using a grid

or not, construct elicitation involves procedures which are unfamiliar to most

interviewees, who need help in being eased into them.

The developers also suggest that, with this kind of topic, interruptions to

clarify what is meant or to provide greater precision are by and large

unnecessary! Analysis involves listing the different kinds of constructs which

emerge from the description of the child, classifying them according to their

emergent poles. Implicit poles can be identified in subsequent discussion (and

here the authors and I part company: I would argue that they have to be, and

preferably during elicitation) and ratings provided. However, useful

information can be obtained without rating the elements on the constructs.

Notice what’s happening. The most common way of eliciting constructs is by

means of the triadic procedure. (‘In what way do two of these differ from the

third?’) And you’ve seen that it’s possible to use just two elements (the dyadic

procedure) in certain circumstances. You can think of the child characterisation

sketch, and indeed self-characterisation technique, as ways of

identifying constructs using just one element! ‘Monadic’ procedures, in fact.