Constructivist Contributions to personality psychology


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Constructivism is an epistemnological position about the impossibility of objective knowledge. But it doesn't mean rejecting science, rather the opposite. Its contributions to Personality Psychology are outlined. The Repertory Grid technique is explored in more detail, and its potential for identifying cognitive conflicts emphasised.

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Constructivist Contributions to personality psychology

  1. 1. Constructivist Contributions to Personality Psychologyto Personality Psychology Dr. Guillem Feixas
  2. 2. Constructivism • An epistemological position • Reality does not reveal itself through the senses, it must be interpreted • Living = interpreting the incoming events =>• Living = interpreting the incoming events => living = knowing • Knowledge is self-referent (vs. objective knowledge)
  3. 3. Constructivism is NOT • Idealism: “reality does not exist” (ontology) • Relativism: “anything goes” • A rejection of science or the scientific method • A therapy school or model• A therapy school or model Instead: • It has informed many theories and therapies (Piaget, Kelly, social constructionism, neuroconstructivism, systemic therapies, narrative approaches,…)
  4. 4. Constructivist main assumptions about human beings • Proactive (vs. reactive) • Take decisions (vs. determined) on moment-to-moment basis • Act according to the reality they have• Act according to the reality they have constructed (vs. stimuli) • Respond to professional interventions (items, techniques) according to how they construe it • Develop a sense of identity (who I am) and uniqueness for which we seek continuity (coherence)
  5. 5. Personality Psychology: McAdams model • A comprehensive framework for understanding the whole person • 5 big principles for an integrative science of the• 5 big principles for an integrative science of the whole person McAdams, D. P., & Pals, J. L. (2006). A new Big Five: Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 61, 204-217. 6
  6. 6. (1) an individual’s unique variation on the general evolutionary design for human nature (2) expressed as a developing pattern of dispositional traitsdispositional traits (3) characteristic adaptations (self) (4) self-defining life narratives (5) complexly and differentially situated in culture and social context 7
  7. 7. Constructivism in the different levels of study of Personality Identity R EMeaning Constructivist Issue McAdams’ model 8 Traits and Biological Basis Schemes, Goals, Self-regulation Identity Life story, E L E V A N C E Implication Epistemic Basis of Knowledge Meaning
  8. 8. Traditional Assessment Constructivist Assessment • Investigator centred approach • Personality as it is postulated according to the investigator's theoretical constructs (e.g., extroversion vs. introversion, internal vs. external locus of • “Person-centred approach“: it involves the study of a person's own theories (the "lay" perspective), which consists of personal constructs. • Aims to explore the person's idiosyncratic constructioninternal vs. external locus of control, etc.) based on previous research. • Geared to the classification of the subject within theoretically derived categories • Opaque to the subject (the interviewer is the only expert) idiosyncratic construction processes. • Less concerned with the subjects' "real world" than with the way in which they construe that world: “subjective methods”
  9. 9. Methodological Proposals in Constructivism • Use of multivariate methodology – Repertory Grid (Correspondence Analysis) – Narratives-Life Story (Hierarchical Class Analysis) • Use of Qualitative Software – Narratives (NUDIST, ATLAS-TI, AQUAD, SPAD)– Narratives (NUDIST, ATLAS-TI, AQUAD, SPAD) • Qualitative methodology – Discoursive analysis of meaning – Conversational analysis – Language Analysis – Grounded Theory – Others 10
  10. 10. The Repertory Grid Technique • Designed to capture the dimensions and structure of personal meaning. • Its aim is to describe the ways in which people give meaning to their experience in their owngive meaning to their experience in their own terms. • It is not so much a test in the conventional sense of the word as a structured interview designed to make those constructs with which persons organise their world more explicit.
  11. 11. Origins and context • George A. Kelly (1955) developed the Repertory Grid Technique (originally termed “Rep Test”) as an instrument for the elicitation of personal constructs. • Personal Construct Theory (PCT) is considered to be a predecessor of the cognitive approach.predecessor of the cognitive approach. • Kelly was very critical of his approach being “cognitive” • Mahoney considers PCT as a cognitive constructivist approach. • This idea respects the phenomenological slant of Kelly's theory.
  12. 12. Personal Construct Theory • Kelly sees the human being very much as a scientist who creates hypotheses in order to make it easier to interpret and understand events (self-regulation theories).events (self-regulation theories). • These hypotheses are personal constructs which are basically bipolar in nature. • Constructs are the grasping of differences, discriminations we make in our experience Example: “cold – warm”, “generous – selfish”
  13. 13. Personal Construct Systems • A person is obviously not guided by only one construct but by an entire network of meaning. • This system consists of hierarchically arranged personal constructs. • The most central or "core" constructs are those that define the person's identity.define the person's identity. • In addition, there are more peripheral constructs that, although subordinate to these core constructs, are actively involved in construing events and further actions. • The repertory grid technique is a structured procedure designed to elicit a repertoire of constructs and to explore their structure and interrelations.
  14. 14. Some Advantages of RGT • Flexibility: it makes it applicable to a wide variety of contexts and purposes. • The systematic and thorough mathematical analysis of the data makes it an excellent toolanalysis of the data makes it an excellent tool for the scientific study of personal meaning. • More than 2,000 studies published.
  15. 15. Sample areas investigated with the RGT • Schizophrenia • Eating disorders • Anxiety disorders • Depression • Family conflicts • Education • Teacher training • Forensic psychology • Business consultancy • Marketing research• Family conflicts • Irritable Bowel • Evaluation of therapy process & outcome • Marketing research • Artificial intelligence • Environmental perception Assenzahl, M. & Wessler, R. (2000). Capturing design space from a user perspective: The Repertory Grid Technique revisited. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 12, 441-459
  16. 16. A Repertory Grid consists of: • a series of elements that are representative of the content area under study, • a set of personal constructs that the• a set of personal constructs that the subject uses to compare and contrast these elements, • a rating system (e.g., from 1 to 7) that evaluates the elements based on the bipolar arrangement of each construct.
  17. 17. A case illustration: Teresa • When Teresa, 22 years old, was seen by Luis Ángel Saúl at the psychological services of the University of Salamanca, she was in the final year of her studies in chemical sciences. Although Teresa proved to be an excellent student, she revealed serious doubts about her self worth. She cried frequently, and had great difficulty in meeting others, even though she had agreat difficulty in meeting others, even though she had a boyfriend who was extremely supportive. • Teresa was anxiously hesitant about accepting a new job which would involve moving to another city 600 Km away from home.
  18. 18. Teresa’s grid
  19. 19. Correspondence Analysis Factors (axes) in Teresa’s grid
  20. 20. Self-construction Measures • Self-Ideal discrepancy (self-esteem): Self-Ideal Correlation (Teresa: 0.43) • Identification-Perceived Social Isolation: Self- Others Correlation (Teresa: -0.36) • View of others: Ideal-Others Correlation (Teresa: -0.26)
  21. 21. Self-congruency and Self-discrepancy in the RGT To study the construction of the self, the RGT includes these two elements: • SELF NOW (How I see myself now?) • IDEAL SELF (How I would like to be?)• IDEAL SELF (How I would like to be?) Constructs in which SN and IS are close are termed “congruent” and those in which they are set apart “discrepant”
  22. 22. Teresa’s implicative dilemma
  23. 23. Dilemmas as Cognitive conflicts • A type of cognitive structure • Related to identity (core constructs), implicit or tacit, resistant to change • A particular form of organization that links• A particular form of organization that links specific cognitive contents (e.g., “I wish to overcome my shyness”) to core values (e.g., “I am modest”) in a conflictive way (e.g., “If I become social I might also end up being arrogant” BUT “If I want to keep my modesty I have to remain timid”)
  24. 24. MULTI-CENTER DILEMMA PROJECT • G. Feixas, J. Guàrdia i M. Villegas (UB) • L. A. Saúl (UNED) • Jesús García (U Sevilla) • D. Winter (U Hertforshire, Regne Unit) • E. Ribeiro (U Minho, Portugal)• E. Ribeiro (U Minho, Portugal) • H. Fernández-Álvarez (Fundación Aiglé, Argentina) • M. Gurrola (U Autónoma Estado de México) • F. Melis (Pontificia U Católica de Chile) • C. Lucero (U de la Frontera, Chile) • M. I. Erazo (U Antonio Nariño, Colombia) • P. Naidoo (U Western Cape, Sudàfrica)
  25. 25. Dilemmas and mental health Feixas & Saul (2004) Sample Clinical Non-clinical Presence of implicative dilemmas NO n = 136 213 % 47,9 % 66,1 % YES n = 148 109dilemmas YES % 52,1 % 33,9 % TOTAL (n = 606) n = 284 322 •Differences are significant using a chi-squared test •A logistic regression analysis including sex and age yields presence of implicative dilemmas as the first variable to enter into the equation
  26. 26. Clinical problems researched • Depression • Fibromyalgia • Eating Disorders • Irritable Bowel Syndrome• Irritable Bowel Syndrome • Menopause • Somatization disorders • Women victims of Intimate Partner Violence • Anxiety disorders
  27. 27. Some implications • Cognitive conflicts might explain the blockage and the difficult progress of many patients • Need for specific interventions focused in the resolution of these internal conflictsresolution of these internal conflicts • 2009/11 Research Project: “Cognitive Conflicts in Unipolar Depression” • 2012/14 Research Project: “Cognitive therapy for unipolar depression: efficacy of a dilemma- focused intervention”
  28. 28. Many thanks for your attention!!