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Dr Phil Turner: Techniques from Psychology


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Presentation to the third LIS DREaM workshop, held at Edinburgh Napier university on Wednesday 25th April 2012.

More information about the event can be found at

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Dr Phil Turner: Techniques from Psychology

  1. 1. Personal Construct Theory,My Experience of Fruit & What people Chose to Care About Phil Turner
  3. 3. • George Kelly – clinical psychologist• Created a theory of personality is predicated on one axiom: Man is a Scientist (Kelly, 1955)• That is, each of us tries to make sense of the world as we experience it, and we do this by constantly forming and testing hypotheses about the world.• By the time we are adults, we will have developed a very complex model of the world and our place in it: this model is, according to Kelly, our personality. 3
  4. 4. • The term construct is particularly well- chosen, because it reflects the concept’s dual role.• On the one hand, your constructs represent the view you have constructed about the world as you experienced it.• On the other hand, your constructs indicate how you are likely to construe the world as you continue to experience it. 4
  5. 5. • Our construct system is our history and our predisposition to perceive.• Kellys full theory of personal constructs is very detailed but its main points are: – Our construct systems make our world more predictable – Our construct systems can grow and change – Our construct systems influence our expectations and perceptions … 5
  6. 6. • Our construct system is our truth as we understand and experience it - nobody elses – A persons construct system represents the truth as they understand it. – Construct systems cannot be judged in terms of their objective truth - whatever objective means in the world of personal feelings and choices. 6
  7. 7. • Construct systems are not always internally consistent – People can and do live with a degree of internal inconsistency within their construct systems.• Kelly created a way of getting people to reveal their construct system and this is the Repertory Grid interviewing technique. 7
  8. 8. • The term repertory derives, of course, from repertoire - the repertoire of constructs which the person had developed.• Because constructs represent some form of judgement or evaluation, by definition they are bipolar. 8
  9. 9. • As they have become more widely used they have dropped their theoretical trappings and seen to be a matter of co-construction and exploration• And as such not suited to hypothesis testing 9
  10. 10. • Uses …• Rep grids have been used in knowledge elicitation for expert systems – Shaw and Gaines, 1987, 1992• Information system and HCI design – e.g. Dillon and McKnight 1990; – McCarthy and O’Connor 1998 – Turner, 2000, 2001, 2011• Job design (e.g. Hassard, 1987) 10
  11. 11. My experience of fruit Or, how to create a rep grid 11
  12. 12. • Select a set of elements.• The elements are concrete examples of the domain you wish to explore, in this instance, fruit.
  13. 13. • So working in pairs (interviewer & interviewee) we would aim to identify different types of fruit (which interviewee has eaten)• How many – 8 is a minimum starting point
  14. 14. • Triadic construct elicitation 14
  15. 15. • Write the name of each piece of fruit on a small piece of paper.• Taking the elements (fruit) in groups of three, and ask the question: ‘Can you tell me a way in which two of these are similar and which one is different … ?’• A typical response might be … – “these two are similar because they are easy to peel whereas this one one has rough skin” 15
  16. 16. • These are the constructs• Work through different combinations of fruit until you have generated (say) 8 different constructs
  17. 17. • Next step is to create a grid• Elements rated against constructs• A five point scale is usual 17
  18. 18. 1 2 3 4 5sweet Orange Apple lemon sour Peach banana pineappleCheap Apple peach pineapple expensive Orange Banana lemongood to cook Apple Banana Orange bad to cookwith Lemon peach pineapple withcommonplace Apple pineapple peach exotic Orange Banana Lemon 18
  19. 19. • Once entered into appropriate software the grid is subject to a PCA and visualised• 19
  20. 20. Grandfather’s iPod: investigating attachment to digital and non- digital artefacts Winner of best contribution award at ECCE 2011
  21. 21. • We treasure – or are attached to – artefacts of special significance – grandfather’s watch, baby’s hospital nametag, family photographs, jewelry, fountain pen…• Our lives are now populated with digital stuff• So… are people also attached to digital stuff• If so, how? 21
  22. 22. • Attachment: affective meaning beyond functionality (cf. Verbeek)• Related to ensoulment/heirloom status/enchantment• An artefact as an expression / extension of the self• Relevant to sustainable interaction design (SID) – if we are attached to objects we are less likely to dispose of them prematurely 22
  23. 23. • SID studies …• Key finding: people were less likely to be attached to digital items• However our informal surveys among students in 2009/10 suggested that this may be changing – digital artefacts had significant personal meaning – preserved even when long superseded 23
  24. 24. • Our study was in two stages• Stage 1 24
  25. 25. • Group of 8 postgraduate students• Method followed Fransella and Bannister (1977) – Each person chose 4 digital and 4 non-digital artefacts (elements) to which they felt some attachment – Using the triadic approach, at least eight constructs elicited from each participant• Then examined the entire set of constructs and identified the most common 25
  26. 26. • Aesthetically appealing - unremarkable• Received as a gift - bought this myself• Long term - short term• Reminds me of others - no association with other people• Personalised - generic• Exciting - everyday• Part of who I am - not really a part of me• Irreplaceable - easily replaced 26
  27. 27. • Stage 2 27
  28. 28. • 55 interviewees• Chose 4 digital and 4 non-digital possessions (elements) to which they were attached• Rated against the supplied constructs on a scale of 1 to 5• Results processed using Rep IV package 28
  29. 29. • Individual results analysed by examination of the resulting grids• But also selected the most common elements – those nominated by at least 20% of the interviewees• Consolidated all the data into a single set of repertory grids for the whole group – Using the modal construct rating for each element 29
  30. 30. • Elements elicited varied widely• Common non-digital possessions – Jewellery, photographs, items of furniture and clothing – But also cars, a crochet hook and a hot-water bottle.• Mobile phones, mp3 players, and laptops were the most common digital artefacts 30
  31. 31. • Individual data• Very varied patterns of attachment – No clear age/gender differences• Many instances of cherished non-digital artefacts – Jewellery, photos, some items of furniture• People are also attached to digital artefacts too – Phones, mp3 players, laptops• And may construe both kinds of artefact in similar ways 31
  32. 32. Jewellery box, necklace, iPod (99009692_3) female, thirty 32
  33. 33. 33
  34. 34. Teddy bear and laptop(08005823_3), female, early twenties 34
  35. 35. 35
  36. 36. My phone is part of me, male, mid-twenties 36
  37. 37. 37
  38. 38. Guitar, laptop & car, male, mid-twenties 38
  39. 39. 39
  40. 40. • Individual results analysed by examination of the resulting grids• But also selected the most common elements – those nominated by at least 20% of the interviewees• Consolidated all the data into a single set of repertory grids for the whole group – Using the modal construct rating for each element 40
  41. 41. • Some non-digital artefacts seem distinct in terms of the nature of attachment to them – Watches and jewellery, photos, wallets/purses• But the majority of both kinds of artefacts are perceived in similar way 41
  42. 42. The 12 most common artefacts 42
  43. 43. Aggregated Data 43
  44. 44. • Fairly even distribution of the digital and non- digital• The area containing the poles reminds me of others, irreplaceable, personalised, part of who I am and aesthetically pleasing encompasses photographs, computers, wallet/purse/bag, phon e and watch/jewellery• Towards the other poles of these constructs, we find books, digital camera, furniture and TV 44
  45. 45. Aggregated focus graph 45
  46. 46. • Close pairing between watch/jewellery and photographs, around 75%, also associated with wallet/purse/bag• Broader grouping at around 80%: games console, furniture, TV, digital camera, phone, laptop computer, mp3 player and clothing/footwear• Again, no neat division between the digital and non-digital• Grouping of constructs… – strong association between ‘long term’, ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and ‘part of who I am’ at just under 80% – weaker but still interesting association between ‘personal’, ‘irreplaceable’, ‘reminds me of others’ and ‘exciting’ 46
  47. 47. • The importance of the potential for personalisation/appropriation• The ‘hyper-personal’ – things which people would not part with - such as watches, jewellery and photographs• Small objects - mobile phones, jewellery and MP3 players - carried close to the body may be intimately associated with the self 47
  48. 48. • In some cases, emotional attachment is associated with the artefact being a gift – which reminds the owner of the giver• In Verbeek’s terms, people are attached to digital things themselves – The desktop computer as ‘part of who I am’ in the same way as photographs or jewellery – A laptop is cherished in the same way as a teddy bear 48
  49. 49. • We expected greater attachment to the non-digital – Despite smart design, smart advertising and a smart brand, digital objects are commodities, in Borgmann’s sense (Borgmann, 1984) – Grandfather’s watch is inscribed with meaning - it is a thing – Borgmann argues that commodities are “highly reduced entities and abstract in the sense that within the overall framework of technology they are free of local and historical ties’ – In contrast, things, “engage us in so many and subtle ways that no quantification can capture them”• Contrary to our expectations and Borgmann’s eloquence we found no evidence to support this position 49
  50. 50. • Digital artefacts may be ensouled• They do not pose unique design problems but are part of a continuum of artefacts which may be cherished or disposable• These socially constructed, treasured artefacts may act as boundary objects (Star 1989) between generations 50
  51. 51. • Digital and non-digital objects both have the potential to be things rather than commodities (Borgmann). Or in Verbeek’s terms, to have meaning beyond functionality• All part of the domestic landscape of stuff 51
  52. 52. ReferencesBorgmann, A. (1984) Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.Dillon, A. and McKnight, C. (1990) Towards a classification of text types: a repertory grid approach, International Journal of Man- Machine Studies, 33, 623-636.Fallman, D. and Waterworth, J. (2010) Capturing user experiences of mobile information technology with the repertory grid technique. Human Technology, 6(2), 250–268Fransella, F. and Bannister, D. (1977) A manual for repertory grid technique, Academic Press.Hassard, J. (1987) FOCUS: as a phenomenological technique for job analysis: its use in multiple paradigm research (MPR), International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 27, 251-280.Kelly, G.A. (1955) The Psychology of Personal Constructs, New York: Norton.McCarthy, J.C. and O’Connor, B. (1998) The Context of Information Use in a Hospital as Simultaneous Similarity-Difference Relations. Cognition, Technology & Work, 1(1), 25-36.Shaw, M.L.G. and Gaines, B. (1987) KITTEN: Knowledge elicitation and transfer tool for experts and novices, International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 27, 251-280.Shaw, M.L.G. and Gaines, B. (1992) Kellys "Geometry of Psychological Space" and its Significance for Cognitive Modelling, The New Psychologist, 23-31,Turner, P. (2000) Requirements Are In The Eyes Of The Beholders, People and Computers XV – The Proceedings of HCI Conference, 33-44.Turner, P. and Turner, S. (to appear) A Repertory Grids Investigation of Attachment to Digital and Non-Digital artefacts. Cognition, Technology and Work.Turner, P and Turner, S. (2011) Emotional attachment to interactive technology. Proc. European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics 2011Verbeek, P-P. (2005) What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency and Design. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State Press 52