The Construction of a Personal Position Repertoire: Method and Practice

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Culture Psychology 2001; 7; 323

Whereas the preceding article (Hermans, 2001) was focused on the
theory of the dialogical self, the present contribution deals with a
method, based on the same theory, and its application in practical
settings. The method, the Personal Position Repertoire (PPR), is based
on the following considerations.
First, the purpose of the method is the study of the organization and
reorganization of a person’s position repertoire with attention to the
personal meanings that are associated with the different positions.
Positioning and meaning construction are closely related issues.
Second, the method is both quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative
part of the method enables the researcher or practitioner to
compare, on the basis of particular dimensions, the commonality and
differences of the several positions within the same individual and
facilitates the comparison of different individuals. The qualitative
aspect is based on the consideration that the construction of meaning

Whereas the preceding article (Hermans, 2001) was focused on the theory of the dialogical self, the present contribution deals with a method, based on the same theory, and its application in practical settings. The method, the Personal Position Repertoire (PPR), is based on the following considerations.

First, the purpose of the method is the study of the organization and reorganization of a person’s position repertoire with attention to the personal meanings that are associated with the different positions.Positioning and meaning construction are closely related issues.

Second, the method is both quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative part of the method enables the researcher or practitioner to compare, on the basis of particular dimensions, the commonality and differences of the several positions within the same individual and facilitates the comparison of different individuals. The qualitative aspect is based on the consideration that the construction of meaning is more than a measurable, quantitative matter. Meaning construction  and reconstruction require proper attention to the stories people tell about their lives and to the ways people affectively organize events that are part of their personal and collective histories. The quantitative parts of the method are to be seen not as fixed results but as invitations to a discussion between psychologist and participant. The outcomes of the quantitative analyses require the interpretation of the participants and are taken up as elements in a broader discussion with the psychologist.

Third, closely related to the qualitative aspect of the position repertoire,the notion of ‘voice’ will be of central importance to the method presented here. The utterances of people, recounting the events in their every day life, will be reported as they are spoken by the participants of the investigation themselves. That is, the utterances of people talking about their experiences and reflecting about some relevant aspects of their lives will not be hidden from view or covered by the method to be discussed in this article, but thewords, concepts and interpretations from the participants are reported in their original formulations so that their voices can be heard as they want to be heard.

Fourth, this is a general method for the investigation of the content,organization and reorganization of people’s position repertoire. Like the theory of the dialogical self, the method is not restricted to any psychological sub-discipline but rather of a more general nature. This implies that research and practice in one psychological subdiscipline may be relevant to research and practice in any other subdiscipline o rdiscipline. This point of view implies that research or applications in developmental psychology, clinical psychology or psychotherapy may contribute to the understanding of cultural processes or cultural positioning.

Fifth, it is not suggested that this is the only method for assessing the multivoicedness and dialogicality of the self. One of the purposes ofthis article is to present an example of a dialogical method with the possibility that other researchers may create other or even better theory guided alternatives. Moreover, the PPR is not devised as a standardized method. It can be adapted and revised according to the purpose sand needs of individual researchers or practitioners in their specific settings and circumstances. Rather than offering a ready-made metho for ‘measuring’ the self, the purpose is to offer psychologists and participants a methodological framework that they may reconstruct in view of the

theoretical outlines exposed in the preceding article. The method requires, moreover, a commitment of psychologist and participant,and its application may profit from the psychologist’s professional experience with a specific group of participants. In sum, the method functions as a skeleton, and the flesh around the skeleton is the outcome of cooperative enterprise of two parties. Read more (PDF)