The Integration of Nomothetic and Idiographic Research Methods in the Study of Personal Meaning

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Hubert J. M. Hermans

Journal of Personality, 1988, 56, 785-812

 

Abstract

 

This study presents the technique of self-investigation as a research tool for the study of personal meaning from the perspective of the general and the particular. After reviewing the nomothesis-idiography debate, I argue the personality psychology can benefit from a combination of nomothetic and idiographic research methodologies. This creates a need for new theoretical frameworks that incorporate both nomo-concepts, enabling the study of people in general, and idio-concepts, enabling the psychologist to understand the particular world of the individual. Allport’s term “value” is reformulated as the idio-concept “valuation,” which refers to personal meaning in an individual’s history. The term “affect,” as a central component in the process of valuation, is treated as a nomo-concept. The relation between the two concepts is demonstrated by studying specific concerns in the history of an individual as recurrent expressions of general winner and loser experiences.