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FW: [xmca] Personal (?) Constructs
Paula was kind enought to send this to me off-list, but it didn't get on list, apparently because she sent it from her South African address instead of the one she normally uses, which is linked to Leiden.
For those who do not know, Paula is the person who successfully replicated Chapter Five of Thinking and Speech and she is know doing a related project for Rene Van der Veer in the Netherlands.
As you can see, her project involves a new, expanded Sakharov test called "Sakharovnian City", which teaches concepts related to animals. In ths way, she bridges the apparent gap between the Vygotsky-Sakharov test and the Vygotsky-Shif tests in Chapter Six, which involve classroom rather than laboratory concepts.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
From: Paula M Towsey [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 09 January 2012 10:13 AM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'; 'David Kellogg'
Subject: RE: [xmca] Personal (?) Constructs
I haven't come across Kelly before, but this is from my old lit survey on
...Semeonoff and Laird’s (1952) work involved the use of the ‘Vigotsky Test’
“in connexion with a war-time ‘Special Service’ selection procedure” and was
further used in a number of subsequent, military-related studies. They
attempted over a number of years to provide quantitative scoring for the
‘Vigotsky Test’, such as different scoring for clues from Hanfmann and
Kasanin’s procedure and graded categories for how the subjects proceeded in
solving the problem of the blocks. These authors used numerals on the
bottom of the blocks, and the subjects were asked to explain the principle
used in solving the problem: they argue very strongly that if researchers
are interested in more than just intelligence testing and intellectual
capacity, if they are interested in how a subject “uses what he has, how he
applies himself and adjusts himself to a problem, surely one will set
unnecessary limits to the field available for study if one clings to the
traditional test methods which, by their very construction, make it
extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find out anything definite about
a subject’s test performance until he has actually completed it?” (Semeonoff
& Laird, 1952, p. 101). Semeonoff and Laird also point to the valuable
findings related to behaviour patterns yielded by detailed recordings of
subjects with the ‘Vigotsky Test’, and further, that Laird’s work with it
“threw up numerous others – distinctive ways of absorbing fresh clue
information, particular ways of reacting to blockages and prolonged failure,
individual differences in range of alternative hypotheses, varying
tendencies to discard or to retain faulty hypotheses, amount and nature of
accompanying verbalization, etc” (1952, p. 101). They conclude their paper
by stating that the ‘Vigotsky’ test “affords ample opportunity for the study
of the processes rather than the products of conceptual thinking, and as
such it offers valuable or even indispensable supplementary material to the
results of orthodox intelligence testing” (Semeonoff & Laird, 1952, pp.
Your mention of the dichotomous element of personal constructs brings to
mind one of the 11-year-old children in my pilot study with The Animals'
Games (one of a set of four activities based on the Vigotsky Test, but more
fairly referred to as "Sakharovnia City"):
RS Oh, interesting... I see you've put the whale shark in with the
fish... Why is this...?
PP Coz it's a whale shark, not a shark whale.
Now what is interesting about this is that firstly, he wasn't able to apply
the same logic to the humpback whale (he "knew" it was a mammal because that
was something he'd seen on television), and, secondly, he also wasn't able
to tell you what makes a mammal a mammal and what makes a fish a fish. He
was, however, one of the few children who didn't resort to the concrete and
factual of the LOOK of this animal (and lump the dolphin and whale and whale
shark and sharks in with the fish), but he DID apply a concrete and factual
logic to the NAME of the whale shark (but not to the name of the humpback
whale (perhaps because it doesn't LOOK like a humpback, or, as my Afrikaans
speaking friend says, "the hunchback whales").
Lots of the time the penguin was put into the group of mammals, usually next
to the human being and the (upright) meerkat.
Would you like some more tales from the pilot study now and then? Also, I
could send you really GREAT tales from the main research, due to start on
Paula M Towsey
Faculty of Social Sciences
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On
Behalf Of David Kellogg
Sent: 07 January 2012 01:57 PM
To: xmca; Paula Towsey
Subject: [xmca] Personal (?) Constructs
I have a couple of graduate students who are doing a particular line of
research I somewhat dislike (questionnaire and follow up interview, as
opposed to "real work" analyzing transacripts), but I feel obliged to assist
in any way I can (one of them is working with North Korean refugee's kids).
So I read George Kelly's "Theory of Personality".
For those of you who don't know it, it's part of a huge volume of work from
the 1950s on an approach to psychotherapy called "Constructive
Alternativism", or "Personal Construct Psychology". It is, I suppose,
loosely phenomonological and broadly introspective, although Kelly's is a
kind of outward bound introspectiveness, since he sees concepts as basically
about predicting real events in life.
I'm interested it for a couple of reasons.
a) Personal constructs are dichotomous, meaning not mutually exclusive but
mutually defining (rather like "sense" and "meaning", or "teaching/learning"
and "development", r any other good Vygotskyan distinction).
b) They include concepts, but they also include preconceptual word meanings,
i.e. "structures of feeling", such as "good/bad", "respect/contempt",
"sympathy/antipathy". Kelly also thinks that "the concept is real, but its
reality exists in its actual employment by its user, and not in the things
which it supposed to explain", which sounds pretty damned Vygotskyan to me.
c) Apparently, according to p. 152, this guy was using "Vigotsky's" block
test back in 1955! Now, how the devil did he get ahold of them? He must have
known Hanfmann and Kasenin....
d) I think I may finally have found a book that Larry Purss has not read.
Before I wax uncharacteristically uncritical though, let me note that he is
ostentatiously ahistorical and asocial, and it really hurts him. For
example, his idea of "role" is completely undevelopmental: roles come from
nowhere and go nowhere.
Towards the end of the book, when he tries to "rise to the concrete", this
approach completely undoes him. He introduces two case studies: one is a
black guy who grows up somewhere in the midwest going to high school with
whites. For some mysterious reason he fantasizes about white chicks, and he
can't persuade HIS family to approve (HIS feelings about HIS family, are
apparently the source of the problem!) The second one is about Jews
adjusting or failing to adjust to their own cultural background.
Yes, I denk I zee der paddern hier.... Zo...how long haf you had zis
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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