The Repertory Grid is an instrument 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 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. The way in which we get to know and interpret our milieu, our understanding of ourselves and others, is guided by an implicit theory which is the result of conclusions drawn from our experiences. The repertory grid, in its many forms, is a method used to explore the structure and content of these implicit theories/personal meanings through which we perceive and act in our day-to-day existence.
George A. Kelly developed the Repertory Grid Technique (originally The Rep Test) as an instrument for the elicitation of personal constructs. This technique is derived directly from Kelly's (1955) Personal Construct Theory (PCT) (see, e.g., Bannister & Fransella, 1986; Dalton & Dunnet, 1992; Feixas & Villegas, 1993; Landfield & Leitner, 1980, for an introduction). PCT is considered to be a predecessor of the cognitive approach currently dominating the field of clinical and social psychology. Although difficult to classify, Mahoney's (1991; Mahoney & Gabriel, 1987) idea of considering PCT as a cognitive contructivist approach seems suitable (Feixas & Villegas, 1993; R. Neimeyer & Mahoney, 1995) because it would respect the phenomenological slant (Rychlak, 1981) of Kelly's theory. This definition not only has the advantage of linking PCT to other cognitive approaches, but it also differentiates it from more rationalistic approaches, which may not be epistemologically compatible.
Kelly sees the human being very much as a scientist who creates hypotheses in order to make it easier to interpret and understand events. These hypotheses are personal constructs which are basically bipolar in nature (just as scientific hypotheses are directly opposed - on the opposite pole of the null hypothesis). A personal construct is therefore a dimension of meaning that allows two events (e.g., people, things, events, etc.) to be seen as similar and thereby different to a third (or more) event(s) which represent the opposite pole of the construct. For example, Anne may construe John and Peter as "nice" as opposed to Edward, whom she sees as "distant." The "nice-distant" dimension enables Anne to distinguish between these three people and to give meaning to her experiences with them, not only to interpret their past behaviour but also to predict future possibilities for action in relation to them. A person is obviously not guided by only one construct but by an entire network of meaning which, according to PCT, consists of hierarchically arranged personal constructs. The most central or "core" constructs are those that define the person's identity. Most of these core constructs are involved in construing those significant others with whom the person interacts and the nature of one's "role relationship" to them. 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.
Unlike more traditional testing methods, which can be included in what Hampson (1982) calls the "investigator centred approach," the repertory grid technique is not geared to the study of personality as it is postulated according to the investigator's theoretical constructs (e.g., extroversion vs. introversion, internal vs. external locus of control, etc.). Rather, it can be more accurately described as a "person-centred approach" in that it involves the study of a person's own theories (the "lay" perspective in Hampson, 1982) which, according to PCT, consist of personal constructs (Feixas, 1989; G. Neimeyer, 1993). This testing approach has been defined as constructivist assessment because it does not intend to classify the subject within theoretically derived categories but aims to explore the person's idiosyncratic construction processes. It is therefore less concerned with the subjects' "real world" than with the way in which they construe that world. This is coherent with constructivist epistemology, which states that all constructs are necessarily influenced by the active construing processes of the person who has elicited them (see Feixas & Villegas, 1993; R. Neimeyer, 1993).
At the moment, there are various types of constructivist assessment methods: laddering, self-characterisation, analysis of autobiographical texts, etc., as well as an infinite variety of open interview designs (see G. Neimeyer's edited volume, 1993, for a comprehensive presentation of these procedures). However, the repertory grid technique is by far the most used and studied (the interested reader can refer to, e.g., Beail, 1985; Feixas, 1988; Fransella & Bannister, 1977; G. Neimeyer & R. Neimeyer, 1981). Its flexibility makes it applicable to a wide variety of contexts and purposes. On the other hand, the systematic and thorough mathematical analysis of the data makes it an excellent tool for the scientific study of personal meaning as does its flexible mode of administration in structured interviews, paper and pencil or computerised interactive forms. Out of the 1,700 papers published (R. Neimeyer, Baker, G. Neimeyer, 1990) by PCT psychologists and researchers, 60% used the repertory grid technique. Its area of application not only includes the clinical field (schizophrenic thought disorder, eating disorders, neurotic disorders, family conflicts, evaluation of therapeutic interventions, etc.) but also such areas as education, business consultancy, artificial intelligence and environmental perception.
This manual outlines the procedures involved in the repertory grid technique, as well as the main associated areas, making it easier for the user to adapt the technique to his/her area of interest. For clarification purposes, a case study in which the repertory grid was used in the course of therapy is included. A therapeutic context was chosen as it is considered a representative field of application and because it allows for very specific observations to be made in an idiographic context. However, the user can easily apply the repertory grid technique to other areas of interest after modifying it as described to tailor the method to his or her concerns.
The repertory grid is applied in four basic steps which guide the layout of this manual. Given the grid's multiple applications, the design phase (Chapter II) is where the parameters that define the area of application are set out. In the administration phase (Chapter III), the type of structured interview for grid elicitation and the resulting numerical matrix is defined. The repertory grid data have been subjected to a great variety of mathematical analyses (Chapter IV) of which we have incorporated the most useful and sophisticated. For example, correspondence analysis (Cornejo, 1988b) is a significant improvement over previous approaches due to its clarity, theoretical and mathematical coherence and ease of interpretation. A note of interest is that the GRIDCOR programme described in this manual is an adaptation of the repertory grid of the original ANCORSIM (Cornejo, 1988a) statistical programme. This allows for easy and systematic mathematical analysis of the Grid data for psychological interpretation purposes. As it has been specifically adapted to the repertory grid technique, the GRIDCOR programme calculates the main cognitive measures (Chapter V) found in the repertory grid literature. The evaluation of how the self is construed as well as access to the structural characteristics of the construct system (e.g., cognitive complexity) is therefore possible. This allows for the inclusion, on different occasions, of additional grid data from either the same subject or from different subjects. The comparison of data from different grids (Chapter VI) has the additional advantage of introducing any changes in the subject's construct structure before and after a psychotherapeutic, psychoeducational or other "experimental" intervention. Finally, the manual concludes with an operative manual for the GRIDCOR programme (version, 2.0), technical information, and instructions for its installation (Chapter VII); and a brief note about the Implicative Dilemmas in psychotherapy and the Repertory Grid (Chapter IX).
The aim of this manual is not only to describe the procedures involved in the design, administration, scoring and interpretation of a grid but also to illustrate them with a clinical case to show the programme's practical application. We also consider the results provided by the programme's analyses in the context of relevant literature. We hope that this will encourage coherent and theoretically consistent use of the repertory grid as opposed to its atheoretical and merely instrumental administration. Our intention is to describe the repertory grid without straying from the theoretical field in which it was conceived and which contributes to its utmost coherence and importance. Ultimately, we believe that if used in a theoretically consistent and psychometrically sound fashion, the repertory grid can make an important contribution to psychological research and practice.