Experiential construct elicitation


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Experiential construct elicitation using focusing to access more meaningful constructs
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ix, 124 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Pittman, Stephen D., 1961-
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Psychology thesis, Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1997.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 120-124).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Stephen D. Pittman.
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University of Florida
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There are many people who have provided me with

support, guidance, and friendship throughout the years in my

journey to obtain this degree to whom I am grateful: to the

entire faculty of the Counseling Psychology program and the

Albany Psychology Internship Consortium, who have created

environments where students are treated as colleagues and

given ample opportunity to grow into that distinguished

company; to Dr. Maggie Labarta who taught me how to practice

outside the sheltered walls of academia and became a dear

friend; to Dr. Franz Epting who has inspired my thought and

guided my steps throughout graduate school; to my wife,

Anita, who has held my hand, given me the strength to

complete my goals, and carries in her love the promise of

tomorrow; and, to my parents, Gene and Faye Pittman, who

have always stood by me with unwavering love and support.

To these people, and to many other friends, teachers, and

clients I wish to express my deepest gratitude.









Physiologic Aspects of Emotional
Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy
Preverbal Constructs. .


Construct Meaningfulness and Superordination
Arguments for an Experiential Constructivism
Rational for the Present Study .
Hypotheses . . .


Preliminary Study ....
Subjects . .
Materials . .
Measures of Meaningfulness .
Procedure . .


Statistical Analyses Design . .
Results of Statistical Analyses .
Further Post Hoc Analysis . .

. 67
. 68
. 87

. ii

. v

. 10
. 15
. 27
. 33
. 38
. 43
. 45


V DISCUSSION . . .. .89

Effects of Elicitation Procedure on the Overall
Level of Meaningfulness . .. .90
Changes in Meaningfulness Across Trials .. .93
Elicitation X Gender X Trial Interaction .. .95
Comparing the Measures of Meaningfulness: Extremity
and Importance Rating . 98
Concluding Remarks . . 100





REFERENCES . . .. 120



Table page

1. ANOVA for Elicitation, Sex, and Trial main
effects and interactions using extremity for
Hypothesis 1. . . 69

2. Extremity scores: Elicitation X Sex X Trial. 70

3. Average extremity score per Element: Elicitation
X Sex X Trial. . . ... 72

4. ANOVA for Standard elicitation by Sex X Trial. .75

5. ANOVA for Imagery elicitation by Sex X Trial. .76

6. ANOVA for Focusing elicitation by Sex X Trial. .77

7. ANOVA for Elicitation, Sex, and Trial main
effects and interactions using importance rating
for Hypothesis 1. . ... 79

8. ANOVA for pairwise comparisons using importance
rating for Hypothesis 1. . ... 80

9. Importance rating scores: Elicitation X Trial. 81

10. ANOVAs testing Hypothesis 2 using difference scores
for extremity and importance rating scores. 84

11. Extremity difference scores: Elicitation X Sex. 85

12. Importance rating difference scores: Elicitation
X Sex. . . ... .86

13. Pearson correlations for extremity ratings and
importance rating matched by trial. ... 87



1. Average extremity ratings by Elicitation X Sex X
Trial for all elicitation procedures. ... 74

2. Mean extremity ratings by Sex X Trial for Standard
elicitation . .... .75

3. Mean extremity ratings by Sex X Trial for Imagery
elicitation . . .. 76

4. Mean extremity ratings by Sex X Trial for Focusing
elicitation . . .. 77

5. Importance rating scale by Elcitation X Trial 82

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Stephen D. Pittman

May, 1997

Chairperson: Franz R. Epting, Ph.D.
Major Department: Psychology

This study investigates the application of experiential

awareness techniques to construct elicitation. The

elicitation of personal constructs is used to gain better

understanding of a person's means of interpreting the world,

and is a standard practice in constructivist oriented

psychology. Various constructivists have called for using a

more experiential approach to clinical practice and

research. It was proposed that using an experiential

approach to the repertory grid procedure would lead to the

elicitation of constructs which are more meaningful for the

person. Eugene Gendlin's Focusing technique was adapted to

the grid procedure in an effort to enhance experiential


awareness and facilitate the verbalization of that


A sample of 42 undergraduate students completed

repertory grids using one of three procedures: standard

triadic elicitation; guided imagery elicitation; and

Focusing elicitation. The meaningfulness of the elicited

constructs was measured using a rating of perceived

construct meaningfulness and by the extremity of construct

ratings regarding various people.

The hypothesis that Focusing would elicit more

meaningful constructs overall was supported by the

importance rating dependent variable, but not by the

extremity score dependent variable. A second hypothesis,

that Focusing would lead to participants producing

progressively more meaningful constructs in latter

elicitation trials, was not supported by either dependent

variable. There was also an unexpected Elicitation X Sex X

Trial interaction noted for extremity scores. Specifically,

extremity scores for participants in the guided imagery

control group tended to be influenced by the Sex and Trial

independent variables. It is argued that this may have been

due to differences in males' and females' reactions to the

various tasks presented in the guided imagery script.

The results of this study do support the call for

fostering experiential awareness in assessment and


psychotherapy. However, there is a need for a greater

understanding of the concept of construct meaningfulness and

its measure. Gendlin's Focusing procedure and other

techniques which function to enhance experiential awareness

may prove to be valuable tools for constructivist clinicians

and researchers. Further study is needed in order to better

understand the uses and benefits of enhancing experiential

awareness in clinical practice and research.


Over the past few years, constructivist approaches to

psychology have had an increasingly influential impact on

psychological theory and psychotherapy. This interest is

perhaps best demonstrated by the American Psychological

Association's recent publication of Constructivism in

Psychotherapy (Neimeyer and Mahoney, 1995), which is likely

to serve as an introduction to constructivist thinking and

techniques to many students and practitioners in the field

of psychology. Aspects of a constructivistic approach were

evident in the work of Alfred Adler and many of the early

existentialists. However, there was not a formalized

constructivist theory until the seminal work of George Kelly

and his publication of the text that laid the foundation for

constructivist approaches, The Psychology of Personal

Constructs: A Theory of Personality (Kelly, 1955).

Kelly's approach was a radical departure from the

prevailing theories of the day, most notably behaviorism and

psychoanalysis. Instead of seeing individuals as being

directed by external reinforcers or unconscious drives,

Kelly viewed people as teleologic scientists who actively

seek out an understanding of their environment through their

interaction with it. He coined the term "man as scientist"

(Kelly, 1955) to describe the experimental process by which

an individual formulates hypotheses in order to anticipate

events, and tests those hypotheses by examining the

outcomes. This examination leads to confirmation,

disconfirmation, or elaboration of one's hypotheses, and

allows the individual to construct a working theory of the

world which guides one's future actions.

An underlying assumption which is central to Kelly's

Personal Construct Psychology, and to constructivist

approaches in general, is that people access their

environment only through the interpretation of their

perceptions. Thus, people function based on their

interpretations of their perceptions of reality rather than

on reality itself. Since no one has direct access to a

concrete reality, constructivist psychologists do not

propose to correct faulty cognitions or teach correct ways

of thinking as cognitive psychologists might. Instead, they

focus their efforts toward gaining a fuller understanding of

an individual's hypotheses and anticipations about the

world, otherwise referred to as a person's construct system.

By developing an understanding of a person's construct

system, researchers and clinicians hope to understand how it


is that one functions in the world and to assist individuals

in their efforts to modify behaviors and emotions.

Kelly (1955) proposed that an individual's

constructs are organized in a hierarchical structure, with

some constructs being superordinate in the construct system.

These superordinate constructs would have greater

implications to the rest of the construct system than would

subordinate constructs, and thus, would be more meaningful

in the individual's interpretation of the world and the

self. It is usually with these more meaningful constructs

that psychotherapy clients require assistance during the

course of therapy (Epting, 1984). However, it is also these

more meaningful constructs that are most resistant to change

(Kelly, 1955; Leitner, 1984). Oftentimes, superordinate

constructs may be preverbal (Epting, 1984), and thus

difficult to identify and understand utilizing verbal tools.

Constructivists have long sought means of gathering

information about superordinate constructs. Hinkle (1966)

developed a technique, laddering, which continues to prove

useful in eliciting a string of constructs which extends

into superordinate constructions (Neimeyer, R., 1993).

Another approach has been to use questions about the

implications a construct has to how a person views the world

to elicit more meaningful constructs (Neimeyer, R., 1993).

These methods, as well as standard repertory grid

elicitation, are limited in that they depend on the

subject/client having a pre-existing verbal label for the

construct dimension being described, and thus, are limited

to constructs to which one already has a cognitive


Contemporary theorists in humanistic psychology

(Gendlin, 1996) and constructivist psychology (Greenberg &

Pascual-Leone, 1995, and Guidano, 1995 a) have called for

the utilization of experiential methods to the processes of

therapy and assessment. They argue that experiential

methods will allow subjects/clients to go beyond the level

of cognitive awareness they already possess and to verbalize

insights which they previously did not know how to


Eugene Gendlin speaks of looking past those answers of

which one is already aware, and using one's ability to

reflect upon the lived experience, of searching for a path

to guide one to the words that most accurately reflect the

lived experience (Gendlin, 1995). In attempting to describe

this experiential level of awareness and the struggle to

match it with words, Gendlin likens the process to the

experience of writing a poem. One may produce the first few

lines with little effort; but, at a point one struggles for

the correct words. Words come to the poet, but they are not

the right words. The poet knows that they are not the right

words, even though she does not know what the right words

are, because at an experiential level there is an awareness

that has not yet been verbalized. Upon finding the words

that fit the experiential knowledge, the poet feels a sense

of ease (Gendlin, 1995). After reflecting on Gendlin's

words, I pose the following query to myself: If I ask a

question to which a person is readily able to provide an

answer, have I helped that person learn more about himself?

Gendlin has developed a specific technique for

promoting the exploration and verbalization of experiential

awareness which he calls "Focusing" (Gendlin, 1969, 1971,

1983, 1996). Focusing is a technique which teaches the

individual to attend to emotional and physical responses in

conjunction with intellectual responses. In an earlier

publication I proposed applying Gendlin's Focusing technique

to Kelly's repertory grid procedure in an effort to elicit

more meaningful constructs (Epting, Probert, & Pittman,


In a subsequent study, I (Pittman, 1993) hypothesized

that utilizing the Focusing technique during the assessment

procedure of construct elicitation would lead to the

elicitation of more meaningful constructs and negate a well

established pattern for the level of meaningfulness to

decline across repeated trials (McDonagh & Adams-Webber,

1987). Constructs were elicited using an abbreviated form

of Focusing. The Focusing elicited constructs were compared

to constructs elicited by standard triadic elicitation and a

progressive relaxation elicitation.

I found marginal support for the negation of the

decline in meaningfulness, but the hypothesis that Focusing

would generate more meaningful constructs was not supported.

Analysis of the results appeared to indicate that sampling

error and an uncontrolled confound had an impact on the

analysis of the data and increased the probability of a Type

II error. The sampling error was evident in that the

results of the first elicitation were measured as markedly

less meaningful for the Focusing group than for the two

control groups, despite all three groups being subject to

identical conditions for the first elicitation.

The data from this initial study also produced an

unexpected result that appeared to add to the error

variance, thus increasing the probability of a Type II

error. This was evident in that the meaningfulness levels

of the experimental and control groups varied systematically

in a pattern that seemed to indicate that the stimuli used

for construct elicitation, various groups of three persons

the subject personally knew (triadic sorts), affected the

level of meaningfulness of the elicited construct. This was

an unexpected result and had not been the subject of

previous study. Subsequently, a colleague and I (Calbeck

and Pittman) have conducted a study to examine this effect

(noted in Chapter III and Appendix A).

Upon further reflection on the 1993 study, and upon

receiving further training in Focusing with Dr. Gendlin and

others at the Focusing Institute during the summer of 1993,

it was evident that the Focusing procedure would be more

likely to have an impact on the elicitation process if it

were taught on an individual basis, rather than in the group

format utilized in the previous study. Further

investigation was warranted into attempts to increase the

level of meaningfulness by using experiential methods,

specifically the Focusing procedure.

The results of the 1993 experiment (Pittman, 1993) and

the study regarding the effect various triadic sorts have on

the measured levels of meaningfulness of elicited constructs

were utilized to refine the experimental process. The

information garnered from the triadic sorts study was

utilized to reduce error variance in this study. I also

conducted the Focusing training and construct elicitation on

an individual basis and in a less structured manner in an

attempt to adhere more closely to Gendlin's presentation of

Focusing procedure and to maximize the effect of this

experiential intervention. The specific application of the

experiential techniques to repertory grid procedure may

prove valuable in that it may aid in the elicitation of more


meaningful or previously nonverbalized constructs. The

verbalization of one's experience is not only a process of

discovery (assessment), but is simultaneously a process of

elaboration as well. As such, it is a therapeutic process

in its own right. Should this experiment indicate that the

Focusing procedure does provide an avenue for gaining a

greater understanding of a person's more meaningful

constructs, it would support the current calls for more

experientially based therapeutic interventions and research,

and provide clinicians with evidence that experiential

methods, such as Focusing, can be valuable assessment and

therapeutic tools.


In this chapter I will review the literature which is

pertinent to the application of an experiential technique,

specifically a modified version of Eugene Gendlin's Focusing

technique, to the construct elicitation assessment process.

Initially, this review will give a brief overview of

philosophical positions regarding the relationship between

the mind and the body. There is then an overview of some of

the major body oriented psychotherapy approaches, primarily

Gestalt and Bioenergetics. I then provide a description of

Eugene Gendlin's experientially based approach to

psychotherapy, Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy, and the

Focusing procedure. The final three sections deal with

aspects of constructivism. I will discuss the nature of

preverbal constructs and the importance unverbalized

constructs play in psychotherapy. Next, there is a

discussion of construct meaningfulness and hierarchy, which

includes issues regarding the measurement of these

characteristics. The final literature review section

examines the call for a more experientially oriented

constructivist psychology. These somewhat diverse content

areas are brought together in order to provide a foundation

for the application of an experientially based intervention

to the repertory grid assessment procedure.

Physiological Aspects of Emotional Awareness

The physiologic reactions of clients to emotion have

played a role in psychotherapy since its inception. It was

the presentation of bodily symptoms which did not fit known

anatomical characteristics, such as glove anesthesia, which

first led the physician, Sigmund Freud, to explore a talking

cure. The nature of the relationship between the mind,

body, and psychological processes has been the subject of

philosophical debate since the time of Aristotle and Plato.

Each theory of psychology is predicated on its explanation

of the mind-body relationship. Two general camps of belief

are used to describe this relationship, dualism and monism.

Dualism, the belief in a distinct split between the

mind and the body, is based in Platonic thought. One

variation of dualism views the mind as the central feature

of humanity, with the body playing a secondary role (Leahy,

1987). This is the underlying philosophical position seen

in early psychodynamically oriented theories as well as

newer approaches, such as Psychobiological Psychotherapy

(Rossi, 1990). A divergent form of dualism, one based on

Cartesian philosophy, relegates consciousness to the realm

of epiphenomena and gives primacy to physiological

processes. This philosophy is at the root of motor

theories, such as Classical Behaviorism and Radical

Behaviorism (Leahy, 1987).

The monistic philosophical position, which can be

traced back to the teachings of Aristotle (Leahy, 1987),

views the body and mind as operating as an integrated

entity. In reflecting upon the draw of seeing human

existence dualistically versus monistically, George Kelly


what is mind can hardly be construed except
in ways that are intellectualizedd,' and what is
'body' can hardly be construed by him except in
ways that are 'mechanical.' He cannot construe
his facts comprehensively except as he goes back
to the earliest forms of preverbal thinking. Only
at that primitive level may we find that the
'mind' and the 'body' were not preemptively
separated. (Kelly, 1955, p.921)

The nineteenth and twentieth century existential

philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and

Merleau-Ponty strongly influenced modern monistic approaches

(Shaffer, 1978), including Existential psychotherapy,

Gestalt psychotherapy, and a wide array of humanistic

approaches. A consideration of physiological processes is

often incorporated into their approaches to psychotherapy.

A brief overview of various bodily oriented approaches may

provide a catalyst for the utilization of experiential


Gestalt Approaches

Gestalt approaches have been described as "supremely

experiential" in that the therapist places a strong emphasis

on the client's physiological reaction and focus on the

"moment-to-moment flow of awareness" (Shaffer, 1978, p.87).

Two concepts central to the practice of Gestalt therapy are

to help the client recognize and accept all of the various

aspects of oneself, and to take responsibility for oneself

and one's actions. Typically, a Gestalt therapist may

keenly observe a client's bodily reactions and direct the

client's attention to those reactions in order that the

reactions may become therapeutic vehicles. A Gestalt

therapist may direct a client to exaggerate a curled-up

posture or the tapping of a foot. The client and therapist

then explore the meaning behind the bodily reaction in

relation to issues being explored in the therapy session.

Gestalt therapists consider body movement to symbolize an

unconscious level of awareness (Shaffer, 1978).

Gestalt theorists differentiate between intelligent

awareness and psychophysical awareness. Kempler (1973)

notes that these two types of awareness are "distinctly

different and inseparable" (p. 259). He describes these

types of awareness as being unified at birth, but later

splitting as a result of the civilizing process and the

development of the ability to conceptualize. Kempler argues

that, once this splitting has occurred, a single event can

be experienced in two distinct ways. The individual may

have awareness on one level, and simultaneously have no

awareness on the other level. Kempler further notes that

intelligent awareness can modify or distort an experience

through the use of conceptual understanding, while

psychophysical awareness offers the experience in its

unmodified form. He contends that it is the aim of therapy

to help the client bring these levels of awareness into

correspondence with each other.

Gestalt Therapy responds to coordinated
psychophysical awareness and does not respect
intelligent awareness when it functions
independently. When they are separated, the
Gestalt therapist listens to intelligent awareness
with one ear while searching with the other for a
message from psychophysical awareness. Gestalt
Therapy talks to intelligent awareness as though
it were a messenger boy being instructed to return
to the company in which it works to deliver
information. Part of the work of Gestalt Therapy
is to coordinate intelligent and
psychophysiological awareness wherever they are
found alienated from one another. (Kempler, 1973,
p. 260)

More recent variations of the Gestalt approach, such as

Edward Smith's Embodied Psychotherapy (Smith, 1990), place

an even greater emphasis on developing physiological


Lowen's Bioenergetics

Alexander Lowen (1975), under the influence of his

mentor Wilhelm Reich, developed a therapeutic approach which

utilizes physiological awareness as a means to psychological

intervention. Reich proposed that emotional repression or

blockage is expressed as muscular tension, a phenomenon he

termed "character body armor," (Shaffer, 1978). Lowen went

on to propose that psychological change must be accompanied

by a change in the bodily experience, stating "unfortunately

information does not become knowledge unless it has

relevance to experience. We constantly overlook the fact

that experience is a bodily phenomenon. One only

experiences that which takes place in the body" (Lowen,

1975, p.62). Lowen viewed adults as functioning on two

levels simultaneously, one with physiologic awareness and

one with a psychic awareness (1975, p.142). He reported

that many of his patients complained of physical pain as

well as emotional discomfort. Lowen found that, by using

physical techniques to first accentuate then relieve the

physical pain, his patients would frequently become aware of

repressed emotional pain. This emotional pain was then

addressed by way of additional physical interventions as

well as more conventional verbal therapy. Lowen considered

the estrangement of the psychic and physiologic levels of


awareness to be a central obstacle to the patient's ability

to resolve life problems. While some therapists continue to

practice Bioenergetic therapy, other clinicians and

researchers have taken different approaches to bridging the

schism between psychic and physiologic awareness.

Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy

Humanistic theories have the common element of a belief

in an innate tendency for humans to grow and develop toward

higher, or healthier, functioning. Kelly argues that the

force for this growth, motivation, is an inherent aspect of

the human condition (Kelly 1955). With his Choice

Corollary, "A person chooses for himself that alternative in

a dichotomized construct through which he anticipates the

greater possibility for extension and definition of his

system" (Kelly, 1963, p. 64), Kelly provides an explanation

for the mechanism and direction of growth.

Eugene Gendlin argues that while not all human

processes necessarily lead to healthier functioning, there

is an innate and fundamental process by which growth and

development occur. He further points out that this process

must be trusted and that the therapist must not attempt to

impose values on the content of the individuals experience.

We do not need a metaphysical assumption that
human process always moves toward health. We do
not want sloppy optimism. With so much suffering
and destructiveness all around us, optimism is an
insult to those who suffer. But pessimism is an
insult to life. Life always has its own forward
direction, whatever else may also be occurring.
To follow or encourage a growth direction is
very different from promoting a set of values, an
idea of 'good' or 'bad.' Contents do not stay
static. What seems bad soon opens and alters what
we think is bad. Therefore good and bad must be
rethought just as all notions of content must be
Theory cannot direct the process we are
discussing because it has its own direction. But
theory (a new kind of theory) can find the
'direction' even though it is not definable in
terms of its content. (Gendlin, 1996, p.23)

Gendlin has developed an approach to a psychotherapy

which fosters and utilizes this growth direction. He has

referred to this approach as "Experiential Psychotherapy"

(Gendlin, 1969, 1973, 1978) and, more recently, as

"Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy" (Gendlin, 1996). His,

approach is deeply experiential and places strong emphasis

on awareness of the present and self-responsibility.

In the middle nineteen-sixties, Gendlin began

developing a psychotherapy and personal growth technique he

called "Focusing" (Gendlin, 1964, 1969, 1973, 1981, 1986,

1996). Focusing is designed to match verbal labels with a

person's experiential awareness of the moment.

Gendlin notes that most people have become disembodied

in their daily lives.


When thinking is cut off from the other kinds of
experience, it is called intellectualizingg' and
brings little psychological change. Most people
do not know that an experientially connected kind
of thinking is even possible. We have been taught
to think at a great distance from experience.
Even when we want to think about a specific
experience, we often leave our direct sense of it
behind, in order to think about it. As soon as we
have one thought about it, we think from that
thought to another and another, without ever
returning to the experience to see if our thoughts
do justice to it. (Gendlin, 1996, pp.240-41)

This intellectual knowing without experiencing limits one's

ability to take a fresh perspective or create a new way of

being. According to Gendlin, "experiencing is always more

intricate than concepts" (Gendlin, 1996, p.268). The lived

bodily experience goes beyond the language symbols people

have available for expressing thought. In an earlier work

where he discussed the philosophical aspects of meaning,

Gendlin stated, "meaning is formed in the interaction of

experiencing and something that functions symbolically.

Feeling without symbolization is blind; symbolization

without feeling is empty" (Gendlin, 1990, p.5).

Gendlin's approach relies on a level of awareness which

he calls a "felt sense," a level of consciousness where an

experience is available but not yet in conscious awareness.

What I am referring to is the layer of the
unconscious that is likely to come up next. This
is at first sensed somatically, not yet known or
opened, not yet in the 'preconscious.' Freud had
no term for this layer. Nor has there been a term
for it in the common language. We now call it a
'felt sense.' (Gendlin, 1996, p.19)

As a heretofore undefined entity, the felt sense

requires a great deal of explanation. The felt sense is a

level of awareness that goes beyond what is known

intellectually, and is more encompassing than the mere

experience of physical and emotional reactions.

Experience is often thought of as if it consisted
only of feelings, interactions, cognitions,
memories, actions, images, and so on. But is it
really divided into these neat little packages?
The felt sense is an experiential mesh that is
not divided. At the conscious-unconscious border
zone one senses the ongoing experiential process,
and it is always implicitly intricate. That means
it includes a whole range of images, feelings,
actions, and so on that have never happened as
such, but could come. (Gendlin 1996, p.174)

The felt sense is a total awareness which encompasses

what is known intellectually, felt physically, and

experienced emotionally; "A felt sense contains a maze of

meanings, a whole texture of facets, a Persian rug of

patterning--more than could be said or thought" (Gendlin,

1996, p.58). There are eight characteristics of a felt


1. A felt sense forms at the border zone between
conscious and unconscious.
2. The felt sense has at first only an unclear
quality (although unique and unmistakable).
3. The felt sense is experienced bodily.
4. The felt sense is experienced as a whole, a
single datum that is internally complex.
5. The felt sense moves through steps; it shifts
and opens step by step.
6. A step brings one closer to being that self
which is not any content.


7. The process step has its own growth direction.
8. Theoretical explanations of a step can be
devised only retrospectively. (Gendlin, 1996,

Most people do not look to the felt sense when

thinking about their experience. From Gendlin's

perspective, the ability to experience oneself in a lived,

bodily sense is crucial to psychological health and

psychotherapy; psychological maladjustment is "the loss of

touch with one's inward experience" (Gendlin, 1973, p.331).

Gendlin and his colleagues have reported several

studies which indicate that the degree to which one is able

to experience the therapeutic process on a "whole body"

level, versus a "cognitive only" level, and to work on the

edge of what is known and unknown, is highly associated

with the degree of success one will experience in therapy

(Gendlin 1969, 1973, 1996; Mathieu-Coughlan & Klein, 1984).

This ability to experience one's state of felt existence

was found to be a strong predictor of therapeutic outcome;

the more able one is to experience this felt existence and

explore the edge of one's awareness of meaning, the more

likely one is to have a successful therapeutic outcome.

In its most basic form, Focusing-Oriented Therapy

relies on the following process: The client is taught

Focusing and develops or enhances an ability to experience

a present holistic awareness. This awareness leads to more

authentic living, and authentic living is the goal of

Focusing-Oriented psychotherapy.

Focusing is a method of inquiry of one's bodily sense

in order to gain further understanding and articulate what

is going on in one's life. Gendlin notes that when he uses

the word "body," he means the body "as sensed from inside"

(Gendlin, 1996, p.181). He contends that people utilize

body based knowing daily without bringing bodily knowing

into consciousness.

Your body feels the complexity of each situation,
and enacts much of what you do all day without
your needing to think about each move. What you
think is of course important, but you can think of
only a few things at one time. It is your body
that totals up the whole situation and comes up
with appropriate actions most of the time. Human
bodies live immediately and directly in each
situation. (Gendlin, 1996, p.181)

In order to develop and capitalize on this body based

awareness, Gendlin teaches his clients the Focusing

procedure. Once a client has learned the Focusing

procedure, the procedure can be used as a self-

awareness/personal growth exercise or be used as a

technique to aid in psychotherapy. Once a client is

skilled at Focusing, the client may choose to utilize only

selected steps of the procedure for any given experience.

Ideally, a person who has learned Focusing will utilize a

Focusing approach daily to enhance awareness of one's



Focusing is a six "movement" procedure. The following

is a summary of the movements and their instructions:

First Movement: Clearing a space.

The client may be instructed to, "Ask yourself, 'How

do I feel? Why don't I feel wonderful right now? What is

bugging me on this particular day?" The client is then

instructed to "Stay quiet. Listen. Let what comes come,"

and to passively let any and all currently troublesome

issues to accumulate on a list without giving priority to

any particular one. The client does this in a detached

manner until one feels that the troublesome thoughts are

all listed. An alternative approach that is highly

effective, but somewhat startling, is to have the client

say, "Everything in my life is perfect just the way it is,"

and observe all of the thoughts that arise about those

things that are not perfect.

The focusing client is then asked to "step back"

emotionally from the troublesome thoughts, acknowledging

that the thoughts are concerns, but giving oneself

permission not to be concerned about these things right

now. The "clearing a space" step is complete when the

focuser can comfortably say, "except for those, I am fine."

Second Movement: Felt sense of the problem.

The client chooses a concern or feeling to focus on,

and then asks oneself, "What does this whole thing feel


like?" The most difficult part of this movement is getting

past the details, self-talk, and attempts at figuring out

an answer to the problem. One must "stand back" from

trying to solve the problem and just observe until getting

a sense of "what does this whole thing feel like?". It is

important that one is able to gain a safe distance from the

problem so as to not be overwhelmed by it and to be able to

observe it. Gendlin notes that a felt sense "will have a

certain bodily quality, such as, jumpy, heavy, sticky,

jittery, or tight. At times the bodily quality might best

be described in words that are also the names of emotions,

for example scared, shameful, or guilty" (1996, p.59). A

felt sense is not just a bodily sensation, but is a bodily

felt awareness about something. Gendlin explains that even

though a felt sense might be best described by the names of

emotions, the felt sense is not the same as an emotion.

The felt sense conveys much more than an emotion.

The first and main difference between an emotion
and a felt sense is that an emotion is
recognizable. We usually know just what emotion
we have. When we are angry, sad, or joyful we not
only feel it but we know what it is. But with a
felt sense we say, 'I can feel it, right there,
but I don't know what it is.' A felt sense has
its own meaning, but it is usually more intricate
than we can express with the usual phrases and
categories. (p.58)

Third Movement: Finding a handle.

The task during this movement is to find a word or

image, a "handle," which will capture the quality of the


felt sense. The goal is to translate the experience of the

awareness provided by the felt sense into a symbol (verbal,

visual, auditory) that will capture the essence of that

experience. What one is after is the "core" of the felt

sense, the crux of "all that" which is contained in the

felt sense. Gendlin likens the "handle" of a felt sense to

a more familiar object, "As with the handle of a suitcase,

which brings with it the whole weight of the suitcase, the

whole weight of the felt sense is brought forward by that

one word or phrase when one repeats it to oneself"

(Gendlin, 1996, p.48). As words or other types of symbols

come up, the felt sense might start to change. It may feel

different than expected, different from anything that might

have arisen from rational analysis. When the felt sense

changes, when there is a slight bodily shift, one has found

a "handle" for the felt sense.

Fourth Movement: Resonating between the handle and the

felt sense.

In this movement, one checks the "fit" between the

word label and the felt sense. Either or both may shift

during this process until they feel just right together.

To do this, one must maintain contact with the bodily felt

sense, and not let it go as soon as a verbal label is

found. Once the match between the felt sense and the word

are just right, one pauses for a minute or two to allow the

body to adjust to this new awareness.

Fifth Movement: Asking.

While patiently staying in touch with the felt sense,

one now asks the felt sense for a fuller understanding of

the problem. The following questions have been found to be

helpful--"What is it about this whole problem that makes me

so ?", "What is the worst of this?", or "What would

it take for this to feel OK?". If the felt sense provides

an answer which leads to a deeper understanding, there will

also be a shift in the bodily felt sense which feels good.

Sixth Movement: Receiving.

The awareness or message that arises from the focusing

exercise is welcomed, no matter what it is. If one takes

a "receiving" attitude, welcoming anything that comes with

the body shift yet staying a little distance away from it,

one will not be overwhelmed by the message. The result of

any Focusing is to be considered a starting point for

further exploration, not as a definitive answer which

precludes further exploration (Gendlin, 1981, pp. 52 61).

These movements constitute the basic components of

Focusing. After one learns the process, Focusing can

proceed as a continuous flow of awareness, openness, and

moving forward into new awareness. Once a client is

familiar with Focusing, it can be utilized in conjunction

with practically any other therapeutic technique.

What can be achieved through these Focusing steps is

that one can tap into a greater level of awareness than is

available at a purely cognitive level, and by capturing

this awareness in words or other symbols, can bring this

awareness to the cognitive level. Doing so not only

changes one's cognitive awareness, but also changes the way

the issue is experienced on a bodily felt level. Gendlin

refers to Focusing as "a conversation between the felt

sense and the cognitive side" (1996, p. 238). He contends

that cognition is only one level of many levels of

organizing performed in the human experience.

Once a symbolic handle has been found for the felt

sense and there has been a shift in the awareness and

experience, the person has been carried forward in the

direction of growth. This carrying forward allows for

different subsequent experiences and fuller awareness.

For Gendlin (1996), pathology occurs when an

individual is blocked from being carried forward toward

further experiencing. This is similar to Kelly's (1955)

notion that the key to healthy psychological functioning is

to continue to revise one's construct by means of lived

experimentation. One aspect of Gendlin's approach that is

particularly ripe for further experiencing and continuing

revision of one's view of oneself in the world is that it

invites unpredictability in the lived experience.

Focusing is both an active and a passive endeavor

simultaneously. While one very actively attends to the

felt sense, one does not attempt to direct the path of this

process. That the person Focusing allows whatever

experience and awareness that presents itself to arise

provides an opportunity for unexpected insights and

understandings to present themselves. In this situation,

the individual's potential for growth and resolution of

problem areas can meet with novel concepts which have not

been channelized by prior attempts to resolve the problem.

It is this openness to novel and unexpected facets of

awareness coupled with utilization of the felt sense that

makes Gendlin's approach unique and an exciting prospect

for further application. In his earlier work (1969, 1981)

Gendlin emphasized the step by step mechanics of teaching

the Focusing procedure. He later applied Focusing to dream

interpretation (Gendlin, 1986). In his most recent book

(Gendlin, 1996), Gendlin places less emphasis on the

mechanics of Focusing, and instead emphasizes reliance on

the felt sense and an openness to new experience as a

fundamental approach which can be utilized in a wide

variety of therapeutic approaches.

In 1984, Epting (p.19) suggested that it may be

fruitful for Constructivists to adopt Gendlin's Focusing

technique as a means to gain greater access to poorly

articulated or unarticulated constructs. Greenberg and

Pascaul-Leone (1995) have recently reissued this call to

use the felt sense to gain a fuller understanding of

constructs. Bradford, in discussing Gendlin's experiential

approach to psychotherapy, points out that fundamental to

Gendlin's approach is ". the insight that words and

concepts emerge from a preconceptual dimension of embodied

feeling;" a dimension which is seen as being "primordial to

any theoretical vocabulary" (Bradford, 1989, p. 242).

Perhaps using the felt sense and an experiential approach

can provide a valuable tool for constructivists' use in

therapy and assessment. Such an approach may provide

access to preverbal and/or superordinate constructs in a

way that will promote greater extension and definition of

an individual's construct system.

Preverbal Constructs

George Kelly proposed that much of one's construct

system is comprised of constructs which have no consistent

word symbol, or "preverbal constructs" (Kelly, 1955, pp.

459-61). And, that even when a construct does have a

verbal label, the verbalization is only a cognitive symbol

of the construct and not the construct itself. Kelly

(1955, p.565) argued that constructs which are preverbal

may have been devised prior to the individual developing a

command of speech, or may have been devised before the

capacity for verbal symbolization was present. Expanding

on this concept, Epting (1984, p.18) contends that

preverbal constructs may be loosely formulated, new, or may

have been formulated prior to the person having command of

the use of verbal symbolization.

Mahoney (Neimeyer, R. and Mahoney, M., 1995) speaks of

"powerful and mostly nonlinguistic processes of human self-

organization," which he and others have termed "Core

Ordering Processes." These core ordering processes

function in a manner which "render perceptual and

experiential order itself and, hence, pattern, meaning, and

experienced reality. ." (Neimeyer, R. and Mahoney, M.,

1995, p. 403). It is these core, and often preverbal,

constructs which hold particular interest in the pursuit of

therapeutic intervention and/or gaining an academic

understanding of human personality and change processes.

For the most part, the material dealt with in
psychotherapy will center around what is termed
role governing core. These are the subset of core
constructs which deal with the way we relate to
others through establishing role relationships
with them. Much of the material here, however may
not be well verbalized owing to the early age at
which it was established. Eptrir,, 1984, p. 47)

Developing an awareness and understanding of these

core constructs is crucial in the development of a role

relationship in which the therapist can subsume the

construct system and gain an understanding of the client's

construction of experience. Bringing these core constructs

to a level of awareness to which they can be symbolically

represented by words, and thus communicated, can be a key

component of the therapeutic process.

change usually starts at the preverbal level
and the client later becomes articulate in the
therapy room There is frequently however a
great deal of grappling with the material at a
preverbal level before the client can grasp what
is going on at the verbal level and thereby truly
encounter the change that is taking place.
(Epting, 1984, pp. 111-112)

R. Neimeyer (1995), Liotti (1987), and others note

that the classic view of resistance as being a maladaptive

barrier to therapeutic change is not the view held by

constructivists; instead, constructivists understand

"resistance" as the client's attempt to maintain one's core

constructs in an effort to maintain the sense of self.

Maintaining the core constructs allows the individual to

experience a consistency throughout a wide variety of lived

experiences and allows the person to utilize a multitude of

past experiences in anticipating future perceptions of


From a constructivist perspective, the interpretation

of new events, the development of new meanings, and the

evolving sense of who one is in the world is built on the

foundation of one's core constructs. Many of these core

constructs are likely to be composed of constructs formed

early in the developmental process and are likely to be

preverbal. Given that one sees the world through the

lenses of one's own construct system, and that each new

construct is developed through the perspective of the

already existing system, it is vital that a therapist gain

an understanding of this foundation which is so resistant

to change, rather than to simply try to impart a "better"

way of being. Even if a clinician were to "succeed" at

breaking through the resistance and invalidating a

problematic means of thinking about the world, such an

imposed dismantling of the core constructs would be likely

to throw the client into a phenomenological chaos. This

underscores the importance of the therapist becoming

familiar with and respecting the core of a client's

construct system before attempting to facilitate

substantive change.

As of yet, constructivists continue to struggle to

gain access to core constructs and little has been done to

specifically address those constructs which may be

preverbal (Neimeyer, R., 1993). The frustration of not

being able to access the core of the construct system

during the therapeutic process is demonstrated by a

personal journal passage quoted by Robert Neimeyer

(Neimeyer, R., 1995, p.232) in which his client "Mandy"

described her experience of completing a repertory grid:

The result of my reptest .I am disappointed.
Reflected is my superficial public self; I could
not tap my inner core. As I write this I sense an
enmeshment with that inner being the self I
have much to learn from. In public, I am
separated from it I hide from myself. As I
completed the grid in group my inner self begged
for more time for a safe place to think and

feel I had none at that moment. I am left
with what I know; the grid reflected only what I
fed it. I contemplate the separateness of my
being. What does it feel like to be whole?
(Something in this line has moved me to tears).

Neimeyer went on to cite Yorke's observation that perhaps

"it is difficult for meaning to pass through the linguistic

constrictions of the grid matrix" (Yorke, 1989, p.65).

In a prior publication, R. Neimeyer presented the use

of the stream of conscious technique, an approach similar to

Freudian free association, as a means to access more

meaningful constructs. In his depiction of a therapy

session with "Joan P.," his application of "stream of

conscious" is strikingly similar to aspects of Gendlin's

Focusing procedure:

.We then used some progressive muscle
relaxation techniques to induce the streaming
state, after which I quietly invited her to begin
sharing whatever came to her awareness whenever
she was ready to do so. Over several minutes,
Joan began by associating first to relationships,
then to Gene, then to a strong feeling of anger,
and then to a 'knot' in her stomach, at which
point she paused. I encouraged her simply to
repeat the word knot aloud several times. As she
did this, she seemed to become more angry, tensing
her fists and feet until she suddenly fell silent.
She expressed the feeling of being 'stuck in the
knot' and unable to enter it further. I then
suggested that she simply allow her mind to wander
once again to whatever drew her attention. She
relaxed for a moment and then associated to
Colorado, horses, riding horses, feeling free,
wanting to be free, experiencing herself as not
free, imagining herself behind bars, and then
returning to anger. .. (Neimeyer, R., 1993,
pp. 93)

Clearly, Neimeyer's creating a calm environment through

relaxation, then directing Joan P. to transition between the

felt experience of a knot in her stomach to the use of the

word "knot," to allow her mind to "wander," accepting

various, seemingly unrelated associations, runs parallel to

the Focusing movements of Clearing a Space, Felt Sense of

the Problem, Finding a Handle, and Resonating.

Neimeyer's depiction of this intervention continued

with aspects that led to cognitively incorporating this

experience into a fuller understanding of the self. This

passage bears striking similarity to the Focusing steps of

Asking, and Receiving.

We noted the compelling contrast of her image of
herself as locked behind bars versus riding freely
on a horse, which seemed to represent a powerful
preverbal construct for her. We also described
the tightness of the knot and her sense of being
entrapped within it. She remarked that a part of
her was screaming to get out of this prison and
commented that this may have been the part of her
that wanted to live. She contrasted this with the
part of her that felt trapped, suffering, and
wanted to die. Thus our first use of streaming in
therapy seemed to yield useful understanding of
the constructions that she continued to attach to
the incest experience .. (Neimeyer, R., 1993,
pp. 93-4)

This therapeutic episode demonstrates that an intervention

similar to Focusing can serve as a powerful tool in gaining

access to preverbal constructs and fostering therapeutic

insight into levels of meaning previously hidden from

cognitive awareness.

Construct Meaningfulness and Superordination

In presenting his Theory of Personal Constructs, Kelly

proposed that construct systems are organized in

hierarchical systems of superordinate and subordinate


Organization Corollary: Each person character-
istically evolves for his convenience in
anticipating events, a construction system
embracing ordinal relationships between
constructs. (Kelly, 1963, p.56)

Kelly described this ordinal relationship as functioning in

a system "composed of complementary superordinate and

subordinate relationships" (Kelly, 1963, p.68). At the

highest levels of this hierarchy are the core constructs

". which govern a person's maintenance processes, .

those by which he maintains his identity and existence"

(Kelly, 1955, p.482). Landfield (1977) notes that the more

superordinate a construct is, the more wide ranging are its

implications to, and its meaningfulness in, one's processes

of anticipating future events.

Constructivists have long sought to gain an

understanding of hierarchical ordination and the associated

levels of meaningfulness of construct systems. In his 1993

article, Constructivist Approaches to the Measurement of

Meaning, R. Neimeyer (1993) reviewed several techniques

available to clinicians for gaining a better understanding

of a client's construct contents and organization. However,


no single measure has yet been developed which can be viewed

as the definitive measure of construct ordination and/or


As I reported in a previous study (Pittman, 1993), one

factor that causes some confusion in this area of study is

the lack of clarity regarding the concepts of meaningfulness

and superordination.

The terms "meaningfulness" and superordinationn"
have been used interchangeably to describe one
aspect of personal constructs, when they actually
describe two separate aspects. In Personal
Construct Theory, the term "meaningfulness" is a
functional characteristic which denotes the degree
of implication a construct has on the rest of the
personal construct system; the term
superordinationn" denotes a structural
characteristic of one's personal construct system.
Although these terms have been used
interchangeably, they are not synonymous. The
current state of the research in this area has not
yet provided methods for separating these two
factors; it is assumed that they are very highly
correlated and when one studies meaningfulness, by
implication one is studying superordination, and
vice-versa. (Pittman, 1993, p.24)

Liotti considered the functional and organizational aspects

to represent "two sides of the same coin" (Liotti, 1987,

p.92). Thus, for the purpose of the current study, measures

of ordination will be assumed to imply meaningfulness, and

measures of meaningfulness will be assumed to imply


One of the few studies to directly compare measures of

ordination/meaningfulness was conducted by Metzler and G.

Neimeyer (1988). They compared six different measures of

ordination applied to vocational hierarchies. Metzler and

G. Neimeyer reported that Cochran's Implicit Measure and a

Total Variance measure accounted for the most variance among

the measures of ordination in their study of vocational

hierarchies. The Implicit Measure was produced by the level

of correlation between ratings of provided vocational

constructs and a rank ordering of vocational preferences.

These measures were followed by Explicit (a subject

generated rank ordering) and the Extremity score. Metzler

and G. Neimeyer concluded that the Implicit measure and

Total Variance measures are the best omnibus measures of

ordination. They cautioned however that these various

methods may measure different facets of construct

ordination; thus they advise the utilization of multiple


As I have noted previously (Pittman, 1993), the two

strongest measures identified by Metzler and G. Neimeyer,

Implicit and Total Variance, are measures which are

dependent upon the constructs being measured falling within

a unidimensional system, such as vocational choices.

However, when constructs are elicited without being

artificially limited to a unidimensional construct

subsystem, there is a strong likelihood that the elicited

constructs will have a low degree of intercorrelation. This

is predicted by Kelly's Fragmentation Corollary: "A person

may successively employ a variety of construction subsystems

which are inferentially incompatible with each other"

(Kelly, 1963, p.83). Thus it follows that the Implicit and

Total Variance measures are not appropriate measures of

superordination/meaningfulness when the construct system

being examined is multidimensional, as is the case when

constructs are not limited to a given topic.

It can also be argued that the Explicit rating, which

is a subject generated rank-ordering according to importance

or meaningfulness, does not adequately accommodate the multi

dimensionality of unfettered construct elicitation. The act

of rank ordering imposes a linear relationship with one

construct, by definition being either more or less

meaningful than the other elicited constructs. However,

with the multi dimensionality predicted by the Fragmentation

Corollary, one could have multiple constructs at similar

levels of superordination which would have no direct

relationship upon one-another. Therefore, it would seem

reasonable to modify the Explicit measure in such a way that

the individual can subjectively rate the level of

importance/meaningfulness and accommodate the multi-

dimensionality of one's construct system. It appears that a

Likert type rating which does not force the ratings into a

linear arrangement would accomplish this task.

The third measure noted by Metzler and G. Neimeyer,

extremity, was first reported by Landfield (1965, 1968). He

found that when subjects are asked to rate persons

(elements) as to the degree they are like either end of a

bipolar construct (e.g., happy sad), they tend to make

their ratings more toward the extreme ends of the scale if

the construct is a more meaningful construct in their

construct system. Mancuso and Eimer (1982) proposed the

following explanation for this pattern:

.when a judge uses a construct as a bipolar
rating scale ne would think of the extreme ends of
the constructs as the location of the prototype.
.we would expect that the familiar persons
might be prototypical persons. Thus, in this
case, as in other studies of meaningfulness and
range, one could conclude that meaningfulness is
associated with the availability of prototypes.
If the features that define a construct are
clearly organized in the judge's system, he will
be more likely to have available a prototype
against which to contrast the range of events that
might be proximate to that prototype. (p.147)

The extremity of one's ratings on a construct is measured

by the absolute value of the deviations of the ratings

from the midpoint of the scale (Mitterer & Adams-Webber,

1988). By simultaneously using the extremity of ratings

and a Likert type importance-rating of construct

meaningfulness, one should be able to obtain an indication

of subjects' construct system ordination. That is to say,

these measures should give an indication as to the level

of construct meaningfulness represented in the particular

sample of constructs elicited from the participants.

An additional feature that has been noted in studies

of construct meaningfulness is that constructs that are

elicited early in the repertory grid procedure tend to be


rated as more meaningful and have higher extremity scores

than constructs elicited late in the elicitation process.

McDonagh and Adams-Webber (1987) found that constructs

elicited early in a repertory grid elicitation tend to be

more meaningful and have greater implications than

constructs elicited toward the end of the procedure.

Arguments for an Experiential Constructivism

In the recently published Constructivism in

Psychotherapy (R. Neimeyer & M. Mahoney, Eds., 1995), there

are multiple calls by various authors to take

constructivist psychology toward a more experiential

direction. However, there has always been an interest in

the role that experience plays in construction processes;

as Feixas notes (1995, p. 315), "For Kelly (1955), the

process of experience was an intrinsic part of being human,

and, therefore, he was not concerned with explaining its

causes and motives the why. Rather, he proposed to

consider this very process as the most fundamental

mechanism of change and evolution."

Despite Kelly's early acknowledgment of the primacy of

experience, constructivists' embrace of the role moment-to-

moment experience plays in psychological processes is

today, some forty years later, still in its infancy. In

discussing the future of constructivism, Mahoney writes,

One of the most difficult challenges facing the
constructivist counselor involves the act of
practicing psychotherapy in a way that respects
what Hayek(1978) has termed 'the primacy of the
abstract' that is, the extent to which the most
basic and important human processes of organizing
our moment-to-moment experience operate at levels
far beyond what we consider conscious awareness.
(Mahoney, 1995 a, p.389)

It is this challenge which contemporary theorists are

beginning to address.

There is a growing recognition of the validity of

alternate forms of knowledge and/or awareness that are not

part and parcel of language based cognitive awareness. R.

Neimeyer comments, ". human affective experience is

infused with significance and can itself be viewed as a

refined form of knowing" (1995 c, p.2). The difficulty lies

in being able to work with this alternate level of awareness

in a therapeutic venue given the difficulty of translating

this lived experience into the verbal commerce of cognitive

interchange and therapeutic interventions, ". human

beings are denied any direct access to an immediate reality

beyond language, defined broadly as the entire repertory of

symbolic utterances and actions afforded us by our culture

. ." (R. Neimeyer, 1995 a, p.15). R. Neimeyer (1995 a,

p.18) goes on to proclaim that this struggle to translate

clients' difficulties into symbolic communication is at the

core of the therapeutic endeavor, "Ultimately, the aim of

therapy is to create a personal and interpersonal atmosphere

in which presenting problems can be reformulated and

resolved in language and in which clients can recruit social

validation for new, less 'problem-saturated' identities."

Various authors (Mahoney, 1995 b; Guidano, 1995 a & b;

Greenberg & Pascual-Leone, 1995) propose that the

development of strategies to enhance phenomenological

awareness and subsequent symbolization of that awareness may

provide an avenue to more effective psychological

interventions. In his discussion of the future directions

and challenges of constructivist therapies, Mahoney cites as

an area for further development, "Issues of embodiment the

bodily context that affords all forms of experiencing will

become increasingly central to therapeutic relevance; that

is, embodied therapies will fare better than those therapies

that are relatively disembodied ." (Mahoney, 1995 b,


Guidano argues that constructivists need to make a

concerted effort with their clients to develop skills to

become more aware of their moment-to-moment experiences.

Self-observation provides the raw materials that
are necessary in the attempted reconstruction of
events of therapeutic interest, working at the
interface between immediate experiencing and
symbolic explaining. It permits the exploration
and analysis of three levels of processing:
immediate awareness, mediated explanations, and
the dynamic and ever-developing relationship
between these basic contrasts. (Guidano, 1995 a,

Guidano argues for the primacy of experience as being

the means by which persons perceive being in their

environment. As such, experiential awareness is not subject

to error; rather errors in knowledge occur only in the

translation of these experiences into cognitive symbolism.

Human experience, therefore, appears as the
emerging product of a process of mutual regulation
continuously alternating between experiencing and
explaining that is, a process in which ongoing
patterns of activity (immediate experience) become
subject to linguistic distinctions and are
reordered in terms of symbolic propositions
distributed across conceptual networks. .
affective-emotional activity corresponds to and
depends on immediate and irrefutable apprehensions
of the world. Hence, from a purely ontological
point of view, feelings can never be "mistaken."
It is through feelings that we experience our way
of being in the world. At the level of
immediate experiencing, it is not possible to
distinguish between perception and illusion. .
Only by shifting to the level of "languaging" can
the individual explain the felt experience in a
variety of alternative manners, such as its having
been a trick of light or an illusion, thereby
making the experience consistent with his or her
current appraisal of the world. In other words,
errors can be noticed only a posteriori (after the
experience) and depend on the point of view that
we, as observers, take in reordering our
experiencing. All rational-cognitive reordering
involves expanding the coherence of symbolic rules
to make the flow of immediate experience more
consistent with the continuity of one's current
appraisal of the world.
Rather than representing an already given
reality according to a logic of external
correspondence, knowledge is the continuous
construction and reconstruction of a world by the
ordering individual in an attempt to make ongoing
experiences consistent. (Guidano, 1995 a, p.95)

It is that crucial interchange between immediate

experiencing and explicit verbalization that is fecund for

revision of one's construct system (Guidano, 1995 b).

Guidano proposes that the basic procedure for assisting

clients with construct revisions "consists of training

clients, through methods of self-observation, to

differentiate between immediate self-perception and

conscious beliefs and attitudes, and then to reconstruct the

patterns of coherence that they use to maintain consistency

with their feelings" (Guidano, 1995 b, p.102).

This task requires concerted effort given that

experiential awareness can exist "in consciousness

independently of cognition" (Guidano, 1995 b, p.102). And,

when the immediate experience is not translated into

symbolic cognitions, it is realized as physiologic

manifestations (Guidano, 1995 b). These physiologic

manifestations may not be comprehended as an element of

knowledge about one's being in the world, but may instead be

interpreted as "an externally bound perturbation to the

extent that it does not fit with the range of decodability

allowed by his or her current patterns of coherence"

(Guidano, 1995 b, p.104).

This attempt to integrate the dynamic interplay of

phenomenological and cognitive knowing into the

understanding of psychological process dictates the

modification of models of thinking in general, and of

construct generation/elaboration in particular. Greenberg

and Pascual-Leone amend the definition of "meaning" to

incorporate this phenomenological-cognitive interplay.

Meaning, we argue is neither simply imposed on
experience by language nor wholly contained in
experience but, rather, is generated by a
dialectical construction. This construction is

continually guided by an implicit 'felt sense'
(Gendlin, 1964), which itself results from an
automatic, dynamic synthesis of the individual's
internal complexity A crucial part of the
meaning-making process, however, is the making of
linguistic distinctions to express this implicit
bodily felt sense of meaning. Experience is not
simply 'in' us, fully formed; rather, we need to
put words to our feeling to bring them to full
awareness. (Greenberg & Pascual-Leone, 1995,

As noted by Greenberg and Pascual-Leone in the above

statement, Eugene Gendlin's work provides a vehicle to

pursue an understanding of the dialectical interplay between

phenomenology and symbolic cognition.

Rationale for the Present Study

It appears that one of the prime areas for exploration

in constructivist theory is the study and development of

experiential approaches to psychotherapy and assessment.

The work of prior body oriented clinicians, such as

practitioners of Gestalt and Bioenergetics approaches, has

demonstrated that working with clients on a body experience

level can produce significant psychotherapeutic results.

Gendlin's Focusing Oriented approach to psychotherapy

provides a means to teach clients or research participants

to attend to their body and emotional experience, to combine

that experience with cognitive awareness, and to translate

the sum of the experiential awareness and cognitive

awareness into language. Translating awareness into

language provides a vehicle for clients and clinicians to

communicate and explore the construct system one uses to

anticipate life events. By providing such a vehicle,

Gendlin's Focusing technique may lead to more fully

elaborated constructs in the assessment process and may hold

broad implications for construct system revision in


Specifically, this experiment is designed to test if

using a modified form of the Focusing procedure will enable

experiment participants to access a more experientially

informed level of awareness of their personal constructs.

Will using a Focusing elicitation procedure cause clients to

produce more meaningful constructs on a repertory grid

assessment instrument? If so, then the increased

meaningfulness should be reflected in the meaningfulness

measures, extremity and importance rating, that the

participants indicate on their grid forms. Additionally,

since Focusing tends to lead to progressively higher levels

of awareness, participants may be likely to produce more

meaningful constructs in latter trials, instead of the more

typical pattern of producing less meaningful constructs in

latter trials.


Hypothesis 1: Using the Focusing procedure during construct

elicitation yields constructs that are more meaningful than

constructs elicited using standard elicitation procedures.

This would result in subjects' ratings across multiple

trials on the repertory grids to reflect higher ratings of

meaningfulness and higher extremity scores, on average, for

subjects using an experiential approach to construct

elicitation than for subjects using standard,

nonexperiential, elicitation procedures.

Null Hypothesis: There is no significant difference in

participants' measures of meaningfulness between constructs

elicited using an experiential procedure and constructs

elicited using standard, nonexperiential, elicitations.

Hypothesis 2: Given the progressive nature of Focusing,

constructs elicited by using Focusing will tend to be rated

as more meaningful in later elicitations than in earlier

elicitations. This would result in subjects' importance-

ratings and extremity scores on the repertory grids

indicating, on average, that meaningfulness of elicited

constructs increases across trials for the Focusing group,

while a decline in meaningfulness across trials will be

noted for the control groups.


Null Hypothesis: There is no significant difference in

patterns of meaningfulness across trials noted between the

Focusing and Control groups.


Preliminary Study

A separate preliminary study (conducted by Kaia Calbeck

and Stephen Pittman) was conducted to investigate the

variance in levels of meaningfulness which may be associated

with the triadic sorts, groupings of three persons the

individual personally knows, used in construct elicitation

during the repertory grid procedure. The results of the

preliminary study have not been published.

Seventy University of Florida undergraduates (52

females and 18 males) completed repertory grids which

contained 20 role descriptions of persons known to the

subject (e.g., closest same gender friend). The persons

named by the participants as fitting these role descriptors

were then used as elements in the repertory grid. The 20

elements were grouped into 4 types of triadic sorts: triads

in which one element was "self;" triads in which at least

one element was "family;" triads containing "self and

family;" and "other" (triads containing neither "self" nor

"family"). (Note: The triadic sort "types" component of


the study was conducted to investigate factors not directly

related to the present study). Twenty triadic sorts were

presented in a systematically varied order.

After the constructs were elicited and ratings

completed, arithmetic means were calculated for two measures

of meaningfulness, extremity and a rank-ordering score

(ordering the constructs from most meaningful to least

meaningful). There were no significant differences in

extremity scores noted for types of triadic sorts, but on

the rank-ordering measure, the "other" (containing neither

self nor family) triadic sorts were ranked significantly

lower (more meaningful) than any of the remaining three

types of sorts. The means of these measures are presented

in Appendix A.

In an effort to reduce the error variance attributed to

the triadic sorts in the Pittman 1993 study, a sample of

twelve triadic sorts which produced similar levels of

meaningfulness measures were selected for use in the

repertory grid for the present study. Triadic sorts which

fell within one standard deviation of the mean on both the

extremity and rank order dependent variables were selected.

This selection process produced nine triadic sorts. Since

twelve trials were desired (to allow for evidence in an

increase or decrease in meaningfulness across trials), three

additional triadic sorts were selected which were within

0.25 standard deviations of the mean on either one of the

two measures. A total of twelve triadic sorts were

selected, which were comprised of seventeen different role



For the present study, forty-two undergraduate General

Psychology students were drawn from the University of

Florida Psychology subject pool. Half of the participants

were females, and half were males. Equal numbers of males

and females participated in each experimental condition.

Students who participated in the experiment received credit

toward completion of class requirements for their General

Psychology course. There was no other compensation.

Participants were unaware of the nature of the experiment

when signing up to participate.


Each participant was provided with the following: one

repertory grid (Appendix B) and one pen. The experimenter

showed the subject a construct meaningfulness rating scale

(Appendix C).

Repertory grid

The grid for the current experiment consists of a

vertical listing of seventeen roles (e.g., "closest same

gender friend") to which each subject assigns the name of

someone the subject personally knows who fits that

particular role. The names of the persons fitting the role

titles comprise the elements of the repertory grid.

Accompanying the listing of roles are twelve pages; at the

top of each page is a triadic sort identifying three of the

elements and lines on the left and right side for the

subject to write both poles of a construct. Each page also

depicts seventeen Likert type scales (one for each element).

The scales have twelve points and appear as follows:

6 5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5 6.

See Appendix B for the repertory grid instrument.

This instrument was utilized to elicit bi-polar

constructs and to gather measures of meaningfulness for the

elicited constructs.

Measures of Meaningfulness

Importance Rating Score.

The participants were asked to rate each of the

constructs on a scale of 1-12 according to "how meaningful

or how important" each construct is in their system of

understanding themselves and others. Participants were

shown a construct importance rating scale as a visual aid

(see Appendix C). A rating of "1" denotes a minimally

important/meaningful construct, and a "12" denotes a very

important/meaningful construct. This measure differs from

the rank-order "self-rating" measure used in the pilot study

in that a rank-order measure assumes a linear relationship

in the level of meaningfulness between constructs, whereas

this independent rating of meaningfulness does not require

such an assumption. Twelve rating points were available in

order to allow the participants to rate the 12 constructs in

a linear fashion if they so chose. Additionally, a rank

order variable, being an ordinal variable, does not allow

the use of parametric statistics for analysis, whereas the

Likert type rating used in this experiment does permit the

use of parametric statistics.

Extremity Scores.

The extremity score for each construct represents the

sum of the ratings for each of the seventeen elements on the

twelve point Likert scale for each trial.


Each experiment session was conducted in a single two

hour block. Each subject took part in the experiment under

one of three conditions: standard elicitation (control

group), guided imagery elicitation (control group), and


Focusing elicitation (experimental group). The experimenter

met with each subject individually.

At the beginning of the experiment, the participants

were told, "The following procedure is designed to

investigate ways of tapping into a person's self awareness."

Participants provided basic demographic data on the

instrument. Each student then wrote the name of persons

he/she personally knows who fit the role for each of the

seventeen role titles on the grid form. They were allowed

to use any one individual for one and only one role.

Construct Elicitation Procedures

All participants were exposed to the same intervention

during the first trial. The experimenter directed each

subject to elicit the first construct using the standard

triadic elicitation procedure as described below. The first

trial was utilized to teach all participants how to complete

the repertory grid. This also allowed the experimenter to

utilize the meaningfulness measures produced in the first

trial to examine homogeneity between the three groups.

Standard triadic elicitation

In the triadic elicitation procedure, participants

were told to consider three of the people (triadic sorts

preselected by the experimenter) they listed. In the first


trial, participants were to consider the persons they listed

as fitting roles identified as B, F, and G on the grid form

(mother, romantic partner, and former romantic partner).

Participants were then instructed to think of a way two of

those three people are alike that is different from the

other person, and to write a word or phrase that describes

this characteristic. Next, the participants wrote a word or

phrase which they considered to be the opposite of this

characteristic. The set of opposite descriptors that were

produced by the subject are considered to represent a

bipolar construct which that person utilizes.

Following the elicitation of each bipolar construct,

the participants then rated each of the elements (persons

they listed as matching the role titles) on a twelve point

Likert scale according to which pole of the construct

describes that particular person, and to what degree. A

rating toward the extreme ends of the scale indicates the

person is considered by the subject to be very much like

that pole of the construct, while a rating toward the middle

of the scale would indicate that the person is considered to

be less like that pole of the construct. After rating each

element (person), the subject then assigned an importance

rating score (described above) to indicate the subjective

level of importance of that construct. Each subject then

completed the remainder of the repertory grid under one of

the three experiment conditions.

The standard elicitation control group continued to

complete the repertory grid under standard triadic

elicitation procedures as described above; the experimenter

was available to answer questions and to provide

instructional assistance when needed, but otherwise remained

present without having further interaction with the subject.

Guided imagery elicitation

The guided imagery control group is designed to provide

participants with a level of interaction with the

experimenter that is similar to that which was experienced

by participants in the experimental (Focusing) group.

Participants in the Guided Imagery group were instructed to

imagine taking a trip to a beach throughout the elicitation

process. This procedure also provided the participants in

this group ample opportunities to attend to the experiential

aspects of their imagined trip (sights, sounds, smells,

touch). However, they were not instructed to attend to

these experiential components. Starting with the second

trial, prior to considering the three-person triadic sort,

the subject was instructed to imagine a specific component

of taking a trip to the beach. Following each guided

imagery intervention, the participant completed one trial of

the repertory grid.

Guided imagery instructions

Trial 2: I want you to imagine that you are going to take a

day trip to the beach. Throughout the rest of the

experiment, I will guide you through different

parts of the trip. Feel free to close your eyes

if that helps you to imagine the trip. Also, feel

free to tell me about your imagined trip, or, if

you prefer, you can keep your imagined trip

completely private (the experimenter may briefly

talk with the participant in a polite but non-

instructive manner in order to facilitate rapport

if the participant chooses to share aspects of the

imagined trip). Now, I want you to imagine that

you are talking with your friends, family, and/or

your romantic partner while planning a trip to the

beach. Take a few minutes, or longer, to imagine

this scene and let me know when you are ready to


Trial 3: Now imagine that you are getting ready for the

trip, packing towels, food, drinks, selecting swim

wear, packing the car, and starting on the trip.

Imagine this for a while and tell me when you are

ready to go on.

Trial 4: This time, imagine the drive to the beach, the

places you will drive through, what you will do to

pass the time in the car, and finally, arriving at

the beach.

Trial 5: Imagine that you have arrived at the beach. Now,

you are selecting your spot to set up for the day.

Think about what all you are considering when

deciding where to set up. Do you use a chair or a

towel? Do you listen to a radio or to the sound

of the ocean? Make sure everything is set, just

the way you like it.

Trial 6: Imagine playing on the beach. You're not ready to

go into the water yet. Think about the things you

like to do on the sand.

Trial 7: Now imagine yourself going into the water. Some

people like to wade among the waves; some swim

vigorously; some like to surf. Think about the

ways you like to play in or along the water.

Trial 8: Now, you're on the beach, and you decide it's time

to eat. What types of food and drink did you

bring? Think about how eating at the beach is

different from eating at home. Take some time to

enjoy this part of your day.

Trial 9: Now that you have spent time playing on the beach

and in the water, imagine taking some time to

relax. Perhaps you would like to lay there

soaking up some sun, maybe reading, or perhaps a

nice relaxing stroll along the water's edge.

Trial 10: Unfortunately, it is starting to get late, and it

is time to pack up to head back home. What all do

you have to do? How is this different from when

you were packing earlier in the day to go to the

beach? Do you leave the beach in a hurry, or do

you linger?

Trial 11: Now imagine the drive back home. How is this

drive different from the drive to the beach? Do

you pass the time the same way?

Trial 12: Imagine that you have arrived back home after your

trip to the beach. Picture yourself unloading

your things from the car. What will you and the

people who went with you do now? Think about what

this day at the beach has been like for you.

Each subject was allowed up to six minutes to imagine

each phase of the guided imagery beach trip. Following each

guided imagery intervention, the subject completed a trial

of the repertory grid using standard repertory grid

procedure (i.e., consider the triadic sort, elicit one pole

of the construct, elicit the opposite construct pole, rate

the elements, and rate the level of construct


Focusing elicitation

The Focusing group was used to test the effect of

teaching participants to attend to their experiential

phenomena while completing the repertory grid. The training

in attending to experiential phenomena is based on Eugene

Gendlin's Focusing technique. The experimental group was

taught a modified form of the Focusing technique. The

participants utilized the Focusing technique in conjunction

with the triadic construct elicitation procedure.

Focusing instructions

Trial 2: Many times we experience more about a person or a

situation than we are able to put into words, like

when watching a beautiful sunset or looking into

the face of a loved one. By paying attention to


how you respond, not only intellectually, but also

physically and emotionally, you can capture more of

what it is you know about an experience. When one

attends to all levels of awareness, it becomes

easier to more fully understand the experience and

to put what you know about that person or situation

into words.

Usually, we do not take the time or make an

effort to attend beyond our intellectual response.

I am now going to teach you a way to listen to your

total experience and to put that experience into

words. Start by getting into a comfortable

position by sitting up straight with your feet flat

on the floor. Breathe deeply and pay attention to

how your body feels. Many people find that this is

easier to do if they close their eyes. You may

close your eyes or leave them open, whichever feels

right for you. Throughout the rest of the

exercise, you may find it helpful to talk about

what you are experiencing, but please feel free to

not share anything which you prefer to keep


Notice how your body is feeling, perhaps

tense, relaxed, tired, or maybe energized (Pause 30


Pay attention to what emotions you are

feeling. For example, you may notice sadness,

happiness, anger, boredom, or any number of

emotions (Pause 30 seconds).

Continue paying attention to your body and

your emotions and say to yourself, "everything in

my life is perfect just the way it is." (Pause 20


Instead of responding to this statement by

saying what is not perfect, just passively notice

how your entire awareness responds. Notice what

things come up for you as not "perfect." (Pause 20


Notice that these things will come up into

your awareness without you even trying to think

about them. Do not try to figure them out or

explain them. Just acknowledge that those things

that are not "perfect" are there.

Imagine that you have placed each of those

"not perfect" things in a container, perhaps a box,

and that you can step back from them and look at

each one of them. For example, if one of my "not

perfect" things is "not having enough money," I

would place that in a box and back away from my

money worries for the time being. Observe each of

your "not perfects." You do not need to worry

about these things right now. Give yourself

permission to set them aside for now. Some people

find it helpful to say to each of these things

something like, "I know you are there. I have not

forgotten about you. But, I am going to deal with

something else right now." (Pause 20 seconds).

Feel free to talk about this process, or to be

as private as you would like. Let me know when

you are a comfortable distance from those "not

perfect" things. If you need any assistance now,

or throughout the experiment, just let me know.

(Wait up to three minutes if participant takes

longer than three minutes, assist the participant

in achieving a comfortable distance.)

This process you just went through, where you

set aside those concerns that are pressing upon

you, we call "clearing a space." You will be asked

to "clear a space" several times throughout the

rest of the experiment; remember that anytime you

are clearing a space, you can simply acknowledge

whatever comes up for you and set it aside at a

comfortable distance. Notice how it feels to have

everything set aside. Now you are ready to attend

to whatever experience presents itself to you.

Now, look at the three letters noted at the

top of page two. Think of the three people whose

names you have written next to letters A, H, and K.

Just as you passively allowed the "not perfect"

things to come into your awareness, passively allow

your experience of each of these people to come

into your awareness. Take a couple of minutes to

experience your awareness of each of these persons

as if you were observing each from a comfortable

distance. Pay attention to any emotions or

physical feelings that come up for you while you

are observing. Let me know when you are ready to

proceed. (Allow up to three minutes.)

Now, think of a way in which two of these

people are similar which is different from the

other person. Again, take a passive approach and

allow a word or group of words to come up for you

that captures this difference. (Pause one minute).

As these words come up, check to see if they

capture your experience of these people. When you

find the words that capture your experience, you

may notice that it feels right, like the word

"fits" what it is you know in your thoughts,

emotions, and body about these people. If a word

you are attempting to use doesn't feel right, pay

attention to how it doesn't feel right, then let it

go and allow another word to come up for you. When

you find the right words, you may even notice that

your experience of these people shifts a little as

you capture your awareness in words. When you feel

you have determined how two of these people are

alike and different from the other, and found the

right word or words for this difference, write the

word on your form. (Allow up to three minutes).

(End of Focusing intervention for trial two).

The participants then wrote a word or words that

describes the opposite pole of the construct and completed

the ratings of the elements and the construct meaningfulness

rating in the same manner as participants in the control


Trials 3-4: For these elicitations, Focusing Elicitation

participants were asked to "clear a space" in

preparation for considering the triadic sort for

the trial. Then the participant considered the

three persons called for in the triadic sort using

a Focusing approach as in trial two.

Participants were instructed to observe their

experiential awareness of the three persons, to

allow a word or words that describes a way in which

two of the persons are alike and different from the

other to come up from the experience, to check the

fit of the word or words against the felt sense,

and to modify the word as needed. Specific time

limits were observed for the phases of the Focusing

elicitation: clearing a space = thirty seconds;

observing the three persons = two minutes; coming

up with a word\words that describes the difference

= one minute; checking the fit and/or modifying the

word/words = two minutes. This results in a

maximum elicitation time of six and one half

minutes per trial for trials three and four.

After the fourth trial, participants were asked to

proceed through the remaining Focusing elicitation trials at

their own pace without further instruction. They were

reminded to make sure to complete each phase of the Focusing

elicitation for each trial. Additional instruction or

interaction was provided by the experimenter if the

participant appeared to be having difficulty or requested

assistance, or if the participant initiated conversation.

After the bipolar construct was elicited for each trial, the

participant completed the element and meaningfulness ratings

for that bipolar construct.

Additional interventions for Focusing elicitation trials

The experimenter assisted the participants with the

Focusing elicitation if warranted by the participants'

requests or notable difficulty in completing the task. If

the participant chose to talk with the experimenter about

the content or process of the Focusing elicitation, the

experimenter assisted with the Focusing procedure in a

manner consistent with Eugene Gendlin's technique.

Specifically, the experimenter assisted the participant by

way of instruction in attending to bodily and emotional

awareness, maintaining a sense of separation from the object


of the Focusing (persons being considered), attending to the

felt sense of the persons, and using experiential awareness

to judge if the words chosen captured the quality of the

participant's experience. In keeping with the highly

individualized nature of the Focusing procedure, the exact

content of these interventions were idiosyncratic to the

individual participant.

At the conclusion of the experiment all participants

were debriefed and given an opportunity to ask questions.


The data was arranged in a 2 X 3 X 12 design with

repeated measures. The independent variables were A) sex,

B) elicitation procedure (Standard, Imagery, or Focusing),

and C) trial. The dependent variables were A) extremity

score and B) importance rating (participants' rating of

construct importance or meaningfulness). The alpha level

for a priori tests of statistical significance was set at

e 0.05.

Statistical Analyses Design

A "split-plot" design (Kennedy & Bush, 1985, p. 417)

was utilized to accommodate an examination of between group

variance using within-subject measures (also known as

"repeated measures"). Extremity scores and importance rating

scores were analyzed independently using a split-plot

analysis of variance (ANOVA). The ANOVA was utilized to

look for main effects for the Elicitation Procedure, Sex,

and Trial and/or any interaction between these factors. The

results of these analyses were utilized to test the two

hypotheses: Hypothesis 1 Using the Focusing procedure

during construct elicitation yields constructs that are more

meaningful than constructs elicited using standard triadic

elicitation procedures; Hypothesis 2 Constructs elicited

using Focusing will tend to be progressively more meaningful

as more constructs are elicited across repeated measures.

Results Of Statistical Analyses

Tests of Hypothesis 1

Results using extremity score. The ANOVA testing Hypothesis

1 using the extremity score (displayed in Table 1) indicated

a statistically significant three way interaction between

the variables Elicitation, Sex, and Trial. As noted

earlier, the extremity score for each trial is the sum of

all the Likert-type ratings the participant provided in

reference to each element (person) for a construct. Means

and standard deviations were calculated for the extremity

scores and are depicted in Table 2.

Table 2 contains the mean extremity scores broken down

by elicitation, sex, and trial. Since the raw extremity

score (sum of all element ratings per trial) does not easily

illustrate the participants' tendency to rate elements

Table 1.

ANOVA for Elicitation, Sex, and Trial main effects and
interactions using extremity for Hypothesis 1
Source DF MS F p
Within + Residual 36 1136.49 .28 .761

Elicitation 2 312.54 .36 .553

Sex 1 408.47 .96 .393

Elicitation X Sex 2 1088.68 .96 .393

Within + Residual 360 83.33

Trial 10 96.29 1.16 .320

Elicitation X Trial 20 61.04 .73 .792

Sex X Trial 10 47.09 .577 .842

Elicitation X Sex X 20 165.93 1.99 .007 *


toward the extreme ends of the bipolar construct, the

"average" extremity ratings were calculated by dividing the

extremity score for each trial by the number of elements

rated in each trial (17). For illustrative purposes, Table

3 depicts these average extremity ratings, and all graphs

featuring extremity ratings utilize average extremity

scores. A graph depicting these average extremity scores by

elicitation, sex, and trial is shown in Figure 1. However,

as in the statistical results of the first analysis, this

does not present a clear picture of the interaction.

Table 2.

Extremity Scores: Elicitation X Sex X Trial

Standard Imagery Focusing
Trial x SD x SD R SD

1: all 72.07 15.13 70.29 12.43 67.93 11.51

female 75.29 13.82 69.75 15.49 67.71 13.46

male 68.71 16.73 71.00 8.05 68.14 10.29

2: all 69.85 11.38 67.71 5.12 63.71 11.73

female 71.00 12.68 67.75 6.63 63.43 10.60

male 68.71 10.81 67.67 2.58 64.00 13.63

3: all 72.14 18.43 70.43 9.35 68.93 14.71

female 74.43 10.97 65.88 9.86 69.86 13.47

male 69.86 24.57 76.50 3.72 68.00 16.88

4: all 68.79 16.55 65.50 9.78 65.93 16.05

female 73.14 14.17 66.63 5.80 66.00 15.55

male 64.43 18.67 64.00 14.03 65.86 17.79

5: all 69.14 13.36 65.79 8.18 65.36 12.07

female 72.71 14.94 64.25 9.00 66.71 15.29

male 65.57 11.57 67.83 7.17 64.00 8.79

6: all 63.50 18.31 67.07 8.74 67.21 11.91

female 68.14 16.04 70.38 7.76 63.86 9.12

male 58.86 20.47 62.67 8.59 70.57 14.07

7: all 66.93 16.10 67.21 10.04 67.29 14.10

female 72.71 11.29 70.88 8.81 64.57 15.76

male 61.14 18.86 62.33 10.17 70.00 14.90

Table 2--continued
Standard Imagery Focusing

Trial 5 SD x SD x SD

8: all 66.93 18.34 65.14 9.98 64.57 17.27

female 74.56 16.68 67.00 7.91 60.43 17.66

male 59.00 17.44 62.67 12.60 68.71 17.15

9: all 68.64 16.37 66.00 8.93 67.86 16.93

female 67.29 18.24 67.00 5.42 68.86 21.22

male 70.00 15.61 64.67 12.74 66.86 12.98

10:all 71.00 16.08 71.86 11.19 65.07 11.53

female 76.14 14.69 74.25 8.14 61.86 13.83

male 65.85 16.81 68.67 14.54 68.29 8.53

11:all 72.50 14.41 67.43 12.14 63.93 11.82

female 79.43 12.61 62.75 12.33 61.00 13.22

male 65.57 13.39 73.67 9.44 66.86 10.40

12:all 66.07 15.10 69.00 10.03 64.57 11.91

female 69.57 16.21 64.00 9.01 67.86 11.55

male 62.57 14.25 75.67 7.39 61.29 12.19

Mean of trials 2 though 12:

all 68.68 15.50 67.59 8.80 65.84 13.84

female 72.68 14.41 67.34 8.24 64.95 14.30

male 64.69 16.59 67.85 9.36 66.77 13.39

Mean of all 12 trials:

all 68.96 15.79 67.79 9.66 66.03 13.46

female 72.89 14.36 67.57 8.85 65.18 14.23

male 65.02 16.60 68.11 9.25 66.88 13.13

Table 3.

Average extremity score per Element: Elicitation X Sex X
Standard Imagery Focusing

Trial SD x SD R SD

1: all 4.12 .89 4.13 .73 3.10 .68

female 4.43 .81 4.10 .91 3.98 .79

male 4.04 .98 4.17 .47 4.01 .61

2: all 4.11 .67 3.98 .30 3.75 .69

female 4.18 .74 3.99 .39 3.73 .62

male 4.04 .63 3.98 .15 3.76 .80

3: all 4.24 1.08 4.14 .55 4.05 .86

female 4.38 .65 3.88 .58 4.11 .79

male 4.11 1.45 4.50 .22 4.00 .99

4: all 4.05 .97 3.85 .57 3.88 .94

female 4.30 .83 3.92 .34 3.88 .91

male 3.79 1.10 3.76 .83 3.87 1.05

5: all 4.07 .79 3.87 .48 3.84 .71

female 4.28 .88 3.78 .53 3.92 .90

male 3.86 .68 3.99 .42 3.76 .52

6: all 3.73 1.07 3.95 .51 3.95 .70

female 4.01 .94 4.14 .46 3.76 .54

male 3.46 1.20 3.69 .51 4.15 .83

7: all 3.94 .95 3.95 .59 3.96 .88

female 4.28 .66 4.17 .52 3.80 .93

male 3.60 1.11 3.67 .60 4.12 .88

Table 3--continued
Standard Imagery Focusing

Trial x SD x SD x SD

8: all 3.94 1.08 3.83 .58 3.80 1.02

female 4.40 .98 3.94 .47 3.56 1.04

male 3.47 1.03 3.69 .74 4.04 1.01

9: all 4.04 .96 3.88 .53 3.99 .10

female 3.96 1.07 3.94 .32 4.05 1.25

male 4.12 .92 3.80 .75 3.93 .76

10:all 4.18 .95 4.23 .66 3.83 .68

female 4.48 .86 4.37 .48 3.64 .81

male 3.87 .99 4.04 .86 4.02 .50

ll:all 4.26 .85 3.97 .71 3.76 .70

female 4.67 .74 3.69 .73 3.59 .78

male 3.86 .79 4.33 .55 3.93 .61

12:all 3.89 .89 4.06 .59 3.80 .70

female 4.09 .95 3.76 .53 3.99 .68

male 3.69 .84 4.45 .44 3.61 .72

Mean of trials 2 through 12:

all 4.04 .93 3.98 .56 3.87 .72

female 4.28 .84 3.96 .48 3.82 .84

male 3.81 .98 3.99 .56 3.93 .78

Mean of all 12 trials:

all 4.06 .93 3.99 .57 3.99 .72

female 4.29 .84 3.97 .52 3.97 .84

male 3.82 .98 4.01 .55 4.01 .77

4.i / Standard Female

S4.4 l Standard ale
4.0 <'* Imagery Female
3.8 Imagery Male

3.6 FoIusing Female
3.4 ""
3.2l Focusing Male
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Figure 1. Average extremity ratings by Elicitation X Sex
X Trial for all elicitation procedures.

The next step in the analysis was to conduct a series

of ANOVAs in order to isolate the Elicitation X Sex X Trial

interaction. Three split-plot ANOVAs were conducted looking

for simple effects and/or lower order interactions within

each of the three elicitation procedure groups. To control

for an increase in the familywise error rate, a Bonferroni

adjustment to the alpha level resulted in an alpha level of

p < .016 for these analyses. The results of these analyses

are presented in Tables 4 6 along with accompanying graphs

of the elicitation group average extremity means in

Figures 2 4.

Table 4.

ANOVA for Standard

elicitation by Sex X Trial

,-' "! Standard Female

Standard Male
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Figure 2. Mean extremity ratings by Sex X Trial for
Standard elicitation.

Source DF MS F p
Within + Residual 12 1795.01
Sex 1 2456.01 1.37 .265

Within + Residual 120 96.92
Trial 10 102.69 1.06 .399
Sex X Trial 10 96.99 1.00 .447

Table 5.

ANOVA for Imaaerv elicitation

* 2 .016




| 4.0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Figure 3. Mean extremity
Imagery elicitation.

by Sex X Trial

Imagery Female

Imagery Male

ratings by Sex X Trial for

Source DF MS F p

Within + Residual 12 218.13

Sex 1 9.72 0.04 .836

Within + Residual 120 70.74

Trial 10 73.67 1.04 .413
Sex X Trial 10 196.41 2.78 .004*

Table 6.

ANOVA for Focusing

elicitation by Sex X Trial

Focusing Female

Focusing Male

Figure 4. Mean extremity rating by Sex X Trial for
Focusing elicitation.

Source DF MS F

Within + Residual 12 1396.33

Sex 1 127.27 0.09 .768

Within + Residual 120 82.33

Trial 10 41.73 .51 .882
Sex X Trial 10 84.29 1.02 .428

These analyses indicate a Sex X Trial interaction for

the imagery elicitation procedure (recall that the imagery

procedure was utilized as a control group). This

interaction was significant at the adjusted alpha level of

.016. It appears that this interaction indicates that the

extremity of participants' ratings varied in relation to

there sex and the specific trial, with males' scores

frequently demonstrating high extremity while females'

scores demonstrating low extremity, and vice versa. There

was no evidence of any simple effects or interactions for

the elicitation independent variable, with no other tests

approaching statistical significance. These results do not

support Hypothesis 1 for extremity scores.

Results using importance rating score. The importance

rating score, the scores that participants assigned to

indicate how "important or meaningful" each bipolar

construct is in their consideration of people in their life,

required no manipulation. An ANOVA using the importance

rating dependent variable scores to test Hypothesis 1 did

not indicate a main effect for the sex or trial independent

variables, nor for any interactions. However, a

statistically significant main effect for the elicitation

Table 7.

ANOVA for Elicitation, Sex, and Trial main effects and
interactions using importance rating for Hypothesis 1
Source DF MS F p

Within + Residual 36 28.62

Elicitation 2 92.08 3.22 .052*

Sex 1 3.37 .12 .734

Elicitation X Sex 2 63.74 2.23 .123

Within + Residual 360 6.26

Trial 10 8.18 1.31 .225

Elicitation X Trial 20 3.62 .58 .927

Sex X Trial 10 4.79 .76 .663

Elicitation X Sex 20 6.02 .96 .508

X Trial

p .05

procedure independent variable was shown at the p .052

level. These results are shown in Table 7.

While this analysis does show a significant elicitation

procedure main effect, it does not indicate the nature of

the statistically significantly different ratings or the

direction of the difference. Therefore, planned pairwise

comparisons were then conducted. The first planned pairwise

comparison was between the two control groups, standard and

imagery elicitation. There was no statistically significant

difference between these groups as indicated in Table 8.

Table 8.

ANOVA for oairwise comparisons

using importance rating for

Standard vs. Imagery

Source DF MS F p

Within + Residual 40 34.60

Elicitation 1 15.46 .45 .510

(Standard + Imagery) vs. Focusing

Source DF MS F p

Within + Residual 40 29.41

Elicitation 1 191.82 6.52 .015*

The final planned pairwise comparison was between the

combined control groups and the experimental, or Focusing

elicitation, group.

The ANOVA for this comparison indicated a statistically

significant difference at the P 0.015 level, also depicted

in Table 8. As the experiment was designed with these two

pairwise comparisons planned, no correction factor for the

alpha level was deemed necessary (Keppel, 1982, p. 240).

Now that it was determined that the two control groups

were not significantly different from each other, and that

the experimental (Focusing) group was significantly

different from the control groups, the task remained to

Hypothesis 1


Table 9.

Importance rating scores: Elicitation X Trial



.79 2.97

.14 2.68

.21 3.38

.29 2.67

.79 3.26

.71 3.38

.00 2.42

.43 3.74

.00 3.14

.79 3.60

.86 3.18

.79 3.24














trials 2


all trial
















SD x

2.64 8.86

2.43 8.07

3.18 8.50

2.38 8.71

2.73 8.14

2.67 6.86

2.72 8.86

2.85 8.57

2.53 8.00

3.25 9.00

3.56 8.36

3.01 8.50















7.15 3.13 6.82 2.82 8.37 2.51

determine the direction of

the difference.

The means and

standard deviations of the importance rating scores are

noted in Table 9, and these results are depicted in graph

form in Figure 5. Since the ANOVAs were conducted using

trials 2 through 12, the mean importance ratings for thes

trials were considered to determine the direction of the

elicitation main effect. The data in Table 9 indicate that

ough 12


3.15 6.73 2.85 8.32 2.53














., .. .Standard

5. 1 Focusing
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Figure 5: Importance rating scale by Elicitation X Trial.

the importance rating score for the Focusing participants (x

= 8.32) was higher than those of both the standard

elicitation (x = 7.18) and imagery elicitation participants

(x = 6.73). A 95 percent confidence interval places the

mean importance rating score for focusing participants

between 7.53 and 9.11. These results indicate that

participants who underwent the focusing procedure

elicitation tended to rate their elicited constructs as more

meaningful overall than did participants in the standard and

imagery elicitation groups.

Given that there were notable differences between

elicitation procedures for the importance ratings on the

first trial, which served as a baseline measure, a post hoc

ANOVA was conducted on the importance ratings on the first


trial. There was not a statistically significant difference

noted between the subjects prior to being exposed to the

various elicitation procedures, with F(2, 36) = 2.531, p

.094. These results support Hypothesis 1 for the importance

rating dependent variable.

Tests of Hypothesis 2

In order to test if there was an increase in

meaningfulness as measured by extremity scores and/or

importance rating scores as participants in one or more

groups proceeded through the elicitation trials, difference

scores were calculated to contrast scores from early trials

with scores from later trials. Extremity and importance

rating scores from the first, second, and third trials were

subtracted from the extremity and importance rating scores

from the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth trials respectively.

For purposes of notation, the extremity difference scores

are noted as "extremdiff" with the trials used in the

calculation noted in parentheses, for example,

extremdiff(10-1) is the extremity difference score for trial

10 minus trial 1. The importance rating difference scores

are noted in a like manner, with "importdiff" and the trials

noted in parentheses. Specifically, the three extremity

difference sores for

following formulas:

Extremdiff(10 1) =

Extremdiff(ll 2) =

Extremdiff(12 3) =

each subject were calculated

trial 10 extremity trial 1

trial 11 extremity trial 2

trial 12 extremity trial 3

Table 10.

ANOVAs testing Hypothesis 2 using difference scores for

extremity and importance rating


Extremity Difference Scores


Within + Residual



Elicitation X Sex


16 216.36

2 61.91

1 13.60

2 216.59

Importance rating Difference Scores

Within + Residual



Elicitation X Sex X

36 14.47

2 3.13

1 43.55

2 13.54

The importance rating difference scores were calculated

using the following formulas:

Importdiff(10 1) = trial 10 importance rating trial 1

importance rating;


using the
















Importdiff(11 2) = trial 11 importance rating trial 2

importance rating;

Importdiff(12 3) = trial 12 importance rating trial 3

importance rating. Note that a positive difference score

would indicate an increase in meaningfulness as indicated by

either extremity score or importance rating.

ANOVAs were run to examine Hypothesis 2 using extremity

scores and importance rating scores separately. The results

of these analyses are noted in Table 10.

Table 11.

Extremity difference scores: Elicitation X Sex

Standard Imagery Focusing
x SD x SD x SD


all -1.00 21.15 1.57 16.25 -2.86 10.12

female 0.86 21.14 4.50 15.97 -5.85 12.29

male -2.86 22.67 -2.33 17.25 0.14 7.06


all 2.64 13.65 -0.29 10.95 0.21 11.60

female 8.43 13.40 -5.00 10.53 -2.43 10.39

male -3.14 12.08 6.00 8.58 2.86 12.93


all -6.07 15.69 -1.43 7.57 -4.36 10.49

female -4.86 13.89 -1.88 9.69 -2.00 13.08

male -7.29 18.36 -0.83 4.35 -6.71 7.36

Neither of the ANOVAS produced statistically

significant results. The sex independent variable for

importance rating scores approached statistical

significance(g = .09). Means and standard deviations for

the difference scores,broken down by variable, group, and

sex, are listed in Table 11 (differences in extremity

scores) and Table 12 (differences in importance rating


Table 12.

Importance rating difference scores: Elicitation X Sex

Standard Imagery Focusing



all 0.00 3.98 -1.14 2.66 0.14 2.41

female 0.1- 4.30 -1.00 2.00 0.86 3.08

male 0.14 3.98 -1.33 3.56 -0.57 1.40


all -0.29 4.01 0.43 3.88 0.29 1.77

female 2.00 3.42 0.00 4.28 0.14 1.68

male -2.57 3.31 1.00 3.58 0.43 1.99


all -0.43 5.18 -0.43 5.03 0.00 3.86

female 0.71 6.07 0.00 4.44 1.00 2.89

male -1.57 4.28 -1.00 6.13 -1.00 4.65


These results do not support acceptance of Hypothesis 2 for

either extremity scores or importance rating.

Further Post Hoc Analysis

Clearly, the results of the tests of Hypothesis 1,

whether the Focusing elicitation would cause participants to

rate constructs as more meaningful, were greatly different

Table 13.

Pearson correlations for extremity ratings and importance
rating matched by trial
importance rating

1 2 3 4 5 6

1 .138

2 .073

e 3 .218
x 4 .234
r 5 .234
m 6 .118
Y 7 8 9 10 11 12

r 7 .446
t 8 .305
1 9 .133
g 10 .049

11 .202

12 .074


for extremity score results versus importance rating

results. For heuristic purposes, Pearson correlation

coefficients were calculated for each trial in order to

examine the relationship between extremity scores and

importance rating scores. The correlations are listed in

Table 14. The correlations ranged from .446 (trial 7) to

.049 (trial 10). No further analyses were conducted.


The results of the statistical analyses for this study

were mixed in their support of the two hypotheses tested.

The tests of the first hypothesis, that participants trained

to use the Focusing procedure would produce constructs which

were more meaningful, showed a statistically significant

main effect in support of this hypothesis when considering

the importance rating measure of meaningfulness. However,

results based on the extremity score measure of

meaningfulness did not support rejection of the null

hypothesis. There was also an unexpected three way

interaction for Elicitation X Sex X Trial variables when

extremity scores were considered.

In regard to the second hypothesis, that participants

using the Focusing elicitation procedure would produce more

meaningful constructs in latter trials, when compared to

early trials, while the control group participants would

tend to produce less meaningful constructs in latter trials,

the hypothesis was not supported by the results using either

extremity scores or importance rating scores. There was

some indication of a Sex variable effect noted for the

differences between early trial importance ratings and late

trial importance rating (p = .09). However. This failed to

meet the a priori setting of statistical significance which

was set at the p .05 level.

The possible implications of these findings, the

limitations of this study, and applications of this area of

study to constructivist approaches to assessment and

psychotherapy, will be discussed in the remainder of this


Effects of Elicitation Procedure
on the Overall Level of Meaningfulness

Contrary to predictions, the extremity scores for the

Focusing participants were not higher (in fact, were

slightly lower) than the extremity scores for participants

in the two control groups. The mean rating on the six point

Likert scale for a single element (person), for a single

construct, ranged from 3.87 (Focusing elicitation) to 4.04

(standard elicitation) when one considers trials two through

twelve (recall that all participants underwent an identical

procedure during the first trial). The only noteworthy

difference in extremity scores for the elicitation procedure

variable is that participants in the imagery control group

had a markedly lower standard deviation for extremity.

Specifically, SD = 8.80 was noted for the imagery

participants versus SD = 15.50 for standard participants and

SD = 13.84 for Focusing participants. This pattern was

consistent for males and females. This difference in score

variance may be related to the Elicitation X Sex X Trial

interaction noted for extremity scores, which will be

discussed later.

Unlike the extremity measure, the importance rating

measure did show a statistically significant main effect for

the elicitation procedure variable. This effect was

significant at the p s .015 level. Post hoc analysis of the

first trial ratings indicated that there was not a

statistically significant difference at baseline between the

groups for the importance ratings. Pairwise comparisons

indicated there was no statistically significant difference

between the two control groups (standard elicitation and

imagery elicitation). When these two control groups were

combined, they were shown to be different from the

experimental group (Focusing Elicitation). A comparison of

the mean importance rating scores indicates that the

Focusing group had higher average importance rating scores

than the control groups. These results for the importance

rating dependent variable are consistent with the prediction

made in Hypothesis 1.