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


  • I thank Willem van Gilst, Lee Ann Weeks, and Els Hermans-Jansen for their help with this study

Requests for reprints should be addressed to Hubert J M Hermans, Psychological Laboratory, University of Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, 6525 HR NIJMEGEN, The Netherlands


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