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& Psychology

Needed for cultural psychology: Methodology in a new key

Jaan Valsiner
Culture Psychology 2014 20: 3
DOI: 10.1177/1354067X13515941
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Needed for cultural

psychology: Methodology
in a new key

Culture & Psychology

2014, Vol. 20(1) 330
! The Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1354067X13515941

Jaan Valsiner
Aalborg University, Denmark

This Editorial is a leftoveror maybe a dessertfrom my recent treatise on how
cultural psychology can lead the rest of the discipline out of the loops of dust-bowl
qualitative empiricism1 that is beginning to take form in the social sciences. Cultural
psychology of today operates at the intersection of these social tendencies, running the
risk of being caught in the middle. One of the results of active positivism-bashing and
witch-hunt on dualisms that has gone on for the past half-century is a qualitative
turn in the social sciences. While that turn restores the focus on context-bound
original phenomena as its empirical object, it remains as uninventive in the theoretical
realm as its declared opponents ended up being. It has simply replaced the focus of the
inductive generalization exercise from the field of quantified phenomena (as data) to
that of qualitative descriptions (some rich, some poor) that leave the illusion of
understanding based on our common sense, but do not lead the field into new theoretical breakthroughs. The unique feature of cultural psychologyin all of its various
versionsis the focus on complex human meaning systems. Analysis of such systems
requires a new look at methodology. It is demonstrated how this new look is actually a
historically old onereplacing the primacy of inductive generalization by the dynamics
of generalization that takes place between deductive and inductive lines, with a special
hope for the use of abductive processes.
Methodology Cycle, catalysis, movement, innovation

Newer modes of manifestation cannot be stated in atomic terms without doing violence to the more synthetic modes which observation reveals. The qualities of ower
or fruit, for example, cannot be accounted for, much less predicted, from the chemical
formulas of processes going on in the tissue of the fruit tree.

Corresponding author:
Jaan Valsiner, Neils bohr Professor of Cultural Psychology, Aalborg University, Kroghstrde 3, 4.219,
DK-9220, Aalborg, Denmark.
Email: jvalsiner@gmail.com

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

A method is therefore called for which will take account of this something left over
and above the quantitative, something which presents new phases as the genetic
progression advances.
(Baldwin, 1930, pp.78)

James Mark Baldwin was wise. Trying all his life to understand the developmental
complexity of higher psychological functionsfrom the perspective of his generic
logic (Baldwin, 1915, 2010), he understood acutely the utility of the use of quantication in psychology as a social panacea for appearing scientic.
Nowalmost a century laterwe in psychology have actively failed to listen to
his voice. Instead, we play the game of creating ever new measures of evercomplex (and ephemeral) psychological variables, analyze the results of such
measurements through ever-new (and increasingly modular) standard packages
of data analyses (where we do not precisely know what happens in these packages),
and publish the results in peer-reviewed high impact journals. Psychology has
become an arena for a complex social game of a fashion of appearing scientic at
the expense of alienation of the data from the phenomena and the data makers
from the theoretical and philosophical issues that were fundamental concerns for
their predecessors at Baldwins time.
Baldwins understanding of the mist between psychological phenomena and
the operation of assigning numbers to these was based on two aspects of his
heritagesystematic emphasis on development and the recognition of the holistic
systemic nature of the developing systems. His contemporary traditions of
Ganzheitspsychologie (Diriwachter, 2013) provided him with further support in
the rejection of the whole systems that develop into their constituent elements. It
was in the very end of his lifeafter two decades long enforced exit from the
academic lifethat in 1930 he reached the seemingly devastating conclusion
that quanticationat least in the form of assigning real numbers to qualitative
phenomena (Rudolph, 2013)is invalid for the science of psychology.
Of course nobody listened to the musings of the old and morally discredited
man, and psychology since 1930 has become increasingly quantied. Yet, the problems of that favorite pastimeassigning numbers and using increasingly sophisticated (read: alienating) data analyses techniquesof normal science (in Kuhnian
sense) has its clear limits that have been pointed out in elaborate ways (Michell,
1997; Molenaar, 2004; Toomela & Valsiner, 2010). However, the empirical enterprise of contemporary psychology moves ahead in its usual locally reective ways,
so the constructive critiques of the epistemic practices in the eld are easily
passed by.

The impasse of measurement in psychology

In psychology, we can often observe the construction of the superordinate qualities
on the basis of consensual selection of some common language terms as relevant

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variables, followed by their quantication. The process of such construction is

simple. It starts from a social consensus that the study of a particular common
sense phenomenon using the scientic approach is important. It continues to create
a measure (scalein analogy of weight measurements), which is calibrated
through standardization by way of yet another social consensus.

An example: Let us measure cheating

Human beings like to talk in moral terms. Our contemporary social discourses the
notion of cheating becomes highlightedspouses cheat upon each other, politicians
cheat the public, bankers cheat the shareholders, athletes cheat as they use drugs,
drug-sellers cheat as they smuggle the drugs, and so on, as if the whole world lives
in the panic of being cheated.
Developing a measure of cheating can be a hypothetical example. We do not
know precisely what cheating isbut we do know it is something morally bad that
deserves punishmentand guarantees income to the ever-increasing army of lawyers. Sopsychologists will be asked to develop psychological know-how about
cheating. As scientists, they are led to believe in the primacy of inductive generalization and importance of measurementso they start from constructing methods
that to themconsensuallyseem to capture the common language meanings of
cheating. They may create a pool of statements about cheating and quantify it
by a consensual rule (e.g. considering the number of cheating responses as the
index of how much cheating the give respondent accepts to be the case). Note that
the vague common language encoded qualitydenoted by the word cheatingis now translated into a concrete measurequantied accumulation of
the set of items, consensually accepted as representations of the phenomenon.
As a result of such constructed (measured) characteristiccheatingwe have
arrived at an illusory clarity of the notion. Cheating on psychological science
becomes dened through the very instrument that we have constructed to measure
it.2 We call this act that of operationalization of the concept and fuse it with the
phenomena. In reality, we have not operationalized the conceptthat does not
exist other than in common languagebut we have created the concept based on
our common sense, through the objective act of measurement. The process is
precisely the reversewe have entied a common language notion, turned it into a
thingand projected as a presumed entity into the minds of the ordinary persons.
Now, one can accumulate data on measures on cheating and develop theories
of cheating. In reality, we have cheated ourselvesthrough inventing a new
personality characteristic supposedly located in the human mind. The quality
cheatingis presumed to be present, but its quantityhow much does this
person do it?is presumed to vary.
In terms of quantity<>quality relationshipthis construction of illusory generalized qualities (cheating) out of common sense involves a sequence of dominance
shifts. First, the (common sense) quality becomes represented by a quantity. Then,
the quantitynow dominant (measured) becomes presented as if it were a

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

quality that stands behind the quantity as a given, and governs quantityallowing
dierent amounts of it to occur under dierent circumstances. Through that
actsecond reversal of the dominance within the sign pair (quality<>quantity)we arrive at a new qualitywhich is that of being high (or low) in
the given quality (cheating). Quantitative gradations become qualitative entities
high cheaters are morally wrong and low cheaters can become morally
right if they repent and restrict their cheating tendency. As a result, a framework of new essentialist characters projected into the human mind is created.
Psychology is lled with constructed entities believed to be essences of the
human mind. In reality, psychology here has only demonstrated its capacity to
generate new signsthe common sense term (cheating) becomes substituted by a
measure of cheating that is supposed to be scientic. Such making of science is
akin to making narratives about miracles. Such narratives look realistic and are
functional in our everyday lives. Yet they are cultural constructionsmade available through our use of signs. Our pet dogno matter how she or he wags her or
his tailis unlikely to interpret us in terms of our personality characteristics.
But we ourselves do.

Where psychology stands in relation to culture

Psychology is lled with problems that have no solutions and solutions for which it
is unclear to what problems they pertain. How to capture the emergence of new
phenomena is one of the basic issues that both developmental and cultural orientations in psychology share. The latter has some specic focusthat on signs, their
construction, use, and maintenance. Each new instant of sign construction is new,
each sign hierarchy that becomes constructed in new and unique, and each act of
demolishing itor its mere abandonmentis a part of the general feature of
human living (Valsiner, 2014). We are always moving toward the unknown
future, using the experiences of the past to prepare to make the not-yet-familiar
into the known, the remembered, andeventuallythe forgotten.
Hence, cultural psychology needs to clarify some of these issues by elaborating
how methodology in science is a culturally set-up framework for producing new
knowledge. Here, the human beings bet dramatically on the futurewhat is valued
is the discovery of something the value of which is not yet clear. Our focus on the
search for thisambiguousnew knowledge is itself highly valued. We value sciencebut science, at the frontiers, is never giving us full knowledge. Knowledge is
always partialrelative to the historical conditions of its emergence, and always in
tension with eorts to generalize it beyond its place of birth.3

The snares of psychology: It can discover what was

in the past
William Jameslargely a disciple of mid-19th century German scholar Hermann
Lotze (Valsiner, 2012)was an astute observer of the changes in psychology that

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were going on in the second half of the 19th century. In his Principles of Psychology
(published rst in 1890), he both overviewed the knowledge of his time and pointed
to a number of critical features of that knowledge. His concerns remain valid also
in our times.
First of all, James observed, psychologists of his time trusted the use of common
language, to the point where the meanings of the words were taken as if these were
the phenomena to which these words commonly refer. The naming of a psychological state is not the same as the state itselfI feel angry is not the same as the
feeling that triggered such signication, but a state of saying-I-feel-angry (James,
1950, p. 190). This feature is captured in the minimal hierarchy of sign constructionthe sign that represents some experience is of meta-level relative to the
experience, and succeeds the experience in irreversible time.4
James formulated this methodological concern as psychologists fallacy
concisely. It is
. . . the confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is
making his report. (James, 1950, p. 196)

A corollary to this fallacy is

. . .the assumption that the mental state studied must be conscious of itself as the
psychologist is conscious of it. (James, 1950, p. 197)

This fallacy of psychologists has led to various eorts to overcome it, all of
which have failed. The behavioral credoof creating the clear distinction of the
observed from the observer (the observed behaves, the observer describes the
behavior) was a sincere but na ve eort to solve James (and psychologys) problem. Borrowing computer metaphors for the description of mental processesas
cognitive science has perfectedmaintains the distinction allowing for mentalistic
description of phenomena but keeping to distanced mechanical description in the
explanations. Projecting the computer metaphor into the human mind reverses the
history of the precedenceminds created computers, not vice versa.
In contrast, a new eort to develop methodology that would match the complexity and dynamicity of human psychological phenomena is the next frontier for
the science of cultural psychology. We need to honor William James critiques of
the psychology of his time by solving the problems that have remained with us over
a hundred yearsin new ways. A way to it is explicit acceptance of the complexity
of the phenomena, and adjusting methodology to it, rather than forcing the
phenomena to t our consensually validated methods:
If we take seriously the notion of holistic empirical investigation, then we must begin
holistically, re-establishing the indissoluable ties between theory, method and procedure and resisting the manualization of research procedures. We must also learn to
develop theories of relations and not simply of elemental properties. Such theories

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

must concern particular units, elds, or systems of relations and not to be reduced to,
or interpreted in the terms of, other systems. Methodologically, this kind of unit
analysis requires a research situation that is functionally equivalent to the phenomena
being modeled and thus also requires more contextualized and dynamic observational
techniques and environments. (Clegg, 2009, pp.174175)

Thinking in science should survive manualizationand relevant social representations such as objectivity, methodology, and data need to be clearly

The meaning of objectivity

Science is aimed at producing objective knowledgeyet from the perspective of
cultural psychology one would need to begin from the questionwhat is the meaning of that general term, and what role does it play in dierent sciences.
In the European societies by the end of the 19th century
Purity and objectivity became watchwords of professional social science, and as moral
values they helped to shape it, but the social sciences did not, indeed could not, cut
their links to politics and administration. (Porter, 2003, p. 254)

Thus, objectivity is a moral value, rather than a state of aairs that stands out all by
itself. The call for purity through objectivityencoded into numbers and analyzed
statisticallyhas thus proliferated in the social sciences beyond the bounds of
rationality. Morality discourses are politicaland in the case of ethics of objectivity in the social sciences, it is the role of these discourses in the guidance of what
we are supposed to want to know.
If we were to claim that objectivity involves reliance on facts, the same question
remainswhat is a fact? What is the meaning of the data? A refreshing answer
for this is:
Historically the concepts of data and facts came into language around the 16th century. Although they are generally used synonymously today, data and facts are
derived from dierent etymological roots. Datum means literally a thing given or
grantedles donnees in French. Factum means things done or performed. The
German word for fact implies a thing doneTatsache. The Latin verb facere, to
do, is the root of factum as well as of feat, manufacture, factory. Data are thus
given to things, not thoughts. Datum and factum are past participles, referring to
the nished past. (Kvale, 1976, p. 91)

The nished nature of the facts and data are a natural result of our inquiry as it
is delimited within irreversible time. Yet, science is not collecting facts and classifying these into pre-established categories. Instead, science explores new knowledgewhich, from its beginning, is not knowledge at all. It may be an insight,

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a hint, a hypothesisbut not a fact. The scientic enterprise in knowledge construction precedes the establishment of facts, and facts are linked with the theoretical contexts in which they were generated. We need to understand the process of
knowledge constructionwhich happens through the methodology process.

Frames of reference as axiomatic starting points for

theory construction
Frames of reference are meta-cognitive models through which researchers reconstruct the phenomena into intelligible explanatory narratives. They are intellectual
telescopes that allow us to bring dierent features of the depths of psychological
phenomena to our ways of understanding them. These frames are windows of
opportunity to see some features of the object more clearly than others. By focusing
researchers orientation, they also delimit it.
If we look at psychology from the historical viewpoint, it is the intra-individual
(intra-systemic) reference frame that has been used in the emerging discipline since
the 18th century. Psychology is a discipline that has focused on the psychological
functions and faculties that are projected to be inside of the persons. Our thinking,
feeling, and perceiving we consider to be in ususing the body as the boundary
of the in/out distinction. Beyond that the eorts to localize dierent psychological functions have been widely and wildly dispersed, ending up with phrenology
of localizing such characteristics in the form of the skull, or in the functional
magnetic resonance (fMRI) images of the brain (see Figure 1(a)).
Starting from approximately the 1920s, psychology at large adopted the interindividual (inter-systemic) reference frame that radically changed the social practices
of research. Instead of analyzing psychological phenomena within individual
casesover time (i.e. relying on comparisons within the given person), the dierences between persons became the axiomatic domain for study. The hope for generalization was now delegated to comparison of samples selected by some criteria
and turned into random ones. The belief was that through suciently large
number and randomly selected set of subjects would warrant the treatment of
the obtained dierences in averages of the samples as if these would represent
the generic individuals of the compared classes (see Figure 1(b)).


All explanation for
psychological phenomena
Is made by attribution to
here: MIND or BRAIN

All explanation for

psychological phenomena
Is made by attribution to
between P and Q

Figure 1. Intra-individual (a) and inter-individual and (b) reference frames.

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

Considering individuals as mutually replaceable tokensin space and time

required the axiomatic acceptance of ergodicity5which has been proven mathematically unwarranted (Molenaar, Huizenga, & Nesselroade, 2003). This proof
renders the overwhelming accumulation of psychologys data mute to any
generalization as the dierences between averages of samples cannot represent
the dierences between individuals. It is impossible to assume that an average
dierence in parameter X between samples of males and females can tell us
something conclusive between the real gender dierences between Jim and Jill.
Both intra-systemic and inter-systemic reference frames are similarly contextfree. Comparisons that are made do not include any relation of the systems
involved with their contexts. Yet, we know that all biological, psychological, and
social systems are open systemsthey depend in their existence upon the exchange
relation with their environment. Hence, the use of both intra-individual and interindividual reference frames is inadequate for psychology at large, and for developmental and cultural psychology. Alternatives are needed.
Among the alternative reference frames, two context-inclusive ones bring us
closer to an adequate look at developmental and cultural phenomena. The
Individual-Ecological frame entails the look at the ongoing exchange relations of
the organism with the environment. This frame ts all biological phenomena and
the study of most nonhuman species in comparative psychology (Figure 2).
As it does not presume the constructive focus on something that modies that
relationshiptools or signsit is not usable in cultural psychology.
Having eliminated the rst three reference frames from use in cultural psychology, we are left with the fourth onethe Individual-Socioecological frame
(Figure 3). It is an extension of the Individual-Ecological frame as it adds to its
structure the role of external guidance by goals-oriented otherspersons, institutions, etc. It ts the human condition, and complicates the elaboration of
Figure 3 indicates how in the construction of any method in cultural
psychologybased on the Methodology Cycle (Figure 4)four (rather than one)
conditions have to be considered. In each and every research project, the researcher
needs to specify the following:
1. The nature of the System (person, social group, community, institution) as it
relates with the environment. The being (ontological status) of the system is
viewed from its functional extension (how it establishes ties with environment).


Figure 2. Taking environment into account: the Individual-Ecological frame.

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Not establishing such ties is impossible for an open system, but selective ways of
establishing these are the relevant information about the system.
2. The nature of the environment (structured, quasi-structured, random, etc.)
what it could aord the system that is establishing relations with it?

Figure 3. The focus in cultural psychology: the Individual-Socioecological reference frame.

Figure 4. The Methodology Cycle.

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

3. The expectationsencoded both into the psyche and the environmentof different social others that are expected to orient the System<>Environment
relations. These can include immediate actions by others (e.g. mother to child in
a church be quiet!), set-up explicit signs in the environment (e.g. an instruction Silence! at the entrance to a church), or historically formed signs that
guide the relation with the environment in macro-time (e.g. the architectural
features of a church that emphasize the notion of it being a special place and
other social representations encoded into multiple sign forms).
4. The goal orientations of the given person, dealing with oneself (1), the structure
of the environment (2), and the social guidance (3).

Thinking through the implications of the Individual-Socioecological reference frame

leads us to the clear need for re-conceptualizing psychologys habits of collecting
data and their analysis eorts. The usual mode of data derivation in psychology
happens with the Intra-Systemic reference frame implied (e.g. these dataX, Y,
Zrefer to the person who has given these answers that we proceed to analyze).
The following inductive generalization comes with the shift of reference frames
into the inter-individual one. The answers of persons in category A are now compared with those in category B, and the inter-individual variability is used to arrive
at conclusionswhich are subsequently back-projected into the image of a generic
case (Valsiner, 1986).

The cycle of methodology

There are dierent ways of looking at methodology: toolbox of methods versus
strategy for generalization (Toomela, 2009, 2012). The former is simplemethodology is a set of methods that the researcher may elect to useor not useat ones
will, depending upon current fashions in the discipline, or perceived validity value.
Thus, quantitative methods have been prioritized as scientic in psychologywithout anybody ever proving that these are that. Furthermore, proof of
their scientic nature is in itself impossible within the realm designated as science. Statements about something (X is scientic) do not belong as members of
the set {the something: e.g. method X, method Y, etc.}.
By insisting upon a method as if it is scientic is a nominalist solution to
the problem of knowledge (Wissenschaft) in the given area of expertise. It does
not change the nominalist solution if further characteristics are added to
it (e.g. standardized, i.e. coordinated across contexts and approved by a
standardizing institution). The frames of reference described above guide
the actions of the researchers within the Methodology Cycle, rendering
some moves meaningful and others meaningless. They are located at the level
of the relation of the meta-codes (General Assumptions) with theory building
(Figure 4).

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Science starts from intuitionalbeit one that is educated in the process of initiation into social practices of science (see center of Figure 4). The ways how such
initiation works diers across disciplines. The educated intuition is in the very core
of all science. The rst question for a researcher iswhat research questions are
worthwhile to ask in the rst place. Intuition here comes rstyet it is educated,
not na ve, andnot pure. There are many layers of personalcultural needs that
turn an ordinary person into a scientist. Here, the scientist and artist function
similarlythe emergence of an idea is hidden somewhere in the internal innity
of our mind.
Methodology is in the center of our knowledge creation. Yet it is an ambiguous
termoften considered to be a synonym of method. I keep strictbut
inclusiveseparation of the twomethod is part of methodology, but the
latter cannot be reduced to it. Figure 4 presents a model of methodology that
has been the core in my building up the system of semiotic cultural psychology
(Branco & Valsiner, 1997). It is not a new idearather, it restores the basic notion
of methodology as a system of generalizing thought to psychology at large and
cultural psychology in its unique form. The latter is of holistic kinddisallowing
the breakdown of the whole into elements. Instead, we will examine particular
mutual relations within the cycle and spell out their implications.

Basic assumptions <> Phenomena relation

The intuitively tuned researcher assumes someexplicit or implicitaxiomatic
position in taking a stance toward the eld of phenomena. The four frames of
reference, outlined above, are examples of such meta-codes. Basic decisions about
the focusinside (of a system), outside, or in-betweenare axiomatic.
As the researcher selects ones axioms on the basis of how these relate with the
phenomena, the move to construction or adoption of theoretical frames proceeds
in parallel. Every theoretical proposition that is constructed must coordinate well
with the basic assumptions. It is usual that intellectual ruptures happen precisely in
carving out this relation. For exampleat the level of Basic Assumptions, the
notion of human psychological functioning as an open system is declaredbut
then in the building of theory, all propositions are made in terms of inherent
properties of the persons.6 This constitutes a mismatch of reference
framessubstitution of the Individual-Socioecological frame by the intra-individual
onewith the result that all subsequent empirical work rendering data that fail to
represent the phenomena, and are therefore useless.
The step at which mists between Basic Assumptions and Theory are revealed
most visibly is the construction of hypotheses. Hypotheses lead from the Basic
Assumptions <> Theory relation to the next step within the Methodology
Cyclethe Theory<>Method Construction relation. For example, the symbolic
meaning attached to randomization (in random sampling of subjects or randomization in every aspect of setting up the study) is a frequently used

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

hyper-generalized sign that legitimizes the researchers thinking of the move to

empirical investigation. A general paradox is involved in the use of that sign:
. . .to speak of a random individual is not to speak of an individual at all. When one
introduces random individuals, one can do so meaningfully only subject to the selfdenying ordinance represented by the convention that: Nothing is to be said about a
random individual that is not intended about ALL of the individuals of the domain at
issue. A random individual is therefore not a thing but a linguistic principle, a shorthand device for presenting universal statements. (Rescher, 1968, p. 137)

Rescher here points to the paradox of treating heterogeneous classes as if these

were homogeneousif we need to make any selection of random individual out
of population we presume individuality (uniqueness), but our reason for making
such selection is to say something about all individuals in the class (homogeneity).
Randomness also presumes independence of the elements among the objects of the
studyan unwarranted assumption in the case of psychological systems (Valsiner
& Sato, 2006). Human beings are not marbles one can at ones will draw from an
urnthe favorite image of statistics textbooksbut willful, desirous, reective,
and at times resistant individuals who are tied to their peers by kinship, friendship,
and prot relationships.
A similar diculty in the trajectory Basic Assumptions <> Theory <> Methods
in the Methodology Cycle is in the conceptualization of quality<> quantity relationships. Here, sociopolitical rules interferequantication is a political credo
that has dominated the social sciences over the past century (Porter, 1995).
In reality, the philosophical underpinnings of that relation are highly complex
qualities can include quantity as a sub-part of a quality (e.g. the general quality
temperature includes sub-qualities determinable quantitatively on any used measurement scaleCelsius, Fahrenheit, or Kelvin). Quantityas a form of qualitycannot exist without its superordinate quality. The quantitative quality
todays air temperature is + 20 C cannot exist without the qualitative notion
of temperature in general.

Theory <> Methods Construction relation

As a theory is constructed and hypothesesqualitative rather than quantitativeset, the issue of constructing an appropriate set of methods comes to the
fore (see Figure 4). It is here that the researcherbased on ones educated intuitionneeds to coordinate the method construction with the relation on the other
side of the Methodology Cycle (The Phenomena <> Methods line).
The three general ways of looking at knowledge generalization in
scienceinductive, deductive, and abductiveset up this relationship in vastly
dierent ways. In the case of the inductive approach, the methods have an authoritative existence on their own, and evidence will accumulate on the basis of the use
of the methodsgenerating data. Theories here are either used as external

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delimiters of the inductive generalization enterprise or mere nominal umbrellas

(see Valsiner, 2000, pp.6465) that provide external legitimacy to the inductive
generalization process.
Smedslund has been criticizing this aspect of psychologys methodologyits
pseudo-empiricismsystematically over the past 40 years (Smedslund, 1978, 1980,
1997, 2009, 2012)but to no avail. The factory of measurement in psychology
guarantees its continued pseudo-empiricism well into the 21st century. Cultural
psychology has the chanceof course at the risk of being socially excluded from
being a scienceto bypass this semiotic/social trap. The completely deductive
schemeexemplied in psychology by Smedslunds eorts to dene theorems
of common sense (Smedslund, 1997)is the mirror image of the inductive
approach, in its top-to-down determination of the whole set of psychological
phenomena. Here the notion of method becomes replaced by the fully deductive theorytheoretical work, based on educated intuition and observation of
phenomenabecomes the method.
Obviously, cultural psychology would be ill served by both of these directions.
The third alternativethe abductive wayremains tting for areas of science
where the object is constantly changing, despite diculties of making its meaning
clear (Pizarroso & Valsiner, 2009). It is exemplied by Albert Einsteins treatment
of empirical evidencedismissing its accumulation as irrelevant, while remaining
constantly on the watch for the crucial experimental work that could introduce the
need for major modications in theory (Hentschel, 1992). The primarily theoretical
work requires empirical vericationbut only once in a while, at specic theoretical bifurcation points. Yetat those points, and only therethat input of empirical work acquires absolute relevance. The adequacy of the methods used to gain
empirical evidence at those points is crucialand any empirical nding requires
careful post-factum scrutiny of whether it might have been an interference by the
method that was used.7

Phenomena <> Methods Construction relation

While corresponding to the theoretical structure of argumentation, the constructed
methods cannot violate relevant aspects of the phenomena. Checking whether the
phenomena are not violated by the articial steps of method construction is a
crucial task at every moment.
Sometimes there are enormous gaps between the phenomena that are claimed to
be studied and the methods applied. For example, the use of fMRI techniques has
become popular in psychology in the recent decades. The persuasive value on the
readers of reports who observe beautiful color images of the brainwith some
parts showing heightened activityhas been shown (McCabe & Castel, 2008). Yet
such persuasiveness is not equal to knowledge. When it comes to the actual representation of neural processes, the method of magnetic resonance showing blood
ow changes is inferior to traditional methods of electronic on-scalp recordings
(Chelnokova, 2009; Miller, 2008). The neuronal processes proceed with speeds of

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two biological processesthat of nerve impulses and of the speed of blood ow in

the cardiovascular system. These speeds are drastically dierentthe nerve
impulses proceed 50100 times quicker than the blood ow.8 Trying to study the
functioning of the nervous system in all of its speed, using a method based on a
functional system that is slower by its functions, would not tthe speed of the
phenomena under study renders the use of the magnetic resonance techniques mute
when these are used beyond specifying the stable intensity of processes in static
parts of the brain. The MRI technique is highly productive in providing the
researchers and clinicians the best view possible to the anatomical structures of
the body and even into their functioningyet in cases of relatively slowly proceeding processes.

Methods <> Data relation

At the very bottom of our Methodology Cycle, we nd the Data. It becomes clear
that the data are constructedor derivedentities that are not facts (that stand
alone). Data require an interpretive framework within which they become informative. That framework is provided by one or another conguration of the
Methodology Cycle. The usualdeeply impoverishedconguration that is used
in empirical psychology consists only of Methods<>Data relation, perhaps with
the Theory kept at a distance as an umbrella of convenience. In such case, the
only interpretability of the data is within the method discourseleading to evaluative claims (I have good datawhich may mean anything: many data points,
approximated by the normal distribution curve, etc.).
The important feature of this bookinviting its readers to cultural psychologyis the absence of the data in most of my elaborations of key issues of
science. This is deliberate. I have tried to present the selected abstract issues of
emerging cultural psychology in ways that are as near to the phenomena as possible, turning some of these phenomena into de facto data. These data are qualitative in their nature, which ts the systemic nature of culturalpsychological
phenomena. There is no quantication imperative in cultural psychologyyet there is a quest toward abstract formalization of its general principles
(Rudolph, 2013).

The art of science

The ways of the artist and those of the scientist meet in the middle of Figure 4.
Both rely on the intuitionbe it educated in the scientic lores or artistic in
grasping the crucial features of human existence. An artist without such penetrating subjectivity could perhaps devise advertising billboards, and a scientist without
intuition may successfully write review articles. It is very unlikely that a person
with full knowledge of what others have done in the given science could arrive at
breakthroughs to arrive at new knowledge. In order for new knowledge construction be triggered, there need to be holes, or unnished tasks, in it.

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Albert Einstein, when queried about his self-view of thinking by Jacques

Hadamard, set the aective imaginative meaning-making into the center of the
creative process:
The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role
in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in
thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be voluntarily
reproduced and combined.
There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical
concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive nally at logically connected concepts
is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above mentioned elements. . .
The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some muscular type.
Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is suciently established and can
be reproduced by will. (Hadamard, 1954, pp.147148)

Einsteins self-reection is no sign of genius. Rather, it is a perceptive description of

the move from what Ganzheitspsychologie has been considering the move from
intermediate to nal Gestalts (Friedrich Sanders and Erich Wolfahrts work in
1920sAbbey & Diriwachter, 2008). We may also remember Einsteins charming
success as a violin playerand it is exactly in the case of people well versed in
music that the body-based aective intuition relates with the hyper-generalized eld
of the musical signs. In terms of the version of cultural psychology of semiotic
dynamics, we can interpret this primacy of imagination over verbal encoding in
terms of the relationship of the pleromatic and schematizing pathways on sign
hierarchy construction (Valsiner, 2014). Orin Einsteins termsthe capacity to
feel-in into the current experience9 sets the stage for asking relevant research questions. Orto generalizein order to be able to ask relevant questions in ones
research, developing such intuitive Einfuhlung is crucial. Primate researchers in
Japan build their studies of animal behavior on the cultural basis of feeling-in
with the primateswell in line with the general holistic and ecological world
view, and quite contrary to the Occidental suppression of the aect from
However, not every kind of feeling into ones experience leads us to science. The
art of intuitive grasping of relevant problems becomes streamlined in the process of
theory construction by creating a frame of reference.

Where psychology fails: Trust in correlations

The invention of the notion of correlation in the history of statistics by Francis
Galton, Charles Spearman, Felix Krueger, and Karl Pearson at the end of the 19th
century has done a major disservice for psychology to transpose real relationships
into formal ones. Psychological generalization becomes mootany discovery of

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relationships between variable X and variable Y in a correlational analysis

reveals little about the actual functioning of the system in which whatever X and Y
represent are systemically linked. Correlational data do not explainthey need
explanation themselves! This claim has dramatic implications for the standard
practices in psychology of our days where correlational evidencegeneralized to
discourse about signicant relations between variablesis usually viewed as
the nal result of investigation.
An example from regular practice of data derivation would make it clear how
the specic tactics of data analysis create new hurdles for understanding, rather
than new understanding. Let us consider an item from a personality questionnairea method set up explicitly within the intra-individual reference frameand
look at the dierent interpretations that could be given to the very same item that
seems to be a straightforward statement about the respondents self:
I am easily bothered by people making demands on me. (Valsiner, Bibace, &
Lapushin, 2005, pp.284285)

Items like this can be given to subjects with dierent pre-set response
templatesTRUE versus FALSE, or a Likert scale between these two
options. If the response is TRUE (or FALSE), it becomes analyzed as if it
represented the real self-reection of an internal quality of the person. That is
consistent with the intra-individual reference frame.
However, if we now shift to the Individual-Socioecological reference frame, the
seemingly simple statement about oneself becomes quite complex. Dierent
emphases and contextualizations can be given to dierent parts of the statement:
a. I am easily bothered by people making demands in me (P ! E);
b. I am easily bothered by people making demands on me (P E);
c. I am easily bothered [BUT I WANTOR NOT WANTTO BE!] by people
making demands on me (P ! {P<>E}]; and
d. I am easily bothered [BUT OTHERS SAY I SHOULDOR SHOULD
NOTBE!] by people making demands on me (O ! {P<>E}].
A quadruplet structure like the one shown here replaces a unitary question of a
regular questionnaire. Either outcome answertrue or false (oreven
worsequantication of that opposition on a scale) is a result of a microgenetic
process that involves all four foci.
So, instead of a study of personality, we have here a study of the adaptation
process of a person as a whole to the structure of ones environment. Traditional
personality psychology makes the attribution of causality for human conduct to
some imaginary personality characteristicspsychologys equivalent to ether or
phlogiston in physics or chemistry. The cultural psychology of semiotic mediation
would turn the research question from ontological statements (I am bothered by
X, Y, Z) into under what conditions would the meaning I am bothered emerge

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at all in ones encounter with the social world. And, furthermore, once it
emergeshow is it circumventedafter all, we create meanings that make our
encounters unpleasant, but we learn to neutralize these.

From causality to catalysis

Psychology has been trapped by its adherence to causal attributionswhile its
neighboring disciplines of chemistry and biology have already long time moved
into a noncausal systems of explanation. These systems are catalyticemphasizing
the relevance of presence of dierent conditions in the emergence and development
of phenomena. The idea of catalysis is oldin chemistry, it goes back to
1830sbut for psychology, it is very new (Cabell & Valsiner, 2013).
History of psychology includes earlier eorts to bring the notion of catalysis
into the discipline. Back in 1927, Kurt Lewin emphasized the notion of conditionalgenetic nature of unitary complex phenomena (konditional-genetische
ZusammenhangeLewin, 1927, p. 403) where through the study of varied conditions of functioning (Bedingungsstruktur) of the system its potentials for transformation into a new stateas well as conditions of its breakdowncould be revealed.
Lev Vygotskys use of the same epistemological mindset led him to the elaboration
of the Method of Double Stimulation as the methodological tool for developmental psychology (see Valsiner, 2000, pp.7881, 2007; van der Veer, 2009; Wagoner,
2009). That method is in the very core of Vygotskys methodological credocoming out from his primary focus on esthetics, interest in child development in educational settings, and the prevailing atmosphere of dialectics of social turmoils in
the world surrounding him in the 1920s and early 1930s.
The crucial feature of Vygotskys method was the construction of means
(stimulus-means)in the form of action tools or signs to make sense of the
given setting. This entails a new look at methods constructionthe method for
developmental and cultural analysis needs to focus on the emergence of those
functional aspects of the situation that are called for by the setting, and created
by the intentional and goal-oriented agent. The notion of measurement applies
not to what is, but to what is not yet, and to conditions that might bring it into being.
The centrality of the whole of the Methodology Cycle makes the construction of
such methodsof the study of nothingness (that may become something) scientifically interesting.

Methods of movement
What our Methodology Cycleas applied to cultural phenomenaleads to is the
focus on human activities in constant movement. Our psychological functions
operate as we movewalk, run, drive, dance, or even sleep. We move between
home and workplace or school. We go on a pilgrimage (Beckstead, 2012)or to a
psychologist, which itself is also a kind of a pilgrimage. Rarely are we in a static
positionsit down and act in ways expected from us in psychology laboratories

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

or classrooms. Such periods of staying in one place are pauses between movementsthey are the context within which innovationan act of
If method construction in cultural psychology were to remain tting psychological phenomena, the primacy of the persons-on-the-move would need to be
encoded into the ways in which methods are constructed. In cultural psychology,
the key feature is the regulation by signsand hence the methods need to demonstrate how the presence of signs organizes the psyche. This is best observable when
the previous organizational form is either demolished or made dicult to be put to
work in real life. The testing conditions start from the top.
Figure 5 illustrates the basic focus of empirical investigative tactic in cultural
psychology of semiotic dynamics. The subject is givenor is discovered to have
ones ownspecic goal direction (moving11 from position A to position B).
Once the subject has begun the move, the researcher either detects (in natural
conditions) or inserts (in experimental conditions) a meaning that suggests or
demands the opposite to the suggested and started move. This conictbetween
established and sought-for goal, and the border that prohibits access to it (meaning block in Figure 5) triggers the microgenetic process of adaptation to the
changed situation.12 It can entail boundary behaviorstruggling against the
border, trying to break through the barrier; or exiting from the setting, or,
likewise, bypassing the barrier reaching the goal. The process of meanings-based
construction is expected to reveal the basic psychological processes that are
involved in human ways of adapting to the environment and of the environment
to oneself. In that process, semiotic mediating devicessigns and cultural tools
come into use in specic time moments.

Figure 5. The epistemological master scheme in cultural psychology.

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Methods of re- and pre-construction (post-factum

and pre-factum)
As is obvious from the premises of considering irreversible time to be the inevitable
delimiter of our experiences and our study of them, methods that cultural psychology can create are always time dependent. The eort to capture the processes as
these unfold necessarily turn into post-factum (i.e. the currently observed process,
when recorded, is already part of the past) or pre-factum (i.e. the process is imagined as if possibly taking place in the near or not so near future, but it has not
become actualized)-based methods.
History of psychology provides us with a number of accounts of the post-factum
focused methodsthe introspection of the Wurzburg School of early 20th century (Humphrey, 1951), the Second Leipzig Schools methods of Aktualgenese
expanded into idiographic microgenesis (Abbey & Diriwachter, 2008;
Diriwachter, 2009, 2012), Heinz Werners focus on microgenesis (Wagoner,
2009), the thinking aloud methods from Otto Selz and Karl Duncker to contemporary cognitive science (Ericsson & Simon, 1993; Simon, 2007), and Frederic
Bartletts method of repeated reproduction with its contemporary extension into
conversational repeated reconstructions (Wagoner, 2007, 2009, 2012), and the use of
microgenetic techniques in personality research (the Lund school of personality
research of Ulf Kragh and Gudmund Smith).
Psychologys method building has been remarkably poor about clarity about the
pre-factum-based methods. Lev Vygotskys notion of zone of proximal development
(Valsiner & van der Veer, 1993, 2014) poses the need for developing pre-factum
methodsso far that need is not fullled. Dierent modeling eorts to look at
developmentthose of Paul van Geerts Experimental Theoretical Psychology, and
Tatsuya Satos Trajectory Equinality Model (TEM) touch upon the potential for
developing pre-factum-based methods. Of course, any study of creativityif seen
from the perspective of cultural psychology of semiotic dynamicsneeds to belong
here (Tanggaard, 2014). Any act of creativity belongs to the pre-factum line when it
unfolds but becomes recognized as such only post-factum. The diculty of planning to be creative (move from internal innity to external innity in the prefactum mode) is formidable since that state cannot be pre-determined because it
need the post-factum comparison for discovery of the creative act.

Introspection and extrospection

For psychology, the parallel processes of introspection and extrospection remain
central for method construction. The combination of pre-factum and post-factum
foci of methods with that of introspection and extrospection gives us a mapping
onto the tetradic scheme that is covering all of its four sides (Figure 6).
Every method in psychology that is ever constructed nds its own place within
the coordinates of the scheme (Figure 6). The researchers positionsuggested
usually to the subjectis located in the center, at the intersection of the

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

Figure 6. Method construction mapped onto the tetradic scheme of infinities.

four arrows. Method-building in cultural psychologydependent on the goals of

the research projectneeds to include at least some of the four movement directions, and/or their relation. An instruction to extrospectlook outwards from
oneselfin a study setting needs to be directed inwardly, toward the introspection
line. Likewise, the act of externalizing the results of introspective contemplation indicates the move into the extrospective line. Whatever form of
methodsintrospective experiment, interview, questionnaire, analysis of everyday
activity settings or narratives or discourses, etc.is used in method construction,
all these forms need to bring out to the open the processes of coordinated movement, challenged by various obstacles that trigger tensions (Figure 3).

Trajectory Equifinality Model

This pre-factum-focused method (Sato et al., 2012) innovates our method construction realm, particularly as it unites the post-factum search and the contrast between
possible and actual trajectories considered as possibilities, in irreversible time. It is
a method that is aimed at revealing the processes of construction of a trajectory of
movement of a system as it is happening. In order to do that, the method needs to
consider what has already happened up to now, in the light of what could happen in
the next step into the future, and what should happenas determined by the person
and the social demands upon the person.

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TEM breaks up the backbone of contemporary psychologyits reliance upon

inductive generalization and its practical elaboration conventionally called measurement. TEM works with structural qualitative units of analysis that belong to
both sides of the border of the present. TEM involves careful investigation of
relevant phenomena and our basic assumptions about them. Its basic structure
(Figure 6) is centered on the distinction between FUTURE and PAST in the consideration of actual and potential trajectories. Both kinds of phenomena, real
(what happened) and post-factum imaginary (X, Y, Z) and future imaginary
(A, B, C) are treated as relevant in TEM. Consider the following comment given
to Pierre Janet by one of his patients who commented upon the simple act
of opening a book:
This book must be immoral, since, opening it, I have the same feeling I used to have
when I was secretly reading forbidden books in boarding school (Janet, 1928, p. 300)

Here in a brief statement, we have backward reference to actual activity in the past
(reading forbidden books) that implies the contrast to what she did not do (refrain
from reading such books) and the forward impact onto the act nowopening a
book (without reading it yet) rather than not opening it (an alternative that would
avoid the tension in the making). She still opens the book and immediately passes
judgment on it on the basis of the past real event that involved crossing boundary
(forbidden). The impact of the past tension re-constructs new tension, in the new
act. Figure 7 provides a generic structure of TEM.
The consideration that the real and the imaginary are equalyet distinguishedsources for psychological data derivation. This feature keeps the TEM
method apart from other ways of looking at life-course trajectories. The latter take
stock of the actualized pasts, orif looking into the futureabout the expected to
be actualized future (e.g. any inquiry into adolescents future life plans).
Furthermore, descriptions of life course trajectories of the actualized past (and
future) fail to consider the central point of the immediate presentwhere the
future is being negotiated. The TEM model does, it is located in the present (however miniscule time moment it may bea microsecond or a year), querying peoples looking forward (pre-factum) and backward (post-factum) in their subjective
lives (inquiry into internal innity) through their social life events (external
Since all moments of the present are those of an individual person, the TEM
model is an example of application of idiographic science (Salvatore & Valsiner,
2010). It is universal in its schemeTEM model captures any process of negotiation of past and future, for any individual person in the World, being centered in
the movement onwards from the here-and-now state. Yet, its material is
uniquethe phenomena of the vanishing present are not only individual features
of the person but also transient events within the life of the person. We here have a
unity of the universal model that maps onto the absolute uniqueness of every life
moment. Generality is expressed in the constant production of noveltya point that

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

Figure 7. The Trajectory Equifinality Model.

Magoroh Maruyama understood well in his development of second cybernetics

in the 1960s.
At the level of the meta-code, it is reasonable to assume that all biological
systems (and derivations from thempsychological, social, and historical systems)
work under the conditions of variability amplication (Maruyama, 1963, 1988).13
If this axiomatic point is taken, the traditional reliance in psychology on average or
prototypical cases loses its centrality and becomes merely an anchor point in relation to which the unique innovations are being judged. It is precisely the supposed
nonnormalitythe deviance from the average that takes the form of a novel
synthesisthat is in the focus of attention. Development is possible only in the case
of open systems. Methodology of open systems needs to analyze that process of
amplicationjust the opposite to the reduction of variability to averages or

Conclusion: Methodology as movement

Methodology cannot be reduced to method. The data are subservient within the
whole of the Methodology Cycle. They become crucial only in theoretically relevant moments. Einsteins focus on looking for the experimentum crucis is brought
here into cultural psychology as a prevailing credo. This is in stark contrast to the
notion of accumulation of the data that, at some expected yet indeterminate future
point, would resolve our problems in psychology and its practical application. The
inductive pathway to generalization is necessarily limitedit requires combination

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with the opposite, top-down pathway of deductive guidance of where empirical

investigation can be crucial. Together, the two pathways can meet in the abduction
process (Pizarroso & Valsiner, 2009).
When seen from the centrality of key empirical evidenceexperimentum
crucisit becomes clear that methodology cannot be manualized. This includes
segregation of the methods from the Methodology Cycle and giving dierent
methods dierent social value by consensus (e.g. objective methods). All methods in science are a part of a deeply subjectivesometimes exaggeratedly
aectiveeorts of knowledge construction. In line with this, I am purposefully
avoiding addressing (and answering) pragmatic questions usually asked about
methods (e.g. how should I create a valid questionnaire?). Answers to such
questions come from the askers own thinking within the frame of the
Methodology Cycle. If that thinking fails, psychology would be impoverished by
yet one more empirical study that produces irrelevant data.
Cultural psychology has a chance to restore the focus of psychology to that of
humanly relevant phenomena. This chance is based on its systemic look at the
methodology as a wholeas a process of generalized meaning-making. The scientist in that process is centralthe intuitive grasp of phenomena can turn in the
hands and minds of creative scientists into general knowledge. The complexity of
psychological phenomena includes self-reexivity of the meaning-maker as a complicated condition that needs to be considered explicitly. Psychology has avoided
doing so for a centurybut cannot continue that practice any longer.
I am grateful to Pina Marsico for inspirationboth caeinated and intellectualin bringing
this paper to its conclusion.

The writing of this Editorial was supported by the Niels Bohr Professorship grant from the
Danish Ministry of Science and Technology.

1. To appear as Valsiner, J. (2014) Invitation to cultural psychology. London, England: Sage.
2. A real life example of this process is the fate of the notion of intelligencesince the 1920s,
it has become defined through the method that is devised to measure it.
3. This tension has led to the post-modernist denial of the possibility for generalization and
consideration of knowledge as always local (e.g. Geertz, 1983).
4. While it is true that James allows for temporal co-existence of the experience and its
naming (1950, p. 190, footnote)in the case of enduring experience (e.g. feeling
depressed can last long, including in time the claim I feel depressed)the meta-level
nature of sign mediation relative to the object of such mediation remains in place.
Hundred years and more have not changed the situation in psychologythe displacement of the original phenomena by the labels (words, ratings, etc.) attributed to them
remains the confusing hindrance for psychological science.

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

5. Ergodicity presumes that inter-individual and intra-individual variations in a set are

isomorphic. It fits to all phenomena that do not undergo change or developmentin
that case, the simultaneity or successivity of phenomena are equal. Ergodicity fits timefree world. In the case of all phenomena that undergo transformation in irreversible
time, ergodicity does not apply.
6. A concrete example of such misfit is the history of attachment theory. Startedby John
Bowlbyfrom an axiomatic focus on attachment as a bondrelation of mother and
childin the 1950s1960s, it became empirically studied after 1970s as a characteristic
(types) inherent to the child. The enormous accumulation of data in attachment research
has little to say about the bonding process as such.
7. There exists a curious difference in the way physicists and psychologists look at their
datagenerated by some methodsafter the data are obtained. Physicists spend
around 90% of the time checking whether the results could have been artifacts generated
by the methods themselves (Knorr Cetina, 1999) while for psychologistsespecially
after considering their methods standardizedthat percent approaches zero. This
difference can be explained by the abductive approach of the physicists and inductive
approach by the psychologists.
8. Speed of neural impulses in the nervous system: in muscles119m/s, in passive
touch76.2m/s, in the case of pain0.61m/s, as compared with the speed of blood
flow in the cardiovascular system, range of 0.281.78. m/s in carotid artery, range of
0.10.45 m/s in vena cava; approximately 0.001 m/s in capillaries.
9. Einfuhlung in die Erfahrung. Theodor Lippss focus on Einfuhlung was described above.
Furthermore, the holistic nature of the central feeling is emphasized by Kitaro Nishida:
. . .the feeling of harmony (Harmoniegefuhl) is not a mere combination of feelings, but
constitutes one feeling in itself. Feeling is the fundamental unit, in which we discriminate
an indefinite number of qualitative differences (Nishida, 1979, p. 224). Science is a
passionate form of human activity where feelings lead the differentiation of rational
10. As Strum (2000, p. 492) commented: Empathy is part of standard practice in the Kyoto
tradition of Japanese primatology, while for North American traditions it is considered
bias. However, the status of empathy is unstable even among North American
primatologists. It is not unusual for a scientist to accept empathy and anthropomorphism in one context like the study of nonhuman primate cognition while rejecting it as
bias in others.
11. Moving here entails not only physical movement in space but also movement in
ones mind (e.g. imagine situation X or remember episode Y from your past).
12. The history of the various versions of microgenesis/Aktualgenese is best overviewed by
Carl Graumann (1959) and in The Social Mind, chapter 7 (Valsiner & van der Veer,
2000). It is the general method of tracing the emergence of novel phenomena in irreversible time, starting from very short time spans (hence the focus on micro) or
focusing on the emergence of the actual state of a phenomenon in time (the actual
in Aktualgenese). For contemporary extensions of the microgenetic procedures, see
Abbey and Diriwachter (2008) and Abbey and Surgan (2012).
13. In contrast to variability constrictionthe assumption that has been inserted into the
social sciences through the axiomatic insistence of the natural orderof normal,
Gaussian distribution as a given. All the habit of homogenization of heterogeneous
classes is based on the consideration of the average as the representative of the

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constricted version of normal distribution. Variability amplification is the opposite process that moves outwards from the normal distribution and generates ever-new forms
that may expand the distribution and alter its form.

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Culture & Psychology 20(1)

Author biography
Jaan Valsiner is the Niels Bohr Professor of Cultural Psychology at Aalborg
University in Denmark, and Professor of Psychology and English at Clark
University, USA. He is the founding editor (1995) of the Sage journal, Culture
& Psychology and Editor-in-Chief of Integrative Psychological and Behavioral
Sciences (Springer, from 2007). In 1995 he was awarded the Alexander von
Humboldt Prize for his interdisciplinary work on human development.

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