SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2008, 36(8), 1123-1140 © Society for Personality Research (Inc.

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A TripArTiTe Model of idiogrAphic reseArch: progressing pAsT The concepT of idiogrAphic reseArch As A singulAr enTiTy
Stephen KrauSS University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, USA
This paper is an attempt to bring clarity to idiographic theory and research in psychology by delineating 3 different types of idiographic research: research not assuming general laws, unique manifestation research, and intraindividual research. These 3 research types use different methods, make different assumptions, and have different relationships to the nomothetic mainstream. The relatively harmonious relationships between unique manifestation research, intraindividual research, and the nomothetic mainstream suggest that these research lines will form an essential part of 21st century psychology, whereas the original conception of idiographic research as research that does not assume general laws will continue slowly to die out. These conceptual advances imply that the single debate over nomothetic-idiographic research should be closed. Keywords: idiographic research, personality, research methods, nomothetic research.

Investigators have debated the relative merits of idiographic and nomothetic research strategies for at least 80 years, with numerous calls (e.g., Allport, 1937; Bem & Allen, 1974; Molenaar, 2004; Pervin, 1996; Runyan, 1983) for increased amounts of idiographic research. However, idiographic research has become only slightly more prevalent in the literature over the years (Lamiell, 2003; Molenaar, 2004). In other words, despite the arguments of many respected researchers for increased amounts of idiographic research, idiographic research has not thrived as expected.
Stephen Krauss, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Oliver Lüdtke, Centre for Educational Research, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, Berlin, Germany 14195, Email: luedtke@ mpib-berlin.mpg.de Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephen Krauss, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Behavioral Sciences Building, MC 285, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL60607-7137, USA. Phone: +1 708 524 0773; Email: stephenkrauss@hotmail. com

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Similarly. researchers will be better able to avoid talking past one another. it is important to recognize that there are three different definitions of idiographic. and the study of individuals versus the study of groups (e. For example. Once these alternative meanings are made explicit. the debate over the value of idiographic research was disorganized. which would greatly improve communication in the field..g. .. Walter Mischel (1983) stated that “a clarification of idiographic goals . 1961. Mellenbergh. there are three qualitatively different meanings of the term idiographic within the field’s contemporary discourse. For example. In other words. Therefore. Holt. psychology as a science versus a nonscience (e. Allport.1124 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH One of the reasons idiographic research may have failed to thrive is that the idiographic-nomothetic debate was not so much a true debate as a discussion of a series of slightly related issues. 1967). the main goal of this paper was to present three different meanings of the term idiographic that are currently used in the literature..g. Issues of definition in science are very important.g. measuring what one intends to measure. Allport. 1987. 1937). Higgins. 1996. This is because validity research has not focused on testing the core concept of validity.g. three different types of idiographic research are distinguished and the implications for the field are discussed.. at different times. once these alternative meanings are made explicit. such as whether interpretations based on test scores are justified. 1962. A significant factor contributing to this disorganization was uncertainty as to what idiographic means. Cloninger. Meehl. which may have contributed to the slow growth of the field. personal uniqueness (e. quantitative versus qualitative research methods (e. . Lamiell. Allport. Making these alternative meanings explicit may help to resolve and eliminate unnecessary debate and thereby focus investigators’ attention more clearly on the distinct substantive scientific questions that require idiographic methods of research. 1954). This paper first briefly reviews the history of the idiographic-nomothetic debate. 1937. Eysenck. Though not previously made explicit. 1962. 1954.. researchers will be able to evaluate more precisely which idiographic methods may be of most use in their specific area of interest. Reflecting this confusion. In addition. and Van Heerden (2004) have argued that changes in the definition of the term validity have done much to hinder the growth of validity research.g. Borsboom. Nunnally. because evidence and research showing the value of one definition does not necessarily indicate the same thing for the other definitions. 591). 1990). 2003). . Allport. remains one of personology’s most enduring needs” (p. and instead has often dealt with newly proposed facets of validity. 1962. Next. the debate over idiographic research concerned: the comprehensiveness and usefulness of personality traits (e.

Allport (1937. Bem and Allen collected self-rated friendliness trait ratings and also self-rated variability in how friendly the participants were across situations. 1962) and Windelband (Lamiell. Allport. 1974) is a classic study on the cross-situational consistency of behavior. This means that idiographic studies frequently bear little exterior resemblance to each other. just as the law of gravity covers each and every entity with mass. nomothetic knowledge is knowledge of “general” laws. but this relationship was moderated by self-rated variability. diversiTy And confusion in The field The meaning of idiographic is conceived in such diverse ways that a vast array of techniques are needed to suit each conception. 1987) is a classic program of research on the . 1962) was much more interested in examining the psychological laws governing the behavior of single individuals than with the study of unique populations. Windelband believed that a lack of universal generalizability in a research domain always signifies the domain is idiographic. Gordon Allport (1937) was the first to use the terms idiographic and nomothetic in English psychological literature.PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1125 hisToricAl Beginnings Historically. The main finding was that friendliness trait ratings predicted friendly behaviors. ExamplE 2 The second example (Higgins. 1998). did not always define these terms in a consistent manner. Allport borrowed these terms from the writings of the German philosopher Wilhelm Windelband (18941998). ExamplE 1 The first example (Bem & Allen. like generations of researchers after him. and the term nomothetic to refer to the study of populations and groups. and trends. such as is the focus of cultural psychology. Perhaps describing three prototypical idiographic studies would help illustrate the diversity of conceptualizations that are present in modern psychology. 1998). Therefore. In short. idiographic knowledge is knowledge about unique events. For Allport (1937. 1962) and Windelband (Lamiell. In short. Allport typically used the term idiographic to refer to the study of individuals. nomothetic knowledge for Windelband is knowledge about what is true for each and every human or collective. In this self-described idiographic study. For Allport (1937. such as those gained from the natural sciences. regardless of the unit of analysis. However. entities.

This means that the content of the three self-concepts is different for each individual. . 1998). What makes Higgins’s research idiographic by this definition is that the general phenomena of actual. ideal. all people. the specific attributes that form the actual. In short. Examples 1 and 2 attempted to reveal processes that generalize to the population at large. in some situations as opposed to the classic conception of nomothetic research as finding principles that are true in all groups. whereas Example 3 did not. In other words. were at least somewhat contextually sensitive. whereas the two other examples were cross-sectional and used large samples. these qualities are also shared with mainstream nomothetic research. the ideal self. Lamiell. However. 1987) is a research program in which idiographic was defined as research where there is a unique manifestation of a general phenomenon. ideal and ought self-perceptions all have unique content that depends on the person’s life and experiences. whereas Example 1 did not. Example 3 was longitudinal and a case study. and the qualities the self ought to have. that is. Example 2 (Higgins. In this study. and ought selves are measured by having participants freely list the attributes contained in each of three self-concepts. 1962. In other words. All three examples hypothesized that the concepts of interest were present in each participant. is there a common thread linking all three prototypical studies? Example 2 used individualized measures. However. psychohistorical study. research that does not assume general laws. 1998) is a prototypical. ExamplE 3 The third example (Simonton. self-described idiographic studies do not appear to have much in common beyond commonalities with mainstream nomothetic research. 1974) is a study that used the term idiographic in its original historical sense (Allport.1126 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH impact of perceived discrepancies between the actual qualities of the self. Simonton examined how global stress affected the physical and mental health of King George III during his life. quantitative. some individuals. The presence of the three different self-conceptions and the effects of discrepancies among them are hypothesized to be the same in all people. The goal of this paper was to show that these three studies are prototypical studies that operationalize three different definitions of the term idiographic. these three fairly prototypical. 1937. The main finding of the study was that King George’s health typically declined about nine months after global stress had increased. idiographic research using this definition specifies that it is only valid for some groups. Example 1 (Bem & Allen. and used quantitative methods. and all situations. while the two other examples did not. Besides the fact that the researchers in all three examples described their studies as idiographic. Examples 2 and 3 used empirical methodologies that explicitly treated the participants as unique in some way.

for some theorists (e. ideal. or at least large sections of humanity such as men or women. 2004). nomothetic research assumes that the categories are applied identically to all participants in a study. each member of a group is treated as a perfect exemplar of the group as a whole. 2003). 1937. in an identical fashion. IdIographIc rEsEarch as a VIolatIon of UnIVErsal homogEnEIty The traditional goal of pure nomothetic research was the goal of general laws. next best was b) each and every human being. in nomothetic research all males are equally good representations of men. as well as assuming that each person uses continuous scales. In nomothetic research. a) each and every member of the animal kingdom. 1974. and ought self-perceptions. Molenaar. Molenaar. Pavlov’s (1927) work on conditional reflexes is a prime example of research conducted in the pursuit of general laws and specifically aimed at explaining the behavior of each and every nominally intelligent member of the animal kingdom. ideal. However.g. such as Likert scales. the results of nomothetic research are frequently treated as if they are accurate for each and every member of the group. people do not have the same actual. all Asians are equally good representations of Asians.. and all people who received a 4 out of 5 on an extraversion scale are equally good representations of the group of people who receive a 4 out of 5 on an extraversion scale. 1983. the goal of formulating general laws was to find laws and principles that were common to: most preferably. Cervone.g. Much of Freud’s work (e. idiographic research is research that examines a person (such as in Example 3) or a group of people across time.PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1127 although everyone is thought to have actual. and ought self-perceptions. 2003). nomothetic research assumes that all people respond to categorical and continuous scales using the same metric (Michela. Lamiell. In other words. 1923-1960) attempted to explain the unconscious processes and personality structure of all of humanity. nomothetic research assumes that each person determines whether he or she is an Asian in an identical manner. c) each and every member of large sections of humanity. For example. such as for men or women (Allport. 1998) was the psychohistorical examination of the impact of stress on King George’s health across time. In psychology. 2004). or at the very least. Bem. Because nomothetic research treats each individual as a perfect exemplar of the group. Higgins’ self-discrepancy theory (1987) would . Example 3 (Simonton.. 2005. In other words. the goal of identifying general laws has been translated by modern psychology into the goal of finding principles that are true in a population (Lamiell. For example. Bem & Allen. Research using this definition of idiographic therefore captures individual uniqueness in ways that do not violate any but the strictest conceptions of a general law. To this end. This research was an example of idiographic research as intraindividual or longitudinal research. 1990.

such as correlations. 1985. 1996) would be classified as idiographic by researchers holding this definition (Lamiell. 1990. For example.. t tests. considered nomothetic by definition (e. research using these statistical methods is typically. 1974).g. Beck (1953) argued that idiographic research goes beyond the analysis of single traits to examine . Molenaar. Meehl. A strict interpretation of general laws in group level research implies that the results should hold for all groups. Jaccard & Dittus. group research that violates the goal of general laws is no longer typically called idiographic. 2003. interindividual research was idiographic if the findings held for only part of the population (Lamiell.. 1992) could be classified as idiographic (Lamiell. General Laws in Interindividual Research In interindividual level research. 2006. virtually all common statistical comparisons between people. Beck. Group research is conducted to give some ability to predict the level of a variable (such as performance or creativity) in a group given some knowledge of the group’s level on other variables (such as group cohesion or number of members). However. Therefore. interchangeable exemplar of the group as a whole. 2004). moderators) and all research on psychological types (Gangestad & Snyder. gEnEral laws In dIffErEnt typEs of rEsEarch data All scientific research is based on comparisons between different units. Triandis. This type of research indicates what is normally true about groups. General Laws in Group Research In group research. Because of the substantial amount of influence that the goal of general laws has had on science. Bem & Allen. such as decision-making groups or cultures. general laws take on different forms depending on the type of research being conducted. This was interpreted to mean that all research on interactions between variables (i. It is at this level of analysis that the goal of general laws is frequently interpreted as the goal of understanding populations (Lamiell.. Historically. Interindividual research is conducted to give some ability to predict the level of a variable (such as talkativeness or attractiveness) in an individual given some knowledge of the individual’s level on other variables (such as extraversion or body weight). Collins. 2003).1128 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH also be classified as nomothetic in relation to the goal of general laws because the processes that self-discrepancy theory lays out are hypothesized to be valid for everyone.e.. research on the psychological differences between collectivistic and individualistic cultures (e. This type of research indicates what is normally true about people.g. 1998). and ANOVAs. studies compare the level of variables in different people. Borsboom et al.. As a result. studies compare the level of variables in different groups. For example. 2003). 1953. Lamiell. 1998).g. but not always (e. 2004. treat each member of a group as a perfect.

This question is best articulated through an idiographic approach. also called class variables. Schmittmann. Visser.g. affecting one another. other researchers have continued to see idiographic research as focused on finding new interactions or types of an interindividual nature. 1983). this would signify a lack of homogeneity within a person in their responses across time or situations. and could easily account for interactions between continuous variables simply by adding an interaction term into standard regression equations. Dolan. 1998) have generally abstained from classifying research on types as idiographic. 1983). p. Ness and Tepe (2004. see also Bem. Therefore. see also Jaccard & Dittus. Making the assumption that general laws are violated in intraindividual research can lead to two different conclusions. 334. & Raijmakers. 1990) argued that interindividual methods “leave open the question of why psychotherapy is effective in some instances and not in others.. has been firmly rooted within the nomothetic tradition (e. Intraindividual level research is conducted to give some capacity to predict the level of change in a variable (such as talkativeness or sadness) in a person given some knowledge about change in other variables in the person (such as amount of positive feedback or fatigue). variables in mutual interplay. Eysenck (1954) quickly noted that mainstream nomothetic research had long focused on interactions between variables. However.’ segment level” (Jaccard & Dittus. In contrast.. the practice of associating interactions with idiographic research has not disappeared completely. Lubke.g. 1992). Schmittmann. and is usually termed development. 357). studies compare the level of variables in a person across various situations or states. Similarly. researchers since Windelband (Lamiell. Idiographic research according to this view functions simply as a pilot study to prepare the way for nomothetic follow-up studies. This type of research indicates what is normally true about a person. this is starting to change with the recent application of intraindividual research techniques to class variables (e. if general laws are violated in intraindividual research. For example. 2005. Similarly. Firstly. However. the study of psychological types. 1990. even though modern researchers all recognize the ability of nomothetic methods to deal with interactions. Some modern researchers still see interactions as occurring at a “more ‘idiographicbased. researchers such as Paunonen and Jackson (1985) have argued strongly that these sorts of studies are not idiographic at all. 1935). General Laws in Intraindividual Research In intraindividual level research. Because regression equations with interaction terms are applicable to the entire sample. these are the individual” (p. even if this has sometimes encountered significant opposition from more classical trait researchers (Meehl. 2006).PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1129 the “universe of traits. 143). which supports the formulation of hypotheses based on observations of symmetries across cases” (p. or . situationalism. & Neale. (Bem. Thurstone.

(e. 2003). the type 2 model in mixed regression and multilevel modeling).. idiographic and nomothetic research goals in intraindividual research typically mean a desire for a certain result. 2004). this would signify that people are different in their intraindividual structures. Molenaar. 2002. Jones & Nesselroade. 546).e. Moskowitz & Hershberger. systematic violations of general laws). Dolan. It is at this intraindividual level of analysis that the classic goal of general laws is most logically examined (Lamiell. 2003) now allow researchers to distinguish between intraindividual variation (i. if general laws are violated in intraindividual research. 2005. intraindividual error covariance structures are assumed to be identically heteroscedastic and identically autocorrelated (Singer & Willett..e. 2003). 2002.. General Laws as a Goal and Assumption Explicit assumptions that general laws have been violated typically do not lead directly to a set of research methods (e.g. Nesselroade.g. Lamiell. 2003. Wood & Brown. and the type 1 model in mixed regression and multilevel modeling) and interindividual differences in intraindividual change (i. 2003). McArdle. apparently for historical reasons. Aggen. Nevertheless. explicit . Twisk. which can be supported by arguments regarding parsimony and critiqued as potentially overriding personal uniqueness. especially dynamic factor analysis (Hamaker. personal uniqueness in intraindividual structures is best captured by multivariate times series techniques. one must study individuals and not populations (Lamiell. 2003). Singer & Willett. & Molenaar. the times series family of analyses. Lamiell. and direct testing of whether individuals have different response patterns across situations and time in a longitudinal sample (i..e. 1990. 2003). This allows for the simultaneous analysis of intraindividual variation. Instead.1130 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH even randomness if there is also a lack of homogeneity in responses to a given situation as well. 2002. Mixed regression and other multilevel models therefore have the advantage that they can “take into account patterns of intraindividual change explicitly and then capitalize on interindividual differences in that intraindividual variability” (Nesselroade. with idiographic researchers hoping to find and focusing on personal uniqueness and nomothetic researchers hoping to find and focusing on similarities. However. recent mathematical and computational advances (cf. However. & Meyers.. For example. For example. p. and more commonly. with each individual having their own starting point (sometimes called a random intercept model) and/or rate of change (sometimes called a random slope model). 1994). Secondly. in most psychological domains (Molenaar. with nomothetic methods typically involving more subjects. This is because. 1985.. in order to find out what is true about each and every person. in most longitudinal research. at the intraindividual level the only difference between a nomothetic and idiographic method might be the number of subjects included in a study.

. 2004) and nomothetic (e. Singer & Willett. F. he is typically thought of as a prototypical nomothetic researcher (e. Therefore. However. but is often featured as a prototypical nomothetic theory by idiographic theorists (e. Freud’s research focused largely on intraindividual concepts such as the id and ego.g. no researcher still classifies research on cultural specifics as idiographic. and more about focus and desired results (e. Despite the fact that the most widely used definition of idiographic is based on the assumption that there are no general laws. 1983). because mainstream psychology no longer holds a strict interpretation of general laws. . both Freud and B. 2003. and. this research does not appear to be the most useful strategy in most cases. At the interindividual level. the nomothetic-idiographic distinction is less about method. Idiographic researchers so strongly emphasizing individual uniqueness (e. was based on qualitative research. Runyan. At the intraindividual level. 1983). 1923-1960) research on personality appears to meet every proposed feature of idiographic research except for the fact that Freud explicitly assumed that there were general laws. mainstream researchers are very aware that moderators exist for almost every process and that their predictions are not equally accurate for each participant (in which case all residuals would have the same absolute value). Runyan.g..g. At the group level. Lamiell..g. contained moderators such as gender. For example. Tuerlinckx. intraindividual research on operant conditioning. a superego. an id.PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1131 assumptions that general laws are violated are probably the best predictor of whether a line of research is classified as idiographic or nomothetic. Skinner explicitly theorized that the principles of operant conditioning hold for everyone. and allowed for some individual uniqueness in how unconscious processes manifested themselves. However. 2003. Lamiell. arguing that psychological research cannot or should not be generalized to populations) paradoxically may even have retarded the growth of self-described idiographic research. Runyan. This is especially true in mainstream longitudinal or intraindividual research. Similarly.. and so on.g.g.. Lamiell. where mainstream researchers are explicitly expected to test for individual uniqueness in starting point and rate of change (e.. therefore. Skinner (1938) conducted a large amount of single-subject..g. 1983). 2003). Freud’s theory of personality is not remembered as the most famous of all the idiographic theories. For example. Skinner have well-known bodies of research that are classified both as idiographic (e. Freud’s (e..g. was based on single subject designs. 2003). since Freud’s theory was based on the assumption of general laws everyone was thought to have an unconscious.

2004). Researchers in this tradition have shown that some hypothesized universals. Cervone.. can manifest differently in different people. Borsboom et al. 2004. Molenaar.g. This type of “unique manifestation” of latent variables is operationalized through providing measures tailor-made for each participant. & Wright. 2004. This type of uniqueness research is a natural extension of traditional nomothetic research because it shows how latent variables can be displayed differently or are uniquely manifested in each person. 2005. 2004). these critical advances have not yet been employed sufficiently as a conceptual tool for organizing research in social and personality psychology. Recent advances in psychometrics have revealed that a correspondence between intra. Shoda.. are logically and practically independent from explanations and descriptions of a single individual’s behavior or experiences across situations and time (Borsboom. 2004. These theorems state that an analysis of interindividual variation will not correspond to the pattern of intraindividual variation when a process meets one or more of the following conditions: 1) a mean trend that changes over time. or examining within-subject or intraindividual variation. and 3) when the process occurs differently in different members of the population. However. such as the trait of extraversion (Cervone. such as in Higgins’ (1987) research on self-discrepancies. Collins.g. such as those conducted using standard correlational and ANOVA designs. explanations and descriptions of interindividual variation.and interindividual structures will occur only under specific mathematical conditions (classic ergodic theorems) that do not hold in most psychological domains (Molenaar. 1987. Cervone found that personality descriptors. Cervone. Higgins. In other words. Roberts. In short.. IdIographIc rEsEarch as IntraIndIVIdUal rEsEarch The third way of defining idiographic research is as research that examines individual change across situations or time (e. Kelly. 2) a covariance structure that changes over time. Mischel. 2004. 1955). in most situations of interest to psychologists. are conceived differently by different people and are predictive in different situations for each person. such as the term responsible. 2004). .1132 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH UnIqUE manIfEstatIons as IdIographIc rEsEarch The second way of defining idiographic research is as research that conceives of latent variables as having a unique manifestation within an individual (e. For example. 1994). Molenaar. This is sometimes called research at the level of the individual.and interindividual variation should be expected to be at least somewhat independent. Thus. intra. some idiographic researchers. 2006. 2005. conceive of latent variables as taking on a slightly different image in each participant.

arE thEsE dEfInItIons rEally sEparablE? Researchers have traditionally maintained that all idiographic research shares a common theme: research violating or not assuming general laws. such as gender. For example. a researcher could track a single subject’s mood over a month.. Borsboom et al. To get around the weaknesses posed by single subject designs. researchers frequently make arguments such as: cultural differences cause differences in worldview (Triandis. Unique manifestation research might indeed be a surviving line of research evolving out of research not assuming general laws.. or extraversion. Epstein.PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1133 There are also large differences in intraindividual and interindividual causal accounts (Borsboom. However. they cannot be conceptualized as causes of intraindividual behavior. and thus could not tell us about the typical structure of mood within people. although single-subject research is always intraindividual research. 2004). it appears likely that people will ask whether unique manifestation research and intraindividual research are just the surviving lines of this earlier idea. to examine the intraindividual structure of mood. This is because if there is no variation of these constructs within an individual. 1996). In this way. can logically account for interindividual differences (Borsboom.. 2005. 2003). lumping research not assuming general laws and unique manifestation research together into a single category might not be the most useful strategy for researchers. However. researchers have simultaneously examined intraindividual variation in mood (e.. Therefore. 2005. of course. static variables. 1983) and personality (e. 2005) across different people. could only be generalized to that individual. and intelligence are typically conceived as unchanging.g. single-subject designs are incapable of examining the degree of homogeneity (or degree of individual uniqueness) in the domain.g. static variables. researchers have examined the generalizability of the intraindividual structure of mood and personality. neuroticism.. for the reason that unique manifestation research fits within the nomothetic mainstream in virtually every way with the exception that each individual’s measures are personally tailored. Single-subject research such as this also could not identify important interindividual variables that could potentially influence the intraindividual structure of mood. The findings of this study. these variables cannot covary with their supposed effects. For example. In essence. Intraindividual research is not necessarily single-subject research. For this reason. However. Borsboom et al. unique manifestation research assumes that variables look different in different people and is silent about whether processes are different in different . as well as the impact of interindividual variables on the intraindividual structure. 2004. however. neuroticism. neuroticism causes depression. because culture. intelligence causes intellectual performance. Lamiell. Hamaker et al.

Nevertheless. but probably should not be seen as categories of idiographic research themselves. these equations are not necessarily equally true of each member. but does not necessarily assume that people are different in how they change over time. This paper. in general. but nondiagnostic. it is true that people. in which case residuals would be hypothesized to be equal except due to method variance. idiographic research does not appear to be reducible simply to moderator analysis. moderator analysis does not appear to be a useful way to theoretically or practically distinguish modern idiographic and nomothetic research. In contrast. Qualitative Research Although this paper has focused largely on quantitative idiographic research. Moderator analysis is one method that researchers have suggested (e. In addition.1134 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH people. In other words. 1985). Similarly. However. However. is predicated on the view that looking and being are sufficiently different concepts to deserve their own categories. 2004). these are common. 2004. Molenaar. it continues to be true that much. In fact. characteristics of idiographic research. Intraindividual research assumes that people change over time. 1974) using for research that does not assume strict general laws. In other words.g. Bem & Allen. but researchers need not assume this in order to conduct and analyze meaningful intraindividual research. Beck. however. 1953.. researchers do not classify prominent idiographic research such as Higgins’ (1987) research on self-discrepancies and Simonton’s (1998) psychohistorical research on historical figures as idiographic if and only if they use moderators. common nondIagnostIc charactErIstIcs of IdIographIc rEsEarch There are two common characteristics of idiographic research that could be construed as additional categories of idiographic research: qualitative research and narrative life research. In other words. Intraindividual research is also very different from research not assuming general laws. selfdescribed idiographic research uses qualitative research methods. then unique manifestation research is an aspect of research not assuming general laws. research not assuming general laws is more about processes being different in different people. are different in how they change and develop. If variables looking different is seen as an aspect of variables being different. the nomothetic mainstream also uses moderators. so much so that moderators appear to form a key strategy by which modern nomothetic psychology can continue to strive for general laws in some sense: discovering equations that apply equally to each member of the population (Paunonen & Jackson. classical nomothetic research is most logically conducted at the intraindividual level (Lamiell. if not most. as discussed earlier. Qualitative . these two research strategies are best seen as common characteristics of idiographic research.

narrative life research typically: does not assume general laws (e. but is not a defining feature of idiographic research. and intraindividual research. As a result. 1923. and can be used at all levels and in all types of research. or is at least compatible with. 2003.g. this author proposed that there are three independent types of idiographic research: research not assuming general laws. must always examine intraindividual variation across time or imagined time. it appears unlikely that it has some other distinct characteristic that is also shared with other lines of research that do not themselves fit into one of the three other categories of idiographic research previously identified. McAdams & Pals.. but that does not itself appear to be a separate category of idiographic research. assumes. narrative life research appears to be a prototypical type of idiographic research that can combine all three categories of idiographic research. Unlike previous unitary conceptions of idiographic research. separately or in combination. However. to any of the three categories of idiographic research identified in this paper. as a narrative. it could be seen as a potential candidate for a fourth type of idiographic research. In short. unique manifestation research. everyone has their own life story and unique identity). the use of qualitative methods is a common characteristic of idiographic research. and. As narrative life research is probably the most prototypical and obviously idiographic line of research in mainstream psychological journals. Therefore.. Thus. Freud. Narrative life research is based on the assumption that people see their lives as stories that continually shape their behavior and give them meaning and identity (McAdams.g. 1). Narrative Life Research Narrative research is a special type of qualitative case study in which subjects narrate stories. In short. such as a typical analysis of a focus group explaining their perceptions of a new advertising campaign. frequently about their own life (McAdams. 2001. many other types of qualitative research as idiographic. qualitative data is not reducible. 1960). unique manifestations of psychological constructs (e. the paper aimed to establish that the classic idiographic-nomothetic debate should be . qualitative research does not need to assume unique manifestations of phenomena. 2006). conclusion In this paper a new conceptual scheme has been proposed that attempted to do away with the concept of idiographic research as a single entity. Although it would be easy to classify many types of qualitative research would be easy to classify as idiographic.g. identity and meaning). such as case studies and diary research. As qualitative research can be used to attempt to find general laws (e. because narrative life research is typically idiographic in all three ways identified in this article.PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH 1135 research methods involve “analyzing and interpreting texts and interviews in order to discover meaningful patterns” (Auerbach & Silverstein. 2001). p..

W. New York: Holt. Thus.g. 1981. Bem & Allen. G. W. & Winston. and the value of examining intraindividual variation.g. it is not even clear at this point what a valid idiographic study based on violations of general laws would look like if the study did not also meet at least one of the two other characteristics of idiographic research. these three types of idiographic research have not shown equal value in developing active and influential lines of research. In other words. should not be expected. New York: New York University Press. Qualitative data: An introduction to coding and analysis. In contrast. Auerbach. Once the so-called idiographic-nomothetic debate is closed in favor of minidebates examining the (im)possibility of general laws. equations that apply equally to the entire population even though they are not equally true of each person (Paunonen & Jackson. research based on the assumption that there are no general laws has proven exceedingly difficult to design in ways different from research conducted by the nomothetic mainstream (e.1136 PROGRESSING PAST IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH closed in favor of three minidebates over the value of each of the three kinds of idiographic research when compared to mainstream nomothetic research. once these separate types of idiographic research are recognized. (1961). Allport. C. G. focusing on general laws no longer seems valuable to idiographic science for at least two reasons. Lamiell. The first reason is that the nomothetic mainstream largely recognizes that general laws. In addition. has been relatively fruitful and lasting. New York: Holt. . Pattern and growth in personality. unique manifestations of universal phenomena. 1974) and what little research has been done has not been terribly fruitful in stimulating further research (e. which could be of great benefit to both camps.. in the original historical understanding of the term. & Silverstein. In other words. 1982). a less combative dialog between the relatively marginalized idiographic researchers and the more numerous and more recognized nomothetic researchers can be initiated. Rinehart. Research based on either unique manifestations or intraindividual variation. G. Allport. (1937). (2003). 30. L.. W. the correct relationships between idiographic research and mainstream research will be more apparent and new. In addition. Rinehart & Winston. (1962). underexplored avenues of research will be more easily recognized and incorporated into established areas of study. B. 405-422. these two lines of idiographic research thus should be expected to grow and form an essential part of 21st century psychology. F. The second reason is that the modern conception of a general law is something akin to a regression equation incorporating moderators: that is. Personality: A psychological interpretation.. 1985). The general and the unique in psychological science. references Allport. although not terribly common. Journal of Personality.

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