Combining idiographic and nomothetic methods in the study of internal working models

Warren A. Reich, Albert D. Tuskenis, Alyson W. Slutzky, Harold I. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Attachment theory's notion of internal working model refers to an affective-cognitive structure that guides how individuals experience, and act within, their close relationships. Understanding working models in general (i.e., nomothetically) can be greatly enhanced by attending to the unique (i.e., idiographic) properties of individuals' data. A general method is described for eliciting and empirically representing both the common and unique properties of individuals' descriptions of self and others. This approach is illustrated by two studies in which participants described self and others in a variety of significant roles and relationships by choosing from a list of attachment-related descriptive terms. A hierarchical clustering algorithm, HICLAS (DeBoeck & Rosenberg, 1988), is used to generate a unique graphical representation for each individual's responses. We illustrate the use of HICLAS to (a) assess nomothetic properties of the structures and relate those properties to other variables such as attachment style, and (b) link aspects of any individual's structure with other idiographic data such as interview narratives. Data from HICLAS enhances the interpretation of other, more qualitative idiographic information, and helps to produce new constructs, variables, and propositions amenable to rigorous hypothesis tests in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-183
Number of pages19
JournalPersonal Relationships
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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