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The person as a focus for research. The contributions of Windelband, Stern, Allport, Lamiell and Magnusson2015-02-25, 11:06:24
At the end of the 19th century, Wilhelm Windelband proposed a distinction between nomothetic and idiographic research, which became highly relevant for the discussion of the nature of psychological science. During the 20th century, a number of writers (including William Stern, Gordon Allport, James Lamiell and David Magnusson) have criticized the focus on variables rather than persons, and populations rather than individuals, which has characterized much of psychological research. As a corrective, they have argued for the importance of various forms of idiographic or person-oriented research. The main purpose of this paper is to describe and discuss some of the arguments put forward by these writers, both with regard to their conceptualization of the person and with regard to how they picture idiographic or person-oriented research. A preliminary classification is suggested of different varieties of idiographic and person-oriented research, which differ in terms of how they relate to nomothetic research, and whether they focus on variables or on patterns. It is suggested that the contrast between variable- and person-oriented research may be dissolved into two different contrasts: (a) individual- versus popu-lation-focused research, and (b) variable- versus pattern-focused research.