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A Q-methodological study of personal worldviews

Artur Nilsson
p. 78-94
DOI: 10.17505/jpor.2018.08

Psychological research on personal worldviews has relied almost exclusively on a quantitative approach that is ill-equipped to fully capture human subjectivity. Using Q-methodology, this study revealed the multiplicity of meanings and internal structures of the worldviews of eighty Swedish adults across the domains of metaphysics, epistemology, human nature, morality, and values. Four coherent worldview Q-factors were extracted and interpreted qualitatively. Ontological and epistemological beliefs proved to be the highest in terms of subjective significance and divergence between worldviews, although they have been largely ignored in past research. The results were in part supportive of polarity theory, which describes the structure of worldviews in terms of the opposition between humanistic and normativistic positions, while also suggesting amendments to this theory, by illuminating the differences between hedonistic and openness-focused forms of humanism and between empiricist and rationalist, as well as religious and atheistic, forms of normativism, and the ways in which elements of both positions are combined or rejected. The findings illustrate how Q-methodology can be used to elaborate and correct the understandings of personal worldviews that are produced by traditional quantitative forms of inquiry.

Keywords: worldview, philosophy of life, Q-methodology, meaning, polarity theory, ideology

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