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Making sense of ourselves and others. Review of Understanding People by Trevor Butt

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  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology


Making sense of ourselves and others Making Sense of Ourselves � PAGE �2� Making Sense of Ourselves and Others Review of Understanding People By Trevor Butt Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004, 193 pp., £16.99, $24.95 Reviewed by Meg Barker Trevor Butt’s previous book, Invitation to Personal Construct Psychology, written with Vivien Burr, (Burr & Butt, 1992) had a profound effect on me both academically and personally. I happened across it in a second hand shop and picked it up because I was familiar with Burr’s (1995, 1998) books on social constructionism and gender, both of which I had found invaluable in my teaching on those areas. I knew very little about personal construct theory (PCT) since Kelly and his followers are only given the briefest of mentions in the UK psychology undergraduate curriculum. The ideas in Burr and Butt’s book resonated with me more than any theories I had come across previously. They provided me with a more satisfactory way of understanding the way my research participants made sense of their lives, and subsequently encouraged me to explore PCT and related theories in more depth. Perhaps more importantly, the clear real-life examples given in the book made it easy for me to apply PCT to my own experiences, and to see the ways in which my difficulties were often rooted in either/or thinking or “ground shaking” when events failed to fit my existing ways of construing. For all these reasons I was very excited to hear of Butt’s new book and keen to read how his ideas had progressed since 1992. In his preface Butt justifies the title of his book in some depth, wary that some might see Understanding People as a rather grand or pretentious aim. However, the title is fitting because the book lays out a thorough and detailed framework for making sense of human behavior, drawing on PCT, social constructionism, the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, and the social psychology of Mead, amongst other approaches. The book is structured into two main parts, the first

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