Group concept mapping methodology: toward an epistemology of group conceptualization, complexity, and emergence

Abstract

Group concept mapping is a participatory mixed-methods approach to social and behavioral research that integrates qualitative group processes with multivariate statistical analyses to generate, structure and represent the content of a specific topic. Group concept mapping is widely recognized as a means for capturing the complexity found in social phenomena and many claim the process and results of the method are emergent. Despite these claims however, the ontological, epistemological, and methodological foundations of group concept mapping, viewed through the phenomenological lenses of complexity and emergence, have not been fully explored. Moreover, the characteristics of group concept mapping as a shared mental model lacks a clear description. This paper argues for a more precise description of collective group mental model construction and examines emergence as a critical multi-level process for found in group concept mapping. Based on this appraisal, group concept mapping can be characterized as a discontinuous compilation model that displays configural properties congruent with this typology. The phenomenon exhibited in this type of model are the result of patterned emergence processes, and concept mapping appears to exemplify several principles associated with the conceptualization of emergence. The implications for two research activities where group concept mapping is often used, theory and measure development, are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks Martin Cloutier and Slavi Stoyanov for their suggestions on a previous draft of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Scott R. Rosas.

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Rosas, S.R. Group concept mapping methodology: toward an epistemology of group conceptualization, complexity, and emergence. Qual Quant 51, 1403–1416 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-016-0340-3

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Keywords

  • Group concept mapping
  • Complexity
  • Emergence
  • Mental models