Complementarity in Q Methodology and Quantum Physics

Main Article Content

Susan Ramlo


Complementarity is a term used in quantum physics that represents the idea that two contrasted theories are necessary to explain a situation. As an example, physicists can describe light (conceptually and mathematically) as a wave and, separately, as a particle. Individually, these two theories can only explain part of how light behaves. Stephenson drew on the idea of complementarity, with a nod given to philosopher, psychologist, and pragmatist William James, by linking his methodology to the principle of complementarity brought forward by Niels Bohr in quantum theory. Within Q methodology, Q technique and Q method are conjoined and result in a factor structure that provides states-of-feeling, each represented by a theoretical Q sort. In other words, each theoretical Q sort is itself self-referent, forged from individuals’ states-of-feeling. In this way, Q methodology assumes multiple divergent views exist about a psychological event or topic, even within a single-case study. These multiple states-of-feeling are necessary to explain the subjectivities and behaviors at hand, whereas assuming a singular-view cannot provide that insight. Such a situation also represents the difference between classical and quantum physics. This paper will draw on complementarity in physics to help clarify how and why complementarity comes into play within Q methodology.

Article Details

How to Cite
Ramlo, S. (2023). Complementarity in Q Methodology and Quantum Physics. Operant Subjectivity, 43.