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Nomothetic literally means "proposition of the law" (Greek derivation) and is used in philosophy (see also Nomothetic and idiographic), psychology, and law with differing meanings. In psychology, nomothetic measures are contrasted to ipsative or idiothetic measures, where nomothetic measures are measures that are observed on a relatively large sample and have a more general outlook while the idiographic approach is relating to a more singular case as is done in case studies.


In general humanities usage, "nomothetic" may be used in the sense of "able to lay down the law", "having the capacity to posit lasting sense" (from Ancient Greek: nomothetikos - νομοθετικός, from nomothetēs νομοθέτης "lawgiver", from νόμος "law" and the Proto-Indo-European etymon nem- meaning to "take, give, account, apportion"[1])), e.g., 'the nomothetic capability of the early mythmakers' or 'the nomothetic skill of Adam, given the power to name things.'[2]


In psychological theories of personality, the following could be categorized as nomothetic theories: Carl Jung's Psychological Types, Eysenck's three factor model, the Big Five personality traits, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. An approach to personality and psychological research in which a person is understood in relation to principle or norms rather than by their own individual uniqueness.

In other fields[edit]

In sociology, nomothetic explanation presents a generalized understanding of a given case, and is contrasted with idiographic explanation, which presents a full description of a given case. Nomothetic approaches are most appropriate to the deductive approach to social research inasmuch as they include the more highly structured research methodologies which can be replicated and controlled, and which focus on generating quantitative data with a view to explaining causal relationships.[3]

In anthropology, nomothetic refers to the use of generalization rather than specific properties in the context of a group as an entity.


  1. ^ Linguistics Research Centre (2017). "Indo-European Lexicon PIE Etymon and IE Reflexes". Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  2. ^ nomothetics
  3. ^ Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevior (2005). Research Methods. British Library: Elsevior Ltd. p. 32.