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Saturday, June 6, 2015

REVIEW: George Kelley


Kelly developed his theory and philosophy. The philosophy he called constructive alternativism. Constructive alternativism is the idea that, while there is only one true reality, reality is always experienced from one or another perspective, or alternative construction.

Some constructions are better than others.

 Yet no-one's construction is ever complete -- the world is just too complicated, too big, for anyone to have the perfect perspective.

And no-one's perspective is ever to be completely ignored. Each perspective is, in fact, a perspective on the ultimate reality, and has some value to that person in that time and place.

In fact, Kelly says, there are an infinite number of alternative constructions one may take towards the world, and if ours is not doing a very good job, we can take another!

Kelly's theory begins with what he called his "fruitful metaphor." He had noticed long before that scientists, and therapists, often displayed a peculiar attitude towards people: While they thought quite well of themselves, they tended to look down on their subjects or clients. While they saw themselves as engaged in the fine arts of reason and empiricism, they tended to see ordinary people as the victims of their sexual energies or conditioning histories. But Kelly, with his experience with Kansan students and farm people, noted that these ordinary people, too, were engaged in science; they, too, were trying to understand what was going on.

So people -- ordinary people -- are scientists, too. The have constructions of their reality, like scientists have theories. They have anticipations or expectations, like scientists have hypotheses. They engage in behaviors that test those expectations, like scientists do experiments. They improve their understandings of reality on the bases of their experiences, like scientists adjust their theories to fit the facts. From this metaphor comes Kelly's entire theory.

The fundamental postulate
Kelly organized his theory into a fundamental postulate and 11 corollaries. His fundamental postulate says this: "A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he anticipates events."

The construction corollary
"A person anticipates events by construing their replications."

This is the step from theory to hypothesis, i.e. from construction system (knowledge, understanding) to anticipation.

The experience corollary
"A person's construction system varies as he successively construes the replication of events."

This is the step from experiment and observation to validation or reconstruction: Based on the results of our experiment -- the behaviors we engage in -- or our observation -- the experiences we have -- we either continue our faith in our theory of reality, or we change the theory.

The dichotomy corollary
"A person's construction system is composed of a finite number of dichotomous constructs."

He often calls them personal constructs, emphasizing the fact that they are yours and yours alone, unique to you and no-one else. A construct is not some label or pigeon-hole or dimension I, as a psychologist, lay on you, the "ordinary" person. It is a small bit of how you see the world.
He also calls them bipolar constructs, to emphasize their dichotomous nature. They have two ends, or poles: Where there is thin, there must be fat, where there is tall, there must be short, where there is up, there must be down, and so on. If everyone were fat, then fat would become meaningless, or identical in meaning to "everyone." Some people must be skinny in order for fat to have any meaning, and vice versa!

Many constructs have names or are easily nameable: good-bad, happy-sad, introvert-extravert, flourescent-incandescent.... But they need not! They can be unnamed. Babies, even animals, have constructs: food-I-like vs. food-I-spit-out, danger vs. safety, Mommy vs. stranger.

Probably, most of our constructs are non-verbal. Think of all the habits that you have that you don't name, such as the detailed movements involved in driving a car.

Sometimes, although a construct has names, we pretend to ourselves that one pole doesn't really refer to anything or anybody. For example, a person might say that there aren't any truly bad people in the world. Kelly would say that he or she has submerged this pole -- something similar to repression.

One more differentiation Kelly makes in regards to constructs is between peripheral and core constructs.  Peripheral constructs are most constructs about the world, others, and even one's self.  Coreconstructs, on the other hand, are the constructs that are most significant to you, that to one extent or another actually define who you are. 

The organization corollary
"Each person characteristically evolves, for his convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs."

Some constructs are subordinate to, or "under," other constructs.
There is also a definitional kind of subordination, called constellation.

This is also the basis for stereotyping: "We" are good, clean, smart, moral, etc., while "they" are bad, dirty, dumb, immoral, etc.

The range corollary
"A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a finite range of events only."

The modulation corollary
"The variation in a person's construction system is limited by the permeability of the constructs within whose range of convenience the variants lie."

 permeable, which means that they are open to increased range

 Dilation is when you broaden the range of your constructs.

events force you to narrow the range of your constructs equally dramatically. This is called constriction.

The choice corollary
"A person chooses for himself that alternative in a dichotomized construct through which he anticipates the greater possibility for extension and definition of his system."

The individuality corollary
"Persons differ from each other in their construction of events."

The commonality corollary
"To the extent that one person employs a construction of experience which is similar to that employed by another, his psychological processes are similar to the other person."

The fragmentation corollary
"A person may successively employ a variety of construction subsystems which are inferentially incompatible with each other."

The sociality corollary
"To the extent that one person construes the construction processes of another, he may play a role in a social process involving the other person."

What you and I would call emotions (or affect, or feelings) Kelly called constructs of transition,

When you are suddenly aware that your constructs aren't functioning well, you feel anxiety.

When the anxiety involves anticipations of great changes coming to your core constructs -- the ones of greatest importance to you -- it becomes a threat.

When you do things that are not in keeping with your core constructs -- with your idea of who you are and how you should behave -- you feel guilt.

We have talked a lot about adapting to the world when our constructs don't match up with reality, but there is another way: You can try to make reality match up with your constructs. Kelly calls this aggression.

Again, when our core constructs are on the line, aggression may become hostility.

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