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THE FORMAL CONTENT OF KELLY’S PERSONAL

CONSTRUCT THEORY

Table A6.1 summarises the basic assertions of the theory (Kelly, 1952/1991).

The corollaries are presented in a different order than Kelly’s, but in his own

words. I then provide a brief comment or gloss on each one.

Table A6.1 The fundamental postulate and the corollaries

Fundamental

postulate

A person’s processes

are psychologically

channelised by the ways

in which he anticipates

events.

The world out there is real; the world

in here is equally real. Psychologically,

people operate by building internal

representations of the phenomena

they experience. They do so in order

actively to predict what will happen

next. This activity has the same

epistemological status as the activity

of the ‘scientist’ when s/he seeks to

understand and explain nature.

Construction

corollary

A person anticipates

events by construing

their replications.

People develop these internal representations

by recognising regularities

and recurring patterns in their

experience, which they represent

internally by means of contrasts called

‘constructs’.

Dichotomy

corollary

A person’s construct

system is composed of

a finite number of

dichotomous constructs.

Constructs are reference axes, not

concepts; so, to understand someone’s

meaning, you need to know ‘both

ends’, that is, the implicit pole as well as

the expressed pole, of the construct.

Thus, ‘good’ as opposed to

‘inadequate’ expresses a different

meaning to ‘good’ as opposed to ‘evil’.

Range corollary A construct is convenient

for the anticipation of a

finite range of events only.

Unlike a concept, which applies to

everything it encompasses, a construct

is limited to a focus of convenience

found useful by the person using it.

It’s not used for all things in all

circumstances.

(continued)

Table A6.1 (Continued)

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.

Some constructs are more permeable

(can accommodate many new events

within their range of convenience); for

example, ‘good–bad’. Others are less

permeable (apply to only a few); for

example, ‘fluorescent–incandescent’.

Organisation

corollary

Each person characteristically

evolves for his

convenience in anticipating

events, a construction

system embracing ordinal

relationships between

constructs.

Regarded as a data structure, the

internal representations we call constructs

are organised as a hierarchic

system. Some constructs are more

central and have the nature of personal

values, subsuming other, more

specific constructs.

Fragmentation

corollary

A person may successively

employ a variety of construction

systems which

are inferentially

incompatible with each

other.

While there is a tendency towards

consistency between different parts of

the system – especially between core

constructs (personal values) and their

subordinate constructs – this

consistency isn’t total; it may vary

according to circumstances and events

as the individual interprets them.

Experience

corollary

A person’s construction

system varies as he

successively construes the

replications of events.

Constructs represent ‘working

hypotheses’ about what will happen

next. If they, or their implications,

aren’t effective in prediction, they are

open to amendment in the light of

those events, though people differ in

the extent to which they are prepared

to make, or even notice, a possible

need for, such amendment.

Choice

corollary

A person chooses for

himself that alternative

in a dichotomised

construct through which

he anticipates the

greatest possibility for

the elaboration of his

system.

We often express preferences for one

pole of each construct as opposed to

another. If the whole system is to be

effective in anticipating events, it

makes sense for us to develop a

preference which allows us to ‘grow’

the system in a way which increases

the accuracy of our predictions and

anticipations.

Individuality

corollary

People differ from each

other in their construction

of events.

Different people develop their own

meanings – their own constructs – for

the same events, and this is what gives

them their individuality and distinct

personhood.

(continued)

Table A6.1 (Continued)

Commonality

corollary

To the extent that one

person employs a

construction of experience

which is similar to that

employed by another, his

processes are psychologically

similar to those

of the other person.

People are similar to the extent that

they construe (see the meaning in)

events similarly (and not because they

encounter similar events, nor because

they behave in the same way).

Sociality

corollary

To the extent that one

person construes the

construction process of

another, he may play a

role in a social process

involving the other

person.

We enter into effective role relationships

with other people (for example,

boss–subordinate; parent–child;

husband–wife) to the extent that we

are aware of, and can understand,

some of the other person’s constructs

(and not because the two sets of

constructs are the same, nor because

society has defined roles for us).