Personal Construct Theory was the pet theory of George Kelly. Despite its efficacy and interesting results, this theory is not widely explored and has poor connections to the rest of psychology. Kelly is seen by some as the first cognitive psychologist because of his view as the person as rational scientist. He emphasized constructive alternativism, a view that subjective interpretation is more important than objective reality

  • The structure of personality: We order experience by means of constructs. A construct is predicated on at least three objects, two of which we classify as similar to one another and one of which is different. A construct is, for Kelly, a classification of this sort, like hot-cold, male-female, or Christian-godless heathen. For Kelly, a construct must be linear -- there are no constructs with more than two poles.
  • Process works as follows: Construal of events with constructs leads to anticipations of the future, which structure our actions.
  • Growth and Development: As we grow, our construct systems gain in complexity, as we add more constructs, discard those of little use to us, and modify those within our systems.
  • Psychopathology: Pathology arises from disordered construct systems. There are a few constructs Kelly himself used to classify these disordered systems. Permeable constructs are those that are allowed to apply to nearly any phenomenon. Excessive permeability of constructs can lead to an inability to recognize difference. Impermeability is just the opposite, and pigeonholing of every situation as unique is related by Kelly to compulsiveness. How tight or loose a construct system is refers to how similar their use is, given a range of similarity differentials in situations. Excessively tight people may make the same predictions regardless of the situation, while extremely loose people (possibly schizophrenics) may react in very different ways to very similar circumstances. Constriction and dilation of a construct system have to do with the breadth and scope of the entire system. Constriction is related to depression, dilation to mania. In addition to these problems of the construct system, Kelly also has operational definitions for the following:
    • anxiety: the perceived inability of the construct system to successfully address an issue.
    • fear: the perception of a new construct about to enter the system.
    • threat: the perception that the entire system may soon undergo massive change.
    • aggression: the active expansion of one's construct system
    • hostility: attempts to influence others' behavior.

  • Change: For Kelly, change requires a reexamination of ones' core constructs, new information or experience to prompt new constructs, and some way to verify the validity or use value of these new constructs. Kelly is associated with a therapeutic approach known as fixed-role therapy that is more common in the United Kingdom than in the United States of America. In fixed-role therapy, the therapist and client together create an alternative identity, and then the client tries to act as she imagines this alternate self would act in life situations.

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