George Kelly’s Theory of Personal Constructions he advanced in his day by describing the human personality in a manner similar to that of the constructivist models that have become popular in recent decades.
In this sense, Kelly’s work cannot be strictly framed in the cognitivist orientation, which was dominant at the time.
Kelly’s theory of personal constructions
Psychologist and educator George Alexander Kelly (1905-1967) raised his model of personality in his two seminal works: “Theory of Personal Constructs”, published in 1955, and “Personality Theory”, 1966.
Similar to factorial or trait personality models (for example, the Big Five of Raymond B. Cattell or Costa and McCrae), Kelly suggests the use of qualifying adjectives to explain personality. However, in this case, the important thing is the way each one constructs and gives meaning to words In the question.
Kelly conceives of the human being as a scientist who constructs and modifies with experience his body of knowledge and hypotheses, or his vital philosophy, in order to anticipate the results of his behavior and other events. This requires the formation of personal constructions, of descriptive categories that we use to conceptualize events.
Personal constructions are dichotomous and bipolar; it means that we understand human personality and experience in general from opposite poles of adjectives. Some examples of personal constructs would be the happy-sad, smart-stupid, and high-low dichotomies. Constructions are not always bipolar, as we will see later.
This author considered that his perspective can be considered as “constructive alternativism”. By this I meant that in the study of human personality and human thought, one should focus on the relevance of an interpretation of reality for a particular person rather than on its degree of truthfulness in relation to objective facts.
The eleven corollaries of this theory
The fundamental postulate of Kelly’s theory states that all an individual’s psychological processes depend on how he anticipates events. From this nuclear idea derive 11 corollaries, very useful for understanding how personal constructions work and how personality develops according to this author.
We humans use abstract thinking to build mental models of reality and with them to predict events. like that, events of the past we anticipate those of the future.
The psychological differences between people depend on the degree of similarity between their constructive systems, that is, between their respective ways of mentally constructing reality, because they are the ones that determine mental behavior and content.
Personal building systems they are organized hierarchically according to their scope. This avoids contradictions by tackling different constructs, as there will always be one that carries more weight.
As we said, according to the people of Kelly we conceptualize reality from pairs of opposing terms, Like “cold-heat” or “nervous-calm”. When only one of the poles is known, we say it is a submerged construction.
Large building systems can predict many events, but the risk of error is high; on the other hand, those which are more restrictive minimize the probability of failures but anticipate fewer events. People with a riskier character tend to extend, And those savvy towards the definition.
The corollary of scope or application refers to the fact that each construct is effective in predicting a certain range of phenomena. The concept of “convenience center” is used to talk about the aspects for which the construct is particularly useful.
While the experience of life can change a person’s construction system, it does not happen spontaneously but occurs through the psychological construction we make of the events in question. The susceptibility to change of a given construction or system of constructions it’s a very important personality factor.
This postulate speaks of permeability, that is to say of the capacity of a construct to introduce new elements into its field of application and of the possibility of modification of constructs hierarchically superior to it.
Fragmentation is the capacity of a building system to include subsystems whose contradictory predictions are extracted without this leading to a disorganization of the whole. This corollary is closely linked to that of organization, because fragmentation depends on the hierarchy of constructions.
A relevant aspect of Kelly’s theory is the emphasis on building systems two people who share the same culture will be more likely to look alike if not. Therefore, the same will happen with behavior, values and other psychological processes and mental contents.
The eleventh and final corollary of the theory of personal constructions states that we are more likely to understand an individual and that we will like them if we are able to reproduce their system of constructions. This postulate can be clearly linked to the concept of empathy and is influenced by the corollary of community.