In psychology, a “construct” is the term and definition attributed to a phenomenon which, despite the absence of empirical reality, is constituted as an object of study. Constructions are used to communicate, know and manipulate phenomena that can hardly be defined, precisely because they are not concrete objects. They shape much of psychology and, as such, have determined much of our individual perception of everything around us.
Below we present a definition of the construct in psychology and we will review the applications he had in clinical psychology, in particular from the theory of personal constructions.
What is a construction?
As in scientific disciplines, psychology has generated a series of very important knowledge for understanding our relationship to the world. It is often abstract knowledge on objects which, although having no empirical reality, constitute a large part of psychological knowledge, both at the specialized and the familiar level.
This is why, to legitimize itself as a practice that seeks both to generate knowledge and to manage what it generates knowledge about (like a science), psychology has had to create a series of concepts that make reality intelligible. who studies.
In other words, how many objects of study in psychology are not empirical evidence (Concrete, material, visible elements, for example, intelligence, consciousness, personality), the discipline itself must have generated a series of concepts which can represent what it studies.
These concepts are known as constructs, and they are precisely entities whose existence is neither uniform nor precise, but in all cases one tries to study to satisfy needs related to a specific society.
Some antecedents and examples in psychology
In the 1970s, within the social sciences, discussions began about the origins and effects of scientific knowledge. Among other things, it was concluded that all science is the product of a specific time and place.
As Berger and Luckmann (1979) would say, belief systems are the product of a social construction. This questioning and these proposals have also generated a debate on the constructs that psychology has generated within the framework of scientific development.
In fact, much of the research in psychology has focused on validating psychological constructs. This means that a number of studies are carried out and it seeks to follow parameters and criteria that generate reliable concepts to talk about phenomena that we barely observe. For example, when different responses are measured against different reaction times, which results in the IQ or IQ construct.
George Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory
American psychologist George A. Kelly (1905-1966) developed a theory called the theory of personal constructions. Thanks to this theory, Kelly proposed that the constructs may have therapeutic effects.So, he suggested a way to apply them in clinical psychology.
According to Kelly, the terms we use to refer to things, or ourselves, reflect the way we perceive these things. From there, what Kelly was saying is that the words by which we interpret a phenomenon do not necessarily describe that phenomenon, but rather reflect our perception of it.
So, for example, if a teacher refers to a child as “lazy”, it is above all a reflection of the teacher’s personal perceptions, but it also has consequences for the child himself. Indeed, it is placed in a certain place (that of inactivity, out of laziness), so that the teacher’s expectations and requests are adapted to this perception, as well as to the child’s behavior.
Kelly believed that it was possible to reconstruct, that is, to use new constructions to denote the same phenomena, and in this way, generate and share new possibilities for action. In the case of the lazy child, for example, I would recommend replacing the “lazy” construction with one that would allow the child more freedom.
The psychologist recommended to consider ourselves as scientists, that is to say as builders of concepts that allow us to relate in one way or another to the world and to ourselves. As if we could constantly formulate different theories and test them.
He applied the latter in the clinical field as a means of enabling the people he cared for to relate in different ways (through different constructs) to what they perceived to be a problem.
Kelly’s Criticisms of Mainstream Science
Thus Kelly challenged scientific objectivism and the idea of ”objective reality”, proposing that rather than objective realities, there should be a set of beliefs and fictions, with which, and if necessary, to develop. news can be generated. Beliefs and new fictions.
This modification is important because it implies a qualitative change in the system of relations in which the person is inscribed. Thus, what Kelly recovers are personal meanings and, far from seeking to homogenize, she works on them and opens up possibilities for transformation.
To be able to do it, Kelly distinguishes between different types and functions of constructions, As well as the different variables involved for a construct to be considered valid, or not, or because they form different systems. He also discusses in his theory the permeability of constructions, that is, the measure that can be applied or changed and under what circumstances.
- Berger and Luckmann (1979). The social construction of reality. Amorrortu: Buenos Aires.
- Botella, L. and Feixas, G. (1998). Theory of personal constructions. Applications to psychological practice. [Versión Electrónica]. Accessed June 4, 2018.Available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Luis_Botella/publication/31739972_Teoria_de_los_Constructos_Personales_aplicaciones_a_la_practica_psicologica/links/00b4952604cd9cba42000000.