What is the overall purpose/direction behind personality? Comparing everyday individuals to that of scientists, Kelly believes that people strongly despite to understand the surrounding world, develop predictions about future events, and subsequently compose theories that serve to explain such events. The Personal Construct Theory was proposed and designed as an alternative point of view to the dominant perspectives of behavioral and psychoanalytical of the time period of the 50’s.
Contrary to the more commonly accepted observations of humans being passive entities who were melded and guided by their respective “associations, reinforcements, and punishments they encountered in their environments (behaviorism) or their unconscious wishes and childhood experiences (psychoanalysis), Kelly believes that people take an active role in how they collect and interpret knowledge”; with behavior not serving as the answer, but rather existing as the question itself (Cherry, 2016).
Discussion of Theory Concepts
The ambitious American psychologist’s ideas depicts the human brain as a machine that constantly performs various experiments designed to put one’s own belief, perception, and interpretational system to the test (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). If the brain finds that an experiment functions as intended, then said experiment will serve to strengthen the current belief system embedded within. On the other hand, if found to not match with the brain’s intention, changes in views will take place. As an addendum to the interpretational map of the world, Kelly stressed that every event that takes place can be open to multiple and vastly different perceptions; a concept he introduced as constructive alternativism. While the unconscious mind is absorbing information of an event that is taking place, the conscious mind is working as an active participant in the selection of the construct that is used to interpret what is happening.
Role of Society and Individual Differences
According to Kelly, constructs that are selected by the conscious mind and subsequently used undergo the exact same process that takes place when a scientist selects a theory to utilize as a way of reacting to an experiment. Initially, the mind hypothesizes a certain construct that will then correspond to a certain event. An examination or test is applied by taking the selected construct and predicting a given outcome. When a hypothesis is validated by a predicted outcome coming to fruition, the construct is seen as useful in the particular situation; with the mind retaining it for use in the future.
One of the most important roles in the Personal Construct Theory is the concept of recurrence. Constructs are complex machinations of condensed thought that emerge as reflections of frequent recurrence in one’s life. Believing these constructs to be “organized in hierarchical fashion”, Kelly claimed that the most basic constructs lay at the bottom of the hierarchy and the more abstract ones lay at the highest levels (Cherry, 2016). In addition to structural foundations based on the concept of recurrence, Kelly also found these constructs to be bipolar impulses; with each consisting of a pair of sides opposed to one another. Such examples of bipolar constructs include passive versus active, changing versus stable, and unfriendly versus friendly. The side in which the conscious mind decides to base around is known to be the emergent pole (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). Conversely, the side in which the conscious mind decides not to base around is known to be the implicit pole. These constructs are known to be inherent to one’s own self due to the fact that they are directly based upon the experiences of one’s own unique life. With next to no intervention from a mental health practitioner, Kelly designed a technique known as the repertory grid interview as a way of assisting patients to understand and analyze their specific constructs (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). This very same repertory grid was later utilized and adapted to different tasks within various organizations such as decision making and world-view interpretations (Hall, Lindzey, 1970).
- Cherry, K. (9 May 2016). What is Personal Construct Theory? verywell Psychology. Retrieved September 12, 2016 from https://www.verywell.com/
- Hall, C. S., & Lindzey, G. (1970). Theories of Personality. New York: Wiley.