The core consideration with which George Kelly is concerned is distilled in his suggestion that the psychology of personal constructs represents an attempt to catch a glimpse of the person going about the business of being human. Whatever the business of being human is for Kelly, he is clear that he wishes to understand that business from the perspective of those who are going about it. To use Kelly’s words, he wants to take the perspective of the “inward outlook” and in so doing move away from the “outward inlook,” providing a radical rethink of the psychology that was contemporary of his time. This article will suggest that the unsophisticated way that Kelly dealt with language has implications for the theoretical carriage of this “inner outlook” and opens up Personal Construct Psychology to elaboration in the direction of a more sophisticated account of language. This article will culminate in a suggestion that Personal Construct Psychology make a more tight hermeneutic turn to Hermeneutic Constructivism.
Constructivist perspectives are having an increasing influence within science education. This article outlines some of the main premises of George Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory which may be relevant for science educators. Kelly’s theory places a strong emphasis on the need to recognise that one’s system of construing events is potentially open to change. These ‘ways of seeing’ are likened to goggles which, if one realises one is wearing them, can be removed, rose tinted, focal length altered, etc. Aspects of the theory such as the root metaphor ‘man-the-scientist’, individuality, organisation and sociality corollaries are examined and implications for issues such as conceptual development and teaching strategies within physics education are explored.
Raskin J. D. (2011) Ernst von Glasersfeld and Psychotherapeutic Change. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 235–238. https://constructivist.info/6/2/235
Context: The late Ernst von Glasersfeld humbly claimed that he was not a therapist and therefore had no comment on the relevance of his radical constructivism for psychotherapy. Problem: Because the constructivist view of psychotherapeutic change is often overlooked, this paper in von Glasersfeld’s memory uses his constructivist theory to conceptualize how such change occurs. Method: By briefly outlining the radical constructivist position and examining its theoretical implications for psychotherapy, the significance of von Glasersfeld’s theorizing for understanding therapeutic change is articulated. Results: A constructivist view of psychotherapeutic change emphasizes relational factors rather than the rote steps of an empirically supported treatment approach. While client-therapist interactions never instruct clients how to change, the therapeutic relationship is the mechanism by which client systems are disrupted and compelled to reorganize in new ways. Implications: Von Glasersfeld’s constructivism implies that therapy is a structured way of generating client change. Because all clients are closed systems, therapy is different with every client. Von Glasersfeld’s theory provides a basis for conceptualizing therapy in relational, rather than empirically supported treatment, terms.
The notion of essence in psychology is examined from a constructivist viewpoint. The constructivist position is summarized and differentiated from social constructionism, after which constructs are distinguished from concepts in order to position ontology and epistemology as modes of construing. After situating constructivism in relation to philosophical approaches to essences, the distinction between essences and kinds is examined and the presumed constructivist critique of essences in psychology outlined. It is argued that criticizing constructivism as an “anything goes” form of antirealism fails to grasp how constructivist psychology, by emphasizing structure and viability, does indeed place limits on the constructions people may hold. In applying a constructivist understanding of essences in general to those fundamental to human psychology, people can be seen as having three essential psychological qualities: they are closed systems, active meaning-makers, and irreducibly social beings. Yet a constructivist view also maintains that these psychological essences only hold while operating within and committed to a constructivist perspective. In other words, what counts as an essence always depends on one’s assumptions, or how one construes events. Finally, a personal construct theory model of essentialist and nonessentialist construing is introduced that is based on the assumption that everyone construes in both essentialist and nonessentialist ways at different times because doing so is pragmatically viable.
Soffer J. (1993) Jean Piaget and George Kelly: Toward a stronger constructivism. International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology 6: 59–77.
Among constructivist metatheoretical approaches, a strong version is defined as that which reveals reality to be actively and subjectively constructed rather than passively incorporated as objective environmental or innate “facts” by the subject. Given this definition, however, ambiguities arise concerning the potential and limits of construct integration over the course of development. Piaget’s stronger constructivist model is offered as a means of clarifying and broadening the strong constructivist position on knowledge evolution. Piaget’s genetic epistemology model places dramatic emphasis on the organizational capacity of the subject, specifying personal development as a strongly continuous and subsuming process. Discussion of commonalities between Piaget’s position and Kelly’s personal construct theory concludes this article.
Soldevilla J. M., Feixas G., Varlotta N. & Cirici R. (2014) Characteristics of the construct systems of women victims of intimate partner violence. Journal of Constructivist Psychology 27(2): 105–119. https://cepa.info/1066
The aim of this study was to explore the structural characteristics of the construct systems of women who had suffered intimate partner violence (IPV). We compared a group of 40 women victims of IPV and 40 controls using the symptom check list (SCL-90-R) and the repertory grid technique (RGT). IPV victims showed more psychological symptoms, higher polarization and unidimensional thinking, and more implicative dilemmas than the comparison group. In contrast to previous assumptions and findings about their low self-esteem, no significant differences were found with the control group in the actual self–ideal self discrepancy measure of the RGT. These cognitive characteristics of the construct system should be taken into account in efforts to assist IPV victims psychologically. For example, if results were confirmed by further studies, interventions should give priority to dilemma resolution over self-esteem enhancement as a focus of therapy. Relevance: This a study based on personal construct theory and uses the Repertory Grid Technique to systematically study the personal constructs of women who have been victims of their partner.
Stam H. J. (1998) Personal construct theory and social constructionism: Difference and dialogue. Journal of Constructivist Psychology 11: 187–203. https://cepa.info/5494
In psychology there are at least as many varieties of social constructionism (SC) as there are of constructivism. Many of these versions of SC share a number of crucial properties with several versions of constructivism, including epistemological and ontological asssumptions that are not articulated often or clearly. Personal construct theory (PCT), one version of constructivism, appears in its negative identity to reject the same positivist and representationist psychologies so strongly eschewed by SC. The positive programs of SC and PCT are in accord insofar as they attempt to establish notions of knowledge and categories of psychological life as inherently constructed. The two programs depart however on the crucial notion of the origins of such categories. Linguistic and social communities are essentially the repositories and generators of knowledge even as we are individual knowers. But the knowledge we as individual knowers construct makes sense only within the communal use of categories of knowing, feeling, and construing. On this account we are “persons in conversation” and our perceived unities emerge only as discursive practices conforming to local cultural norms.
Stewart A. (1994) Constructivism and collaborative enterprises. In: Fell L., Russell D. & Stewart A. (eds.) Seized by Agreement, Swamped by Understanding: A collection of papers to celebrate the visit to Australia, in August, 1994, by Humberto Maturana. University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury: 71–92. https://cepa.info/8273
Excerpt: This paper is a contribution to a dialogue on contructivist ideas in qualitative research in which collaborative inquiry is a central feature. By this I mean a process of finding out how both ‘researchers’ and ‘subjects’ have come to conceive an issue through sharing of their perceptions. Collaborative or participatory action research is an example of this approach. I propose that a constructivist methodology or epistemology for collaborative inquiry can be developed from primary theoretical concepts such as Structural Determinism of Maturana, second order cybernetics of von Foerster and van Glasersfeld and of Personal Construct Theory of Kelly. I further propose that secondary interpretations of these seminal ideas by family therapists helps to show how to use this epistemology in collaborative inquiry. The method or practice based on such an epistemology is a series of conversations which have as their focus an understanding of the lived experience of persons regarding specific issues. The central dynamic is learning both by those who contribute their stories and those who have responsibility to effect change. The purpose of these collaborative conversations is to recognise how belief systems – of both professionals and ‘subjects’ – relevant to the issue under consideration have been created, what beliefs underpin current practice and how the product of interaction may be used to change practice. Integral to this kind of conversation is the role of the facilitator of collaborative inquiry and the nature of relating based on a constructivist mode during the conduct of research.
Stojnov D. (1996) Kelly’s theory of ethics: Hidden, mislaid or misleading? Journal of Constructivist Psychology 9: 185–199.
Kelly did not explicitly aim to produce a special theory of ethics, but his work offers enough basic principles to give us an idea of what a personal construct theory of ethics would look like. In this article, I articulate the implicit theory of moral construing and reveiew its similarities to, and differences from, other theories. I pay special attention to the question of universalism versus relativism, a somewhat misleading issue in the presentation of personal construct theory. I conclude by proposing that personal construct psychology be construed as a universal and constructivist approach to ethics.
Taber K. S. (2020) Constructive Alternativism: George Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory. In: Akpan B. & Kennedy T. J. (eds.) Science education in theory and practice. Springer, Cham: 373–388. https://cepa.info/7259
George Kelly’s professional focus was on supporting people who were struggling with the stresses of their lives. Finding that the Freudian ideas he had been offered as tools in his own professional training offered little in working towards change with many of his clients, Kelly developed his own approach based upon a constructivist perspective of learning (which he called constructive alternativism) centred on the core metaphor of person-as-scientist. People, like good scientists, should always be open to exploring new data and considering alternative explanations and conceptions, rather than becoming fixed in established ways of thinking. Kelly’s work developed into a recognised approach in psychology, and became very influential in at least one school of thought in science education. Kelly did not only offer a theory that could support clinical practice for therapists, but also offered a methodology for exploring a learner’s developing thinking. In his own educational work, he found that his approach offered insights into teachers’ classroom difficulties. This chapter considers the core ideas of Kelly’s theory in comparison with other constructivist perspectives employed in science education. The chapter also discusses how Kelly’s personal construct theory can inform classroom teaching and reflects on an approach that explicitly expects people to behave scientifically as a perspective on science teaching and learning.