Personal Construct Theory by George Kelly

George Kelly

What is personal construct theory by George Kelly?


According to George Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory, people perceive and organize their world of experiences the same way the scientists do. 

Kelly believed that each person creates a set of cognitive constructs about their surrounding environment and we interpret and organize the events and social relationships of our lives in a pattern. On the basis of this pattern, we make predictions about ourselves and about people in our surroundings.

Kelly’s personal construct theory states that we humans function as scientists. Like scientists for a hypothesis and test them against reality by performing experiments in the laboratory, If the results of their experiments support the theory, the theory is retained. If the data do not support the theory, the theory must be rejected or modified and rested. 


What is Construct?


A construct, in simple words, is like a mental label or idea that you use to understand and make sense of things. It’s a way your brain organizes information. For example, if you have a mental construct of what a “friend” is, it helps you recognize who your friends are based on certain qualities or behaviors you associate with friendship. Constructs are like mental tools we use to navigate the world.

We base our behavior on our constructs.


What is Constructive Alternativism?


Throughout our lives, we develop many constructs for almost every type of person or situation we encounter. As we meet new people or encounter new situations, we expand our inventory of constructs and alter or discard constructs periodically as situations change. In short, revise our constructs and use alternative constructs to apply to a situation. We are free to revise them or replace them with other alternatives.

Here is an example:

Imagine you have a friend who is always late when you make plans. You could interpret this in two different ways:

  1. You might think, “My friend didn’t come because she does not value our friendship”
  2. Or, you might think, “My friend might have a busy schedule”


Corollaries of personal construct theory


These corollaries are principles that stem from the theory and help explain how individuals construct their understanding of the world. This helps us understand individual differences through personal constructs. 


1. The Individuality Corollary:


The individual corollary is all about you as a unique person. It talks about individual differences and states that you have your own way of seeing the world, and you create your own ideas and beliefs to make sense of things. It recognizes that everyone’s perspective is different because we all have our own thoughts and experiences.


2. The Organization Corollary:


The organization corollary is about how you organize or structure your thoughts and ideas in your mind. It’s like how you put things in categories or groups to make sense of them. For example, you might organize your ideas about animals into categories like “pets” and “wild animals”

This corollary emphasizes that people organize their thoughts differently, and it influences how they understand the world. It’s like arranging puzzle pieces in your mind to create a picture, and each person’s picture is unique because they organize their pieces in their own way.


3. The Dichotomy Corollary:

The Dichotomy corollary refers to how people tend to see things in  either black and white terms. It’s like thinking in opposites or extremes. For example, you might see people as either “good” or “bad”, without considering the in-between or gray areas.


4. The Choice Corollary:


The choice corollary is about the freedom to choose and make decisions. It suggests that individuals have the ability to select from various ways of thinking and behaving based on what they believe will work best for them in a given situation.

In simple terms, it means you have the power to make choices about how you think, feel, and act. You are not locked into one w Instead, you can decide to respond to different situations in different ways. This corollary emphasizes that people are not bound by rigid patterns; they have the freedom to choose and adapt their responses.


5. The Range Corollary:


The range corollary is about the flexibility of your constructs, which are the mental tools you use to understand the world. It suggests that each of your constructs can apply to a range or variety of situations, not just one specific thing.

In simpler terms, think of your constructs like versatile tools in the toolbox. They aren’t meant for just one job, they can be used in different situations. For example, if you have a construct for “trustworthy people”, it can apply to various individuals you trust in different ways and is adaptable and can be used across a wide spectrum of experiences.


6. The Experience Corollary:

The experience corollary relates to how people develop and adjust their mental constructs based on their personal experiences. It suggests that as you go through life and encounter different situations, you refine and modify the constructs you use to understand the world.

The experience corollary highlights how personal experiences shape the way you think and how you adapt your mental constructs to better fit your understanding of the world as you grow and learn.


7. The Modulation Corollary:


This corollary focuses on how people adjust their constructs or mental tools to fit different situations. It suggests that individuals can modify their way of thinking, feeling, and interpreting experiences based on the context or circumstances they are in.

In simpler terms, think of it as tuning a radio to different frequencies to get the best reception. Just as you adjust your radio to match the station you want to listen to, The modulation corollary highlights that people can fine-tune their mental constructs to better understand and respond to the specific situation they are facing. It’s about adapting your thinking to what’s happening around you


8. The Fragmentation Corollary:


This corollary refers to the idea that individuals may sometimes have inconsistent or fragmented mental constructs. In simpler terms, it means that people might hold contradictory beliefs or thoughts about the same thing.

It’s when you have mixed feelings or confusing thoughts about a person or situation. For example, you might feel both happy and sad about a friend at the same time.


9. The Commonality Corollary:


The commonality corollary is about how people share similar constructs with others. It suggests that individuals can understand each other better when they have common or similar ways of thinking and interpreting the world.

An example of this could be having someone who speaks the same language as you. When you both have similar constructs for understanding things, it’s easier to communicate and connect because you share common ground in how you view the world. 


10. The Sociality Corollary:


The sociality corollary emphasizes that people’s constructs, which are the tools they use to understand the world, are influenced by their interactions with others. It suggests that our way of thinking and understanding things is shaped by our social experiences and the people we interact with.

In simpler terms, think of it as how your friends and family can influence the wya you see the world. When you spend time with people who have certain beliefs or perspectives, it can affect your own constructs and how you interpret things. This sociality corollary recognizes that our understanding of the world is not only personal but also influenced by the social connections we have.


11. The Construction Corollary


The construction corollary highlights that people continuously build and reconstruct their mental constructs or ways of understanding the world. It suggests that our understanding of reality is not fixed but rather an ongoing process of constructing, revising, and adapting our constructs based on our experiences and interactions.


Final Words:


In conclusion, George Kelly’s Personal construct theory offers a fascinating glimpse into how individuals construct their unique understanding of the world. Through personal constructs and corollaries, Kelly’s theory sheds light on the intricacies of human perception and adaptation. 

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