chapter  20
13 Pages

Personal constructs

Personal constructs are the basic units of analysis in a complete and formally stated theory of personality proposed by George Kelly in his book The Psychology of Personal Constructs (1955). Kelly’s own clinical experiences led him to the view that there is no objective, absolute truth and that events are meaningful only in relation to the ways that are construed by individuals. Kelly’s primary focus is on the way individuals perceive their environment, the way they interpret what they perceive in terms of their existing mental structure, and the way in which, as a consequence, they behave towards it. In The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Kelly proposes a view of people actively engaged in making sense of and extending their experience of the world. Personal constructs are the dimensions that we use to conceptualize aspects of our day-to-day world, and, as Kelly writes, people differ from each other in their construction of events. The constructs that we create are used by us to forecast events and rehearse situations before their actual occurrence, and are sometimes organized into groups which embody subordinate and superordinate relationships. According to Kelly, we take on the role of scientist seeking to predict and control the course of events in which we are caught up. For Kelly, the ultimate explanation of human behaviour ‘lies in scanning man’s [sic.] undertakings, the questions he asks, the lines of inquiry he initiates and the strategies he employs’ (Kelly 1969). Education, in Kelly’s view, is necessarily experimental. Its ultimate goal is individual fulfilment and the maximizing of individual potential, capitalizing on the need of each individual to question and explore.