Saturday, April 10, 2010

All in the Mind - You, the Scientist! Personal Construct Psychology

Personal Construct Theory is new to me, but it seems like something I need to know more about - this is a good starting place.

Here is a bit of an introduction to get us started:
Personal Construct Theory (PCT) represents a coherent, comprehensive psychology of personality that has special relevance for psychotherapy. Originally drafted by the American psychologist George Kelly in 1955, PCT has been extended to a variety of domains, including organizational development, education, business and marketing, and cognitive science. However, its predominant focus remains on the study of individuals, families, and social groups, with particular emphasis on how people organize and change their views of self and world in the counseling context.

At the base of Kelly’s theory is the image of the person-as-scientist, a view that emphasizes the human capacity for meaning making, agency, and ongoing revision of personal systems of knowing across time. Thus, individuals, like incipient scientists, are seen as creatively formulating constructs, or hypotheses about the apparent regularities of their lives, in an attempt to make them understandable, and to some extent, predictable. However, predictability is not pursued for its own sake, but is instead sought as a guide to practical action in concrete contexts and relationships. This implies that people engage in continuous extension, refinement, and revision of their systems of meaning as they meet with events that challenge, or invalidate their assumptions, prompting their personal theories toward greater adequacy.

Kelly formally developed his theory through a series of corollaries , which can be broadly grouped into those concerned with the process of construing, the structure of personal knowledge, and the social embeddedness of our construing efforts. At the level of process, PCT envisions people as actively organizing their perceptions of events on the basis of recurring themes, meanings attributed to the 'booming, buzzing confusion' of life in an attempt to render it interpretable. By punctuating the unending flow of experience into coherent units, people are able to discern similarities and differences of events in terms that are both personally significant and shared by relevant others. At the level of structure, PCT suggests that meaning is a matter of contrast - an individual attributes meaning to an event not only by construing what it is, but also by differentiating it from what it is not. For example, a given person’s unique description of some acquaintances as 'laid back' can only be fully understood in the context of its personal contrast—say, 'ambitious' as opposed to 'uptight'. At a broader level, individuals, social groups, and whole cultures orient themselves according to (partially) shared constructs such as 'liberal vs. conservative', 'pro-life vs. pro-choice'”and 'democratic vs. totalitarian', which provide a basis for self-definition and social interaction. Especially important in this regard are core constructs, frequently unverbalizable meanings that play critical organizing roles for the entirety of our construct systems, ultimately embodying our most basic values and sense of self. Finally, at the level of the social embeddedness of our construing, PCT stresses both the importance of private, idiosyncratic meanings, and the way in which these arise and find validation within relational, family, and cultural contexts.

To a greater extent than other 'cognitively' oriented theories of personality and psychotherapy, PCT places a strong emphasis on emotional experiences, understood as signals of actual or impending transitions in one’s fundamental constructs for anticipating the world.
You can read more by following the links on the sidebar. Enjoy the podcast.

You, the Scientist! Personal Construct Psychology

What makes you 'You'? Personal Construct Psychology argues everyone constructs and tests their own internal models of reality, and that therapists shouldn't cast themselves as the all-knowing 'expert'. We are all scientists of the self. This week, confrontations with a shocking serial killer, the philosophical heritage of psychology and the moral limits of acceptance.

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Transcripts are published on Wednesdays. Audio on Saturdays after broadcast.


Bill Warren
Clinical psychologist in private practice
Conjoint Associate Professor,
Universty of Newcastle
Newcastle, Australia

David Winter
Professor of Clinical Psychology
School of Psychology
University of Hertfordshire

Further Information

All in the Mind blog with Natasha Mitchell - a place for your comments and discussion
Or, you can add your comments above right here on the program page too - look for "Add your comment".

Brotherton Lecture 2009 - Professor David Winter "Shaking Hands with a Serial Killer"
More about Professor David Winter's experience of and with Ian Brady, University of Melbourne, 2009

Australasian Personal Construct Group

Personal Construct Psychology - member group, Australian Psychological Society (APS)

X Biennial Congress Of European Personal Construct Association, 2010


Title: A credulous approach to serial killing - article
Author: David Winter
Publisher: The University of Melbourne Voice Vol. 5, No. 8 9 November - 14 December 2009 ]

Title: Philosophical Dimensions of Personal Construct Psychology
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: Taylor & Francis, Routledge, 1998
ISBN: 0203004698, 9780203047682, 9780203220917

Title: Personal Construct Psychology in Clinical Practice: Theory, Research and Applications
Author: David Winter
Publisher: Routledge, 1992

Title: Constructivism in Psychology: Personal Construct Psychology, Radical Constructivism, and Social Constructionism
Author: Jonathan D. Raskin
Publisher: American Communication Journal, Volume 5, Issue 3, Spring 2002

Title: Personal Construct Psychotherapy: Advances in Theory, Practice and Research
Author: David A Winter, Linda L Viney
Wiley Blackwell, 2005

Title: Personal construct psychology: The first half-century
Author: David Winter
Publisher: Personal Construct Theory & Practice, 4, 2007

Title: The effectiveness of personal construct psychotherapy in clinical practice: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Author: Chris Metcalfe, David Winter, Linda Viney
Publisher: Psychotherapy Research, Volume 17, Issue 4 July 2007 , pages 431 - 442

Title: Personal Construct Theory and General Trends in Contemporary Philosophy.
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 1989, 287-300.

Title: Personal Construct Theory as the Ground for a Rapprochement Between Psychology and Philosophy in Education.
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: Educational Philosophy and Theory, 1990, 28(1)

Title: Personal Construct Theory and the Aristotelian and Galileian Modes of Thought.
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 1990, 3(3), 263-280.

Title: Psychoanalysis and Personal Construct Theory: An Exploration.
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: The Journal of Psychology, 1990, 124(4), 449-463.

Title: Is Personal Construct Psychology a Cognitive Psychology?
Author: Bill Warren
Publisher: International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 1990, 393-414.

Title: The Elaboration of Personal Construct Psychology
Author: Beverley Walker and David Winter
Publisher: Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 58: 453-477 (Volume publication date January 2007)

Title: Construing the Construction Processes of Serial Killers and Other Violent Offenders: 1. The Analysis of Narratives
Author: David Winter; Guillem Feixas; Rita Dalton; Livia Jarque-Llamazares; Esteban Laso; Clare Mallindine; Sarah Patient
Publisher: Journal of Constructivist Psychology, Volume 20, Issue 1 January 2007 , pages 1 - 22

Title: Construing The Construction Processes Of Serial Killers And Other Violent Offenders: 2. The Limits Of Credulity
Author: David A. Winter
Publisher: Journal of Constructivist Psychology, Volume 20, Issue 3 July 2007 , pages 247 - 275


Natasha Mitchell

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the good and hard working blog!To a greater extent than other 'cognitively' oriented theories of personality and psychotherapy, PCT places a strong emphasis on emotional experiences, understood as signals of actual or impending transitions in one’s fundamental constructs for anticipating the world.