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Personality Psychology ­ PSY 405
VU
Lesson 24
KELLY'S COGNITIVE THEORY OF PERSONALITY THEORY
1-Kelly's theory is phenomenological it focuses on the internal frame of reference of the individual.
2-It is cognitive because it studies mental events.
3-It is existential because it emphasized the future and individual's freedom to choose,
4- Humanistic since it focuses on creative powers and optimistic about people's ability to solve their
problems.
For Kelly an individual's behavior and thoughts are guided by a set of personal constructs that are used in
predicting future events.
A person's processes (behavior and thinking) are channelized by ways that he anticipates reality.
Examples of constructs include "good versus bad," "friendly versus hostile." These constructs are the ones
which many people use to construe events in their daily lives.
Core concepts of George Kelly's Cognitive Theory of Personality
1- The Psychology of Personal Construct
2- Biographical Sketch
3- Cornerstones of Cognitive Theory
i- Constructive Alternativism
ii- People as Scientists
4-Personal Construct Theory
i- Constructs: Templets for Reality
ii- Formal Properties of Constructs
iii- Types of Constructs
5- Personality: The Personologist's Construct?
6- Motivation: Who Needs It?
7- A postulate and some corollaries
8- Channelizing Processes
9- Individuality and Organization
10- To Construe or Not to Construe: That Is the Question
11- C-P-C Cycle
12- Change in a Construct System
13- Social Relationships and Personal Constructs
14- Role Construct Repertory Test: Assessing Personal Constructs
15- Application:
1-Emotional States ­Anxiety , Guilt, Hostility.
2-Psychological Disorders
16- Psychological Health and Disorder
17- Fixed-Role Therapy
18- Summary
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19- Evaluation
George Kelly: A Cognitive Theory of Personality
Kelly's theory is phenomenological it focuses on the internal frame of reference of the individual. It is
cognitive because it studies mental events. It is existential because it emphasized the future and individual's
freedom to choose, and humanistic since it focuses on creative powers and optimistic about people's ability
to solve their problems.
For Kelly an individual's behavior and thoughts are guided by a set of personal constructs that are used in
predicting future events.
A person's processes (behavior and thinking) are channelized by ways that he anticipates reality.
1-The Psychology of Personal Construct
It is a fundamental fact of life that human beings are thinking animals. Indeed, man's intellectual processes
are so self-evident that all personality theories in some way acknowledge their effects on behavior. George
Kelly, a practicing clinical psychologist, was the first personologist to emphasize the cognitive or knowing
aspects of human existence as the dominant feature of personality. According to his theoretical system, the
Psychology of Personal Constructs, a person is basically a scientist, striving to understand, interpret,
anticipate, and control the personal world of experience for the purpose of dealing effectively with it. This
view of human behavior as scientist-like is the hallmark of Kelly's theory:
Mankind, whose progress in search of prediction and control of surrounding events stands out so clearly in
the light of the centuries, comprises the men we see around us every day. The aspirations of the scientist are
essentially the aspirations of all men (Kelly, 1955, p. 43).
Kelly admonished his fellow psychologists not to proceed as if their subjects were passive "reactors" to
external stimuli. He reminded them that their subjects also behave like scientists, inferring on the basis of
the past and hypothesizing about the future. His own thinking, highly original and different from the
dominant forms of psychological thought prevalent in America in his day, has greatly contributed to recent
major innovations in cognitive personality theory.
2- Biographical Sketch
George Alexander Kelly was born in Perth, Kansas, on April 28, 1905, the only child of farm parents. His
father was a Presbyterian minister who turned to farming because of ill health. Kelly's early education was
limited to a one-room country school. His parents later sent him to Wichita, Kansas, where in the course of
four years he attended four different high schools. Kelly's parents were religiously devout, hardworking,
and firmly opposed to evils such as drinking, card playing, and dancing. Kelly's family was imbued with
traditional Midwestern values and aspirations, and Kelly himself was afforded considerable attention as an
only child.
Kelly's career as an academic psychologist began at Fort Hays Kansas State College. There he rose to
become an associate professor of psychology in 1943. During his twelve-year period he developed a
program of traveling psychological clinics that allowed both him and his students opportunities to
implement new approaches to behavior problems encountered in the state's school system. This experience
also stimulated numerous ideas that were later incorporated into his formulations of personality and
psychotherapy. In particular, it was during this period that Kelly abandoned the Freudian approach to
understanding personality. His clinical experiences taught him that people in the Midwest were more
victimized by prolonged drought, dust storms, and economic setbacks than by libidinal forces.
During World War II, as a naval aviation psychologist, Kelly headed a training program for local civilian
pilots. His interest in aviation continued at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery of the Navy in Washington,
D.C., where he remained in the Aviation Branch until 1945. That year he was appointed associate professor
at the University of Maryland.
In addition to his
distinguished career as a teacher, scientist, and theorist, Kelly held many positions of
leadership among
American psychologists. He served as president of both the Clinical and Counseling
Divisions of the
American Psychological Association. He was also instrumental in formulating the
American Board
of Examiners in Professional Psychology, an organization devoted to the further
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upgrading of professional psychologists, and served as its president from 1951 through 1953. He received
invitations to teach and lecture at universities throughout the world. During the concluding years of his life,
Kelly contributed much of his time to international affairs. For example, financed by a grant from the
Human Ecology Fund, he and his wife traveled around the world during 1960-1961 applying his personal
construct theory (to be discussed shortly) to the resolution of international problems.
3- Cornorstones of Cognitive Theory
The central theme of this volume is that any personality theory necessarily involves certain philosophical
assumptions about human nature. That is, the way a personologist chooses to view his or her subject matter,
the human organism, will largely determine his or her model of the person. Unlike most personologists,
George Kelly explicitly acknowledged that all conceptions of human nature, including his own, are
founded on basic assumptions. Kelly developed his personal constructs theory on the basis of a single
philosophical assumption-constructive constructive alternativism.
i-Constructive Alternativism
Kelly's major premise was that all humans act like scientists in that way they attempt to reduce uncertainty
by developing theories (construct system) which allow them to anticipate future events accurately.
Individuals interpret, explain, or predict, the events in their lives by utilizing his constructs. A construct is a
category of thought that describes how events are similar to each other and yet different from other events.
All individuals are free to choose, create whatever constructs they choose in their attempts to give meaning
to their experiences. This freedom to choose constructs is called constructive alternativism. So we are free
to choose constructs but once chosen or selected we are bound to them.
Now that people of all ages are exploring alternative life-styles and ways of under standing things, George
Kelly's vintage-l955 theory appears to have been curiously ahead of its time. Kelly's underlying
philosophy, constructive alternativism, furnishes a dazzling array of options for people seeking, alternatives
to the commonplace. In fact, the philosophy practically demands that people do so.
As a doctrine, constructive alternativism asserts that all present interpretations of the universe are subject to
revision or replacement. Nothing is sacred. There are no politics, religions, economic principles, social
mores, or even college administrative policies that are absolutely and unalterably "right." All would be
changed if people simply saw things differently. Kelly argues that there is no such thing as an interpretation
free, view of the world. A person's perception of reality is always subject to interpretation.
ii- People as Scientists
Kelly's major premise was that all humans act like scientists in that way they attempt to reduce uncertainty
by developing theories (construct system) which allow them to anticipate future events accurately.
Individuals interpret, explain, or predict, the events in their lives by utilizing his constructs.
Kelly's theory is a contemporary cognitive approach to the study of personality, one which emphasizes the
manner in which individuals perceive and interpret people and things in their environments. Construct
theory thus focuses on the processes that enable people to understand the psychological terrain of their
lives. From this cognitive perspective, Kelly proposed a model of personality based on the analogy of a
person as a scientist. Specifically, he theorized that, like the scientist who studies the human subject also
generates working hypotheses about reality with which she or he tries to anticipate and control the events of
life.
Kelly did not propose that every person is literally a scientist who attends to some limited aspect of the
world and employs sophisticated methods to gather and assess data. That analogy would have been foreign
to his outlook. But he did suggest that all persons are scientists in that they formulate hypotheses and
follow the same psychological processes to validate or invalidate them as those involved in a scientific
enterprise (Kelly, 1955). Thus, the basic premise underlying personal construct theory is that science
constitutes a refinement of the aims and procedures by which each of us works out a way of life. The aims
of science are to predict, to modify, and to understand events (i.e., the scientist's main goal is to reduce
uncertainty). Not only the scientist, every person shares these same aims. We are all motivated to anticipate
the future and make plans based on expected outcomes.
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4-Personal Construct Theory
The heart of Kelly's cognitive theory lies in the manner in which individuals perceive and interpret people
and things in their environments. Labeling his approach personal construct theory, Kelly focused on the
psychological processes which enable the person to order and understand the events of his or her life.
i-Constructs: Templets for Reality
A construct is a category of thought that describes how events are similar to each other and yet different
from other events. All individuals are free to choose, create whatever constructs they choose in their
attempts to give meaning to their experiences. This freedom to choose constructs is called constructive
alternativism. So we are free to choose constructs but once chosen or selected we are bound to them.
Scientists formulate theoretical constructs to describe and explain the events with which they are
concerned. In Kelly's personological system, the key theoretical construct is the term Construct itself:
Man looks at his world through transparent patterns or templets which he creates and then attempts to fit
over the realities of which the world is composed. The fit is not always very good. Yet without such
patterns the world appears to be such an undifferentiated homogeneity that man is unable to make any
sense out of it (Kelly, 1955, pp. 8-9).
It is these "transparent patterns or templets" which Kelly designated personal constructs. Stated otherwise,
a construct is a category of thought by which the individual construes, or interprets, his or her personal
world of experience. It represents a consistent way for the person to make sense of some aspect of reality in
terms of similarities and contrasts. Examples of personal constructs include "excitable versus calm,"
"refined versus vulgar," "intelligent versus stupid," "good versus bad," "religious versus nonreligious," and
"friendly versus hostile." These constructs are ones which many people use to construe events in their daily
lives.
ii-Formal Properties of Constructs
Kelly proposed that certain formal properties characterize all constructs. First, a construct resembles a
theory in that it encompasses a particular domain of events. This range of convenience consists of all events
for which a particular construct may be relevant or applicable- that is, a given construct has relevance for
some events but not for others. The construct dimension "scholarly versus not scholarly," for example, is
quite applicable to understanding a vast array of intellectual and scientific accomplishments but is hardly
appropriate for construing the relative merits of being married or single. Kelly noted that the predictive
efficiency of a construct is seriously jeopardized whenever it is generalized beyond the range of events for
which it was intended. Thus, all constructs have a limited range of convenience, though the scope of the
range may vary widely from construct to construct. The construct "good versus bad" has a wide range of
convenience since it applies to most situations requiring personal evaluation. In contrast, the construct
"virginity versus prostitution" is substantially narrower in scope.
iii-Types of Constructs
Kelly also suggested that personal constructs can be classified according `to the nature of the control they
implicitly exercise over their elements. A construct which freezes ("preempts") its elements for
membership exclusively in its own realm Kelly termed a preemptive construct. This is a type of pigeonhole
construct; what has been placed in one pigeonhole is excluded from any other. Preemptive construing may
be likened to the "nothing but" kind of thinking characteristic of a rigid person. Ethnic labels illustrate the
use of preemptive Constructs. For instance, if a person is identified as a Chicano, then she or he may be
thought of by some as nothing but a Chicano. Or, to a lesser degree, once a professor has been labeled as
"hard-nosed," some students may disregard the possibility of thinking of him or her in other ways, e.g., as a
person with tender feelings for his Or her children, artistic hobbies, or social reform pursuits. Preemptive
thought represents a kind of denial of the right of both others and ourselves to re-view reinterpret, and see
in a fresh light some part of the world around us (Bannister and Fransella, 1971).
5- Personality: The Personologist's Construct?
Kelly never offered an explicit definition of the term "personality." However, he discussed the concept in
general terms in one paper, stating that personality is "our abstraction of the activity of a person and our
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subsequent generalization of this abstraction to all matters of his relationship to other persons, known and
unkn0wn, as well as to anything else that may seem particularly valuable" (1961, pp. 220-221). Kelley thus
believed that personality is an abstraction made by personologists of the psychological processes they
observe in others. It is not a separate entity to be discovered by them. Furthermore, Kelly argued that
personality is by its very nature embedded in a person's interpersonal relationships. Meshing these two
ideas and adding one of our own, a more pointed definition of personality within Kelly's system is
possible; specifically, an individual's personality is nothing more or less than his or her construct system.
One uses constructs to interpret one's world of experience and to anticipate future events; indeed,
personality consists of the constructs one uses to anticipate the future. To understand another person
involves knowing something about the constructs he or she employs, the events subsumed under these
constructs, and the way in which they are organized in relation to one another to form a construct system.
In short, to know someone's personality is to know how she or he construes personal experience.
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE NATURE OF PERSONALITY THEORY:Objectives of Personality Psychology
  2. PERSONALITY MEASUREMENT:Observational Procedures, Rating Scales
  3. MAIN PERSPECTIVES:Psychometrics, observation, Behavioral Coding Systems
  4. SIGMUND FREUD: A PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY OF PERSONALITY
  5. INSTINCT: WHAT MOTIVATES HUMAN BEHAVIOR?, The Oral Stage
  6. PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY OF SIGMUND FREUD:The Ego, Free association
  7. THEORY OF CARL JUNG:Biographical Sketch, Principles of Opposites, The Persona
  8. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES:Childhood, Young Adulthood, Middle Ages
  9. ALFRED ADLER:Biographical Sketch, Individual Psychology, Feeling of Inferiority
  10. INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY:Fictional Finalism, Social Interest, Mistaken Styles of Life
  11. KAREN HORNEY:Adjustment to Basic Anxiety, Adjustment Techniques
  12. ADJUSTMENT TO BASIC ANXIETY:Moving Towards People, Moving Against People
  13. ERIK ERIKSON:Anatomy and Destiny, Ego Psychology, Goal of Psychotherapy
  14. ERIK ERIKSON:Human Development, Goal of Psychotherapy
  15. SULLIVAN’S INTERPERSONAL THEORY:Core Concepts, The Self-System
  16. SULLIVAN’S INTERPERSONAL THEORY:Cognitive Process, Tension
  17. CONSTITUTIONAL PSYCHOLOGY:The Structure of Physique, Evaluation
  18. SHELDON’S SOMATOTYPE THEORY:The Structure of Physique
  19. MASLOW’S THEORY:Self-Actualizers Aren't Angels, Biographical Sketch
  20. MASLOW’S THEORY:Basic Concepts of Humanistic Psychology, Problem Centering
  21. ROGERS PERSON CENTERED APPROACH:Humanistic, Actualizing tendency
  22. ROGERS PERSON CENTERED APPROACH:Fully functioning person
  23. ROGERS PERSON CENTERED APPROACH:Client Centered Therapy,
  24. KELLY’S COGNITIVE THEORY OF PERSONALITY THEORY:Biographical Sketch
  25. CORE CONCEPTS OF GEORGE KELLY’S COGNITIVE THEORY OF PERSONALITY
  26. GORDON ALLPORT: A TRAIT THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Personality as a
  27. GORDON ALLPORT: A TRAIT THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Secondary Traits
  28. FACTOR ANALYTIC TRAIT THEORY:Factor Analysis, The Nature of Personality
  29. FACTOR ANALYTIC TRAIT THEORY:The Specification Equation, Research Methods
  30. HENRY MURRAY’S PERSONOLOGY:Need, Levels of Analysis, Thema
  31. HENRY MURRAY’S PERSONOLOGY (CONTINUED)
  32. ALBERT BANDURA’S SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY:BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
  33. ALBERT BANDURA’S SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY:Reciprocal Determinism
  34. THE STIMULUS RESPONSE THEORY OF DOLLARD AND MILLER:Core Concepts
  35. THE STIMULUS RESPONSE THEORY OF DOLLARD AND MILLER:Innate Equipment
  36. SKINNER’S THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Biographical Sketch, Books
  37. SKINNER’S THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Positive Reinforcement, Generalization
  38. ALBERT ELLIS THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Biographical Sketch, Social Factors
  39. THE GRAND PERFECT THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Genes and Biology
  40. PERSPECTIVES OR DOMAINS OF PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY:Dispositional
  41. PERSPECTIVES OR DOMAINS OF PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY
  42. PERSPECTIVES OR DOMAINS OF PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY:Need
  43. THE GRAND THEORY OF PERSONALITY:Psychosexual Stages of Development
  44. PERSONALITY APPRAISAL:Issues in Personality Assessment
  45. PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY: NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE DISCIPLINE