Reflections on NAPCN meeting...

Hemant Desai (
Tue, 26 Jul 1994 00:34:56 -0500 (CDT)

I would like to offer some reflections inspired by the recently concluded
NAPCN meeting in Indianapolis. Looking back at the three days of the
conference, I feel that an issue central to my understanding of pcp emerged
due to the many discussions I had with participants at the conference.

The central argument in Kelly's theory, to my mind, is that human
beings are reflexive by nature. A "Kellyan" psychology is made possible
only by an acknowledgement of a curious paradox in human existence.
For, we are acted upon by the world but in definite ways also shape it.
This underlies the basic construct that humans can and do predict, control,
and modify events in order to function as "scientists". However, our
view of science necessarily influences both our construing and our
interactions since the idea of what science is, or ought to be,
(constructive, positivistic, empirical, cognitive, narrative, etc.),
undoubtedly guides both individual and collective action.

As constructivists, we should try to define science or knowledge via
the meaning that the shared (?) constructs of Science and Knowledge hold
for us (e.g., objective data v/s shared meanings, self-awareness v/s others'
construal processes, mainstream v/s alternative paradigms, quantitative
v/s qualitative research methods, etc.).

I could, for example, construe two streams of thought within pcp. On
one hand, repertory grid work, the golden section hypothesis, etc. and on
the other hand, the narrative, "community of self" approach of Bannister, Mair
(and more recently, Pat Diamond). The dichotomous (or let's say parallel)
routes taken by research groups in reviews of pct literature in the last
thirty-odd years may verify this construal. [For a contrast of European and
American approaches to pcp, see David Winter's analysis in the Alan Thomson and
Peter Cummins' edited volume of proceedings of the 1992 York conference
(available from EPCA, Highfield House, Lincoln LN2 3EU, England)].

So, we are not independent of the metaphor of humans as construing
agents. In fact, we must reflect upon our experiences. We have no other choice.
The other two forces in psychology (aka Freud & Skinner) either create a
deterministic dichotomy between self and society or tend to obliterate human
agency and thus downplay the richness of meaning in an individual's life.

As scientists interested in using the pcp model we cannot lose sight of
the fact that the concept of science is merely an evolved construal system,
a product of both culture and history. As another example of duality in pcp
methods, a rep test can only be called constructivist if use is made of
elicited constructs in grid research (see Footnote below). This is an
epistemological factor to be accounted for in some pcp studies.

My understanding of science is made complete by the thought that personal
construct theory is a needed link in the development of an integrated view of
of the Human sciences. George Kelly's dictum of "how two become three" in the
process of construing can be applied to any branch or level of science and
research because they are, in the ultimate analysis, human-made processes and

Your comments and/or alternate construals welcome. Hemant Desai


Footnote: A set of supplied constructs (unless they are distilled
clusters of elements or constructs from large numbers of personal and
demographic data are, (however sophisticated they may be), only constructions
of the researcher [and resemble, ironically, the behavioral/cognitive measures
common in multi-variate main-stream re-search).

P.S. David, thanks a lot for your effort in vitalizing pcp by founding this
mailbase list. The recent InterPsych info has created stray posts but I
can't see the addresses of errant mail to send the "join xyz <>"
instruction to them. Please send me the mailbase manual when you
get back to work. Thanks again, for offering me this exciting job. hemant