Re: the nature of 'construct'

W Ramsay (
Thu, 6 Jun 1996 14:10:15 +0100

Dear Ana,

You wrote on 3rd June, commenting on my definitions:

>I am afraid that your definition reduces the meaning of the term. It is
>not a wrong definition - it only may give the impression that if no
>verbal label-then no construct. If so, the "Kelly" was nothing new. Did I
>misunderstood you? ana

I didn't actually use the term 'verbal', and quite deliberately so. Any
objects that are members of the lexicon of the construer, whether the
lexicon is made up of signs, words or simply phonemes could be used. The
ordered pair would still be a construct, provided it met the other
conditions I included. I don't see that as diminishing Kelly in any way.

I do have a problem with non-verbal constructs, as it seems to be used
conventionally. If by this is meant non-linguistic then I have to disagree
with the idea, unless the objects (whatever they may be - behaviours,
images) can be shown to meet Kelly's definitions or, in the context of the
current discussion, my formalism or a better one (not hard to achieve!).
Give me an example and I'm converted.

To help illustrate my problem, I'm happy to admit that my cat construes (a
hypothetical cat for the moment, more's the pity). There are situations in
which she apparently makes a choice, and not always the same choice in the
same situation. However, any owner who thinks that his cat necessarily
construes him and his behaviour should try crouching down, sideways on,
about 5 or 6 metres from the cat to talk to her. Do this next to her and
she'll probably get set for play or petting; do it at a distance and you get
a ball of fur, claws and aggression. Some people would call the latter an
anticipation based on a wired-in construct, which is, in my view, silly.
PCP is best seen, for me, as having its own range of convenience, just like
any of its constructs, and its actually easier to analyse the cat's
behaviour, in both cases, in terms of evolution and conditioned reflexes.
Trying to make PCP a kind of Procrustean bed for all behaviours does it a
great disfavour.

Thank you for prodding me. It's taken my thinking a little further.

Kind regards,


Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367