Re: Constructivism,constructs, + Kellians

Gary Blanchard (
Wed, 12 Jun 1996 09:24:04 -0700

Dear Tim-

Thanks very much for your thoughtful and informative posting re: above.
Thanks to you and Mildred Shaw, I have re-read Prof. Kelly's comments?

My question now is: What is his evidence for his Postulates, Corollaries
and related claims? From whence do they derive? Do they represent
scientific findings, or merely another variety of religious belief? My
understanding of that distinction is as follows:

-Religion begins with an assumption, nowhere proved, that
something is so (i.e., there is an omnipotent entity called God), and
then builds on that, often with more unproved assumptions. But if the
assumption triggers a favorable response from an observer, then a
'believer' is created. If this process continues long enough,a 'church,'
or 'denomination,' is created. But, at bottom, all of the claims
involved are a-scientific, and depend wholly upon the favorable reactions
of its observer-adherents.
[Often, at the outset of this process, such phenomenon are known
as 'cults,' since they are few in number, and are deemed not big enough
to assume the status of 'cult-ures,' when they may achieve greater
legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the community.]

-Science, on the other hand, denotes a style of human operation
in which the human, or observer, seeks to account for the nature of
someone or something, according to rigorous rules of observation,
deduction, testing, and replication. Science is, therefore, as close to a
self-correcting, non-self-delusional mode of truth-seeking as we humans
have been able to invent (but still not perfect).
A case can be made that science, too, begins with an assumption.
..namely, a paradigm or theory, and continues from there. But where
science differs from religion is that, in science, the paradigm or
theory is, itself, up for scrutiny/investigation/validation. [Indeed,
that is how science is said to proceed: the gradual replacement of one
paradigm ('he's sick? Bleed him some more.') with another ('don't bleed
him. Give him this medicine.')] In religion, the initial assumption
usually cannot be operationalized, may be regarded as heretical if one
attempts to do so, and thus escapes scrutiny.

If I am accurate, then unless there is some testable data, or way to
operationalize Prof. Kelly's hypotheses/claims/paradigm/theory, then my
re-reading of his postulate and corollaries leaves me with the tentative
conclusion that they are not scientifically based, however useful some
may have found it, or created it to be.

I'm sure I am not the first person to raise these concerns, and I may
well be off-base. I hope that one or more of you with the expertise to
do so will show me where, and how, my reckoning is off.

Please be assured that I mean no disrespect to the field, or to the
memory of an obviously significant historical figure (Prof. Kelly). I
simply want to know what I am buying, if I buy into this approach.
If my concerns are sound, they might suggest a menu of research that
would conclusively validate or modify Prof. Kelly's claims, opening the
door to intelligent adaptation and continued honoring of the spirit, if
not the letter, of his groundbreaking efforts.

RSVP RSVP RSVP....................sincerely, Gary

>Tim A. Connor wrote:
> Gary--
> Going to the source for a definition of construct:
> "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. Even a poor fit is more helpful to
> him than nothing at all.
> "Let us give the name _constructs_ to these patterns that are tentatively
> tried on for size. They are ways of construing the world. They are what
> enable man, and lower animals too, to chart a course of behavior,
> explicitly formulated or implicitly acted out, verbally expressed or
> utterly inarticulate, consistent with other sources of behavior or
> inconsistent with them, intellectually reasoned or vegetatively sensed"
> Elsewhere, he defines a construct as an axis upon which one plots one's
> experience, and discusses the formal characteristics in detail. He is
> quite explicit that it is not a category, class, set, or symbol.
> I believe you also asked about the postulate and corollaries, and I don't
> believe anyone ever did post them. They are (without elaboration --
> apologies to those for whom this is old news):
> Fundamental postulate: A person's processes are psychologically
> channelized by the ways in which he anticipates events.
> 1. Construction corollary: A person anticipates events by construing their
> replications.
> 2. Individuality corollary: Persons differ from each other in the
> construction of events.
> 3. Organization corollary: Each person characteristically evolves, for
> his convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing
> ordinal relationships between constructs.
> 4. Dichotomy corollary: A person's construction system is composed of a
> finite number of dichotomous constructs.
> 5. Choice corollary: A person chooses for himself that alternative in a
> dichotomized construct through which he anticipates the greater
> possibility for extension and definition of his system.
> 6. Range corollary: A construct is convenient for the anticpation of a
> finite rang eof events only.
> 7. Experience corollary: A person's construction system varies as he
> successively construes the replication of events.
> 8. Modulation corollary: The variation in a person's construction system
> is limited by the permeability of the constructs within whose range of
> convenience the variants lie.
> 9. Fragmentation corollary: A person may successivley employ a variety of
> construction subsystems which are inferentially incompatible with each other.
> 10. Commonality corollary: to the extent that one person employs a
> construction of experience which is similar to that employed by another,
> his psychological processes are similar to those of the other person.
> 11. Sociality corollary: to the extent that one person construes the
> construction processes of another, he may play a role in a social process
> involving the other person.
> There's really no substitute for reading Kelly's explanation; I suggest
> the 1963 book A THEORY OF PERSONALITY, readily available in paperback and
> not expensive.
> I've enjoyed following the discussion, and hope to join in more actively
> as soon as I get through midterms. Now back to the grindstone...
> Best,
> Tim
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Tim Connor, M.S. "Psychotherapy is not
> Pacific University an applied science, it
> School of Professional Psychology is a basic science in
> 2004 Pacific Avenue which the scientists
> Forest Grove, OR 97116 USA are the client and his
> <> therapist"
> --George Kelly
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^