Re: Kelly is too cognitive???

Chad Hagans (
Tue, 09 Feb 1999 15:33:52 -0500


>Kelly and his Rep Grid approach have been criticised for being much too
>cognitive. Esentially you have this person thinking all the time...every
>man is a "scientist" and they are always thinking. What about feelings?
>Why arn't we interested in how these people feel about things.
>P.s. I think you know who put forth this argument, eh Travis?
>Jonathan Lee II Year M.A.
>Carleton University
>Email address:

I think this is a point worthy of much discussion, and I anticipate a lot
of it in response. I've often struggled with the same issue when pondering
Kellian theory.

My way of reconciling the issue is to frame feelings also as personal
constructs. To borrow from psychoanalytic theory, perhaps our first
feelings of pleasure and unpleasure form our first personal construct of
"good" versus "bad." This construct helps us anticipate and assign meaning
(however primitive) to experiences in infancy (being fed and with mother
vs. being hungry and alone). With development, our construct systems
become more complex such that more specific constructs like "intelligent"
versus "stupid" are associated with good and bad feelings as well. People
whose construct systems do not increase in complexity (as a result of early
trauma, for instance) may continue to frame the world only in terms of good
and bad (e.g., those understood as having Borderline Personality Disorder).

I actually have a greater concern with Kellian theory in relation to
personality development. I find Kelly relatively mute on the topic,
although he was playing with the notion of "dependency constructs" just
before his death. It would have been interesting to see where he went with
that. Perhaps we can go there ourselves!

Also in response to your question, I remember doing a repgrid with an
extremely depressed woman of very low education and socioeconomic status
who was prone to decompensation under stress. One of her most
superordinate constructs was "fragile and vulnerable" versus "a doctor."
My immediate thought was, "no wonder she's so depressed!" In this way, I
was able to empathize with her primary feeling state through a repgrid.

This brings to mind the notion that one can gain an appreciation of the
idiosyncratic meaning of any affect by simply asking a person about its
opposite. For example, "if you weren't depressed, what would you be?" One
person may say "happy," another may say "pissed off." In either case
you've achieved a ton of empathy for another person's feelings, and you've
employed Kellian theory in so doing. You've also opened up a huge new area
for discussion with the person.

Hope this was relevant to the question and leads to more questions. Since
this concern is mine as well, I'm eager to see others' responses.


Chad L. Hagans
Department of Psychology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-2250
(352) 392-0601, x 414
FAX (352) 392-7985