Re: theory elaboration

Beverly Walker (
Mon, 08 Mar 1999 14:27:19 +1100

Dear Fionn et al.,

the comments of your supervisors re the theory are interesting in that they,
presumably, represent comments from people who largely see the theory at a
distance e.g. accounts in personality textbooks. Unfortunately most of those
accounts are very out of touch with the modern theory group and frequently
contain gross inaccuracies as I have previously documented.
While I don't intend to get into this issue in great depth at this time I will
say that kelly's theory is far more abstract than most, if not all, other
theoretical positions in psychology. there is little of the very specific
content that characterises Watson's theory or even Freud's. It is more a
stance to various subject areas. The stance involves assumptions like 'the
world is real but we only know it via our constructions'; 'we can always
construe things differently'; 'much construing is of a bipolar nature' (even
Kelly accepted unipolar preemptive construing) etc.
This very abstractness is perhaps why you, presumably, find it useful in an
architectural context, whereas other psychological theories seem less
adaptive. (btw Aberdeen seems good at turning out unusual pcp combinations -
Peter Earl is now professor of economics in New Zealand, for example). That,
in itself, constitutes an elaboration of the theory.
so I don't think it totally fair to say that there has not been elaboration,
though I think there are areas that need further elaboration such as the
social parts. After all, if you take the equivalent abstract parts of freud's
theory - 'there is a real world and it is our job to know it', 'much of our
mental life is unconscious', 'that homeostasis is an important part of our
functioning', 'that we are part biological, cognitive and social' etc., the
developments of the neo-Freudians take them as givens and work from there.
Where they depart from Freud is in the more specific parts of the theory -
that sex and aggression are basically what the unconscious consists of, that
the cognitive (or the social) is more important than the biological, that
females psychology should be understood in terms of their lack of a penis etc.
Anyway, an interesting observation.

Assoc. Prof. Beverly M. Walker,
Psychology Dept,
University of Wollongong,
NSW, Australia, 2522