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The Psychology of Personal Constructs



Personal Construct Psychology is a "new" (in fact more than sixty years old!) approach to psychology which tentatively has been characterised as "person-centred", "cognitive" or "humanistic". That means that the focus is on the "personal" ways that individuals use to  "construe" (understand, interpret,and even actively design) their world. It was developed by George A. Kelly (1905-1967), a clinical psychologist working in the United States of America. Thus originating in the clinical field of psychotherapy and also considered a new view on personality theory, this approach is now being used by scholars and practitioners in various other disciplines where "personal views" are of interest, such as education, organisation, but even architecture and industrial design. The theoretical underpinning was published in Kelly's seminal work in 1955:

George A. Kelly (1955). The Psychology of Personal Constructs. Vol. 1: A theory of Personality. Vol. 2: Clinical Diagnosis and Psychotherapy. New York: Norton. (2. printing 1991. London: Routledge.)

Other than other person-centred approaches (like psychoanalysis), PCP does not impose theoretical concepts on the clients or subjects of its interest but rather follows people's own "theories" of themselves and of life in general.
Of special importance is therefore an "idiographic" instrument of research and assessment that Kelly invented to study personal constructs, the Repertory Grid Technique. Because it combines quantitative and qualitative principles, it now catches the interest even of researchers and practitioners not based in Personal Construct Psychology, especially those who are unhappy with standardised empirical measurement techniques.

Some experts see Kelly as a - rarely acknowledged - forerunner of "postmodern" approaches in the humanities that now are often called "constructivist". However, both Personal Construct Theory and the Repertory Grid Technique merit an interest in their own right. In a way,
it took Kelly's ideas about one generation to be acknowledged in a broader sense. But now the arrival of the Internet has made it much easier to become acquainted with Kelly's still fresh ideas.



© Jörn Scheer  2016
Last update 15 July 2016
Kelly photo courtesy Jackie Kelly Aldridge