What better way to begin this guide along the highways and byways of personal construct theory than to hear from George Kelly himself ? His ‘brief introduction’ to the subject, taken from a 1966 essay, says much, and implies much more again. Indeed, it may be sufficient to take some readers as far as they ever want to go in their study of the subject. But we must hope that it will merely whet the appetite of the vast majority of readers for more knowledge. For, as he says, much of his theory has been left out, since his chapter is an introduction and not a condensation.
They should go on to savour countless further challenges to come from the biggest assembly of personal construct experts ever gathered together between the covers of a single volume.
Kelly is cheering up the reluctant newcomer to the subject even before the first page is finished. The psychology, he asserts,‘Does broadly suggest that even the most obvious occurrences of everyday life might appear utterly transformed if we were inventive enough to construe them differently’. There is a basic message of hope and deliverance here which would not be out of place in religious teaching.
You will find Kelly concise and witty as he describes the Fundamental Postulate of personal construct theory together with tightly drawn explanations of some of the corollaries.
While the reader still has some of the pure Kellyism fresh in the mind’s forefront, Fay Fransella and Bob Neimeyer tell of Kelly, the man himself, from their extensive theoretical, practical and personal knowledge. They place the theory in the context of the academic climate at the time of its introduction. They consider aspects of the theory with which some people have found problems. Emphasizing that Kelly’s ideas should never become a sacred text, they outline developments that have resulted from his ideas.
A previously unpublished talk by the late Don Bannister (who worked with Kelly for a few terms at Ohio State University) then follows. It points out those aspects of the theory that he considered to be most important. He particularly focuses on its reflexive nature, and reminds us vividly how revolutionary those views were in the mid-1950s.
In the next chapter Gabrielle Chiari and Maria Laura Nuzzo outline the philosophy of constructive altemativism that runs through everything in the psychology of personal constructs, and show its importance in the movement of constructivism. They also dwell on the still vexed issue of whether Kelly’s theory is a ‘cognitive’ theory or a theory of human experiencing.
Jack Adams-Webber then summarizes much of the research that has been carried out in relation to personal construct theory. He cites Pervin and John as saying that: ‘almost every aspect of Kelly’s theory has received at least some study’.
… thinking of the scientist and the thinking of the human subject should be considered to be governed by the same general laws. If the aim of science is usefully construed as prediction, why not try operating on the assumption that the aim of all human effort is prediction and see where this line of psychologizing leads us?
(Kelly, 1955/1991, p. 605/Vol. 2, p. 35)