George kelly the psychology of personal constructs, vol. 1 1992


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George kelly the psychology of personal constructs, vol. 1 1992

  1. 1. The psychology of personal constructs
  2. 2. The psychology of personalconstructsVolume oneA theory of personalityGeorge A.KellyIn association with the Centre for Personal Construct Psychology, London
  3. 3. First published in 1991by Routledge11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EESimultaneously published in the USA and Canadaby Routledge29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis GroupThis edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003.© 1991 Gladys KellyAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced orutilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, nowknown or hereafter invented including photocopying and recording, or inany information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writingfrom the publishers.British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataKelly, George, 1905–1967 The psychology of personal constructs. 1. Man. Behaviour. Personal construct theory I. Title 155.2Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataKelly, George Alexander, 1905–1967. The psychology of personal constructs/George A.Kelly. p. cm. Reprint. Originally published: New York: Norton, c1955. Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents: v. 1. Theory of personality—v. 2. Clinical diagnosis & psychotherapy. 1. Personal construct theory. 2. Personality. 3. Personal construct therapy. 4. Psychotherapy. I. Title. BF698.9.P47K44 1990 155.2–dc20 90–39114 CIPISBN 0-203-40597-8 Master e-book ISBNISBN 0-203-71421-0 (Adobe eReader Format)ISBN 0-415-03799-9 (Print Edition)ISBN 0-415-03797-2 vol. 1ISBN 0-415-03798-0 vol. 2
  4. 4. Contents VOLUME ONE List of figures and tables viii Preface to Volume One xi Editor’s introduction xvii1 Constructive alternativism 3 The underlying philosophical position is stated and specifications for a theory of personality are outlined.2 Basic theory 32 A new theory of personality is proposed. The fundamental postulate is stated and is then elaborated by means of eleven corollaries.3 The nature of personal constructs 74 The personal way in which constructs are used is described. Their formal aspects are related to a dimensional scheme. The manner in which constructs are altered is outlined. Their relation to experience and culture is defined.4 The clinical setting 128 The clinical work setting in which a theory of personality ought to prove itself useful is described. Specifications for a clinically useful instrument are defined.5 The Repertory Test 152 The structure, analysis, and clinical use of a new test are developed.6 The mathematical structure of psychological space 189 The Repertory Test is generalized into a methodology having mathematical implications for the structure v
  5. 5. Contents of psychological space and for the organization of society. The interweave of constructs and figures is described.7 The analysis of self-characterization 239 Techniques arising out of the theoretical position are applied to a sample of clinical protocol.8 Fixed-role therapy 268 A special psychotherapeutic technique, illustrating the exploitation of the theoretical position, is described in detail.9 Dimensions of diagnosis 335 Design specifications for psychodiagnostic constructs are laid down, and a partial repertory of such constructs is proposed.10 Dimensions of transition 359 The development of the repertory of psychodiagnostic constructs is continued with emphasis upon the transitions in a client’s life. Such terms as anxiety, hostility, and guilt are given consistent definitions. Bibliography 393 Index 395 VOLUME TWO List of figures and tables viii Preface to Volume Two xi11 The role of the psychotherapist 3 The objectives of psychotherapy are discussed from the viewpoints of the persons involved, as well as from a systematic viewpoint. The qualifications and professional obligations of the therapist are set forth.12 The psychotherapeutic approach 45 Relationships between client and therapist are discussed. Basic techniques of reassurance, support, and the control of transference are outlined in detail.13 The appraisal of experiences 91 The role of experience in an anticipatory, as contrasted with a reactive, theoretical system is outlined. Culture isvi
  6. 6. Contents discussed in relation to personal experience and techniques for the study of personal experience are described.14 The appraisal of activities 124 The nature of spontaneous activity and techniques for observing it are described. A methodology for appraising the experience and activity record is offered.15 Steps in diagnosis 153 A procedural outline for arriving at psychodiagnostic conclusions is presented.16 Disorders of construction 192 Illustrative cases are described in terms of diagnostic axes systematically derived from the theory.17 Disorders of transition 222 The use of the proposed repertory of diagnostic constructs is further illustrated.18 Elaborating the complaint 265 The nature and functions of psychotherapeutic elaboration and the ways of dealing directly with complaint material are discussed.19 Elaborating the personal system 292 Techniques for approaching the client’s construct system are described.20 Loosening and tightening 329 Techniques, including free association and the exploration of dream recollectionst are systematically discussed. Ways of tightening and loosening the client’s construction are described.21 Producing psychotherapeutic movement 370 The use of interpretation and the criteria for timing and judging therapeutic movement are described. Ways of controlling anxiety and guilt are presented. The client’s psychotherapeutic experimentation is discussed.22 Special techniques in psychotherapy 408 Enactment, group psychotherapy, and the clinical training of psychotherapists are discussed. Index 447 vii
  7. 7. Figures and tablesFiguresVolume one1 Diagram of chapter content xvi6.1 An illustrative protocol 192–36.2 Sorting grid 1926.3 Composition of the first construct factor, case A 1946.3a Composition of the first factor in terms of figures 1956.4 Major compositions of the second to sixth construct factors, case A 1966.5 Worksheet 222–36.6 Composition of the first generalized person, case A 2246.7 Composition of additional generalized figures, case A 2256.8 Special identifications, case A 2266.9 Identification loadings, case A 2276.10 Comparison of the self-identifications of two women 2286.11 Comparison of sex-role perceptions of two women 2296.12 Situational resources protocol, case X 2356.13 Situational resources protocol, case Y 236TablesVolume one3.1 Lyle’s factor table 765.1 Suggested sorts for the Role Construct Repertory Test 1565.2 Raw protocol of Mildred Beal 1695.3 Descriptions of figures 1715.4 Construct constellations 1725.5 The nature of the basic contructs used 1725.6 Figures falling under the rubrics of the principal constellation 173viii
  8. 8. Figures and tables5.7 Some figure constellations 1735.8 Tallies 1746.1 p-values for numbers of cell matches 207Volume two13.1 Role Construct Repertory Test Protocol, self-identification 94 ix
  9. 9. Preface to Volume OneThis book started out twenty years ago as a handbook of clinical procedures. Itwas designed for the writer’s students and used as a guide in the clinic of which hewas the director. At first, the emphasis was upon specific ways of revealing andunderstanding the client’s record of personal experience and of seeing clearly themilieu in which he was seeking to find his place. From this beginning the handbookwas supposed to develop gradually into something which might have wider use.But, time after time, the writing bogged down in a morass of tedious little maxims.It was no good—this business of trying to tell the reader merely how to deal withclinical problems; the why kept insistently rearing its puzzling head. So we started to write about the whys. It was encouraging to find words tricklingout behind the typewriter keys again. Yet no sooner had we started than somethingstrange began to happen; or rather, we discovered that something unsuspected hadalready happened. It turned out to be this; in the years of relatively isolated clinicalpractice we had wandered far off the beaten paths of psychology, much fartherthan we had ever suspected. And now how far afield were we? Or, what was more important, could ourreaders ever find us? Obviously we had been making many basic assumptionsimplicitly—taking for granted our somewhat unusual convictions. Unless we nowwere able to become explicit about such matters could we ever hope to say sensiblethings to anybody about the whys of clinical practice? It seemed not. We backedoff and started again, this time at the level of system building. It was a half-and-half job; half invention of coherent assumptions which would sustain a broad fieldof inquiry, and half articulation of convictions we had already been taking forgranted. Now at last, the pages began to pile up. We had cut out for ourselves the job offirst expounding a theoretical position—a new theory of personality—and thenpursuing its practical implications right on out into the psychologists’ workdayworld. This was no holiday task, as we were soon to discover. Even with the omissionof originally projected chapters dealing with social organization, education, andthe current status of relevant research, the bulk of manuscript assumed formidableproportions. At this moment the writer has, of course, not hefted either of the final xi
  10. 10. Preface to Volume Oneprinted volumes, but he can easily imagine that neither of them will be of acomfortable size to curl up in bed with. A word about the writing job itself. When the chapters began to take shape thewriter glibly offered to read first-draft manuscript on Thursday nights to any whowould come, listen, and discuss. This weekly ordeal lasted for three long years. Itwas painfully stimulating. Attendance ran as high as thirty and pages covered in anevening ran as low as one. That either the writer or the manuscript survived at all isentirely due to the psychological perceptiveness of colleagues who, somehow,always found a way to strike a gentle balance between pity and realism.To whom it may concernIt is only fair to warn the reader about what may be in store for him. In the firstplace, he is likely to find missing most of the familiar landmarks of psychologybooks. For example, the term learning, so honourably embedded in mostpsychological texts, scarcely appears at all. That is wholly intentional; we are forthrowing it overboard altogether, There is no ego, no emotion, no motivation, noreinforcement, no drive, no unconscious, no need. There are some words withbrand-new psychological definitions, words like foci of convenience, preemption,propositionality, fixed-role therapy, creativity cycle, transitive diagnosis, and thecredulous approach. Anxiety is defined in a special systematic way. Role, guilt,and hostility carry definitions altogether unexpected by many; and, to make heresycomplete, there is no extensive bibliography. Unfortunately, all this will make forperiods of strange, and perhaps uncomfortable, reading. Yet, inevitably, a differentapproach calls for a different lexicon; and, under its influence, many old terms areunhitched from their familiar meanings. To whom are we speaking? In general, we think the reader who takes us seriouslywill be an adventuresome soul who is not one bit afraid of thinking unorthodoxthoughts about people, who dares peer out at the world through the eyes of strangers,who has not invested beyond his means in either ideas or vocabulary, and who islooking for an ad interim, rather than an ultimate, set of psychological insights. Hemay earn his living as a psychologist, an educator, a social worker, a psychiatrist,a clergyman, an administrator—that is not particularly relevant. He may neverhave had a course in psychology, although if he has not been puzzling ratherseriously over psychological problems he will most certainly be unhappy with hischoice of this book.Readers and writersApproximately a hundred copies of earlier drafts of the manuscript, not includingthe original handbook, have been duplicated and read. Readers of these copies,together with the Thursday-nighters, include nearly a hundred persons who havereacted to all or to a sizable portion of the book. It goes without saying that thispretesting of the reader audience has been of great help.xii
  11. 11. Preface to Volume One Following is a list of colleagues who were regular Thursday-night participantsand who, perhaps better than the author, know what the psychology of personalconstructs is about. Dr. James Bieri Dr. Robert E.Jones Dr. Jean Burton Dr. Alvin W.Landfield Dr. Richard B.Cravens Dr. Leon H.Levy Dr. Robert E.Fager Dr. Sue P.Lloyd Dr. Alvin R.Howard Dr. Richard M.Lundy Dr, William H.Lyle, Jr. Dr. Henry Samuels Dr. Brendan Maher Dr. Donald Shoemaker Dr. Joseph M.Masling Dr. E.Philip Trapp Dr. James W.Rohrer Dr. Jane H.WoosterBut this by no means completes the list of those whose ideas have been incorporatedinto the psychology of personal constructs. Dr. John Barry, through correspondence,kept up a running critical analysis of first-draft material. Dr. L.S. McGaughran’sexperimental study set the stage for the dimensional analysis of constructs. Dr.Harry Mason did some of the early work on experiential analysis, as did Dr. JohnHemphill. Dr. John Hadley performed early experiments with some of thepsychotherapeutic techniques discussed in the second volume. Mrs. Ethel H.Edwards and Mr. Alexandra J.Robinson conducted the first explorations with fixed-role therapy. And it was Dr. Harry J.Older who first suggested that the systematicposition implied by fixed-role therapy should be expounded. In addition, there are those colleagues whose writings have been quoted. Theseinclude: Mr. Ibrahim Abou Ghorra Dr. Joseph M.Masling Dr. David E.Hunt Miss Joyce Olhoeft Dr. Sue P.Lloyd Mr. Philip A.Preble Dr. Jane H.Woosterand, of course, that distinguished and insightful colleague of all personal-constructtheorists, Mr. William Shakespeare. In some cases their names are mentioned here, rather than in the context of thequotations, to protect the anonymity of the cases with which they were associated. On a certain occasion nearly ten years ago there was a colleague who listenedattentively to some of our impromptu mumblings about a theory of personalitybased on ‘role constructs’. By happy coincidence that listener has turned out to bethe psychology editor of this book, although he has probably long since forgottenthe occasion on which he listened. Not only has he scrutinized the eighteen poundsof manuscript with an editor’s eye, but he has reacted to it as if it were said for himto hear, sometimes responding with booming enthusiasm, sometimes with puzzleddismay. What more could an author ask for! The Sanfordized manuscript willmake a far better book and the author is as grateful as he is awed. There are those to whom the writer feels a special kind of debt. The purple-fingered brigade—Mrs. Virginia Brevoort, Mrs. Ruth Hedges, Mrs. Mabel Oakley, xiii
  12. 12. Preface to Volume Oneand Mrs. Mildred Waddell—typed, duplicated with a purple aniline dye process,and assembled two preliminary editions of the manuscript. And, finally, there is the writer’s wife, Mrs. Gladys T.Kelly, who spent longhours with the manuscript, many of them patiently reconciling the mysteries ofEnglish grammar with the vagaries of her husband’s ideas. But where does oneever find words to express this kind of appreciation?Road map for the itinerant readerNow for the structure of the book. Unless the reader has a map in mind he is prettysure to get lost, especially if he goes skipping around among the chapters. There isa customary pattern for writing books of this sort, but we have found it impracticalto follow. Custom has it that the writer first expresses his misgiving about the wayhis colleagues are going about their business, then he expounds his theory, next heoffers scriptural quotations from his profession’s literature, and finally he illustrateshow well he has solved the problems which have been bothering him. The reader normally goes yessing through the complaining pages: he, too, isunhappy about the way things have been going. Then he jots down a mental noteor two about the writer’s theory, just so that he can keep it in mind. Finally, hethumbs through the last two sections to make sure the writing is legitimate andto see if the theory really makes any practical difference in the way the world isto be run. But we have found, from experience, that this plan of writing and reading doesnot work for what we have to say. There are altogether too few familiar landmarksand altogether too many sweeping assumptions for the reader to keep oriented inthe usual way. Besides, we have no serious quarrel to give vent to—either withpsychoanalysis, Gestalt theory, neophenomenology, or with Hullian learning.Instead of starting with a complaint, we have simply offered an invitation toadventure. Instead of asking the reader to keep the whole theory in suspense untilthe second volume, the writing follows a spiralling approach. We have turned,time after time, to practical applications, only to return in later chapters to a furtherexposition of the more detailed aspects of the theory. Thus there is a kind of repetitionfrom section to section, but each time at a more complex level. And, as for post hocanalysis of psychology’s experimental scriptures, we believe that a theory isvalidated by the bets it lays before the races are run, rather than by its ‘I-told-you-so’. We have therefore omitted all post hoc experimental evidence. The writing starts with a philosophical position—to which we have given aspecial name—sketchily stated in Chapter 1. Next we get formal; we lay down abasic postulate, or underlying assumption, for everything that is to come. Thepostulate is immediately elaborated by a series of eleven statements, calledcorollaries. And that is Chapter 2. Now we take up a job of elaboration so that the reader will have a better idea ofwhat one of these personal constructs, about which this book is written, will looklike when he meets it in our street. Here we deal with experience and with what,xiv
  13. 13. Preface to Volume Onefor so many psychologists, is man’s fateful past. Following this we move to adescriptive level of exposition and say something about the field of service forwhich our theory is especially designed. And this, in turn, leads to the presentationof a clinical instrument, called the Rep Test, which illustrates the kind of practicalgadget we ought to expect our theory to help us invent. Five chapters down! In Chapter 6 we turn to the mathematical structure of psychological space. Wediscuss the interweave of concepts and figures giving substance to the fabric ofsociety. Our mathematics is of the Bertrand Russell type, anchored firmly inpsychology. This is primarily a researcher’s chapter. It is our conviction that theory ought to be kept busy at something. Hence, inChapters 7 and 8, we try to show just what the psychology of personal constructsmight lead one to observe in the spontaneous speech of a fellow human being andwhat it might lead the clinician to do about it. This is relatively down-to-earthmaterial, but with systematic assumptions behind it. We think the reader may followthe later development of the theory better if he has seen it at work in a face-to-facesituation. The last two chapters of this volume, Chapters 9 and 10, were inserted here whenit became apparent that the book would have to be published in two volumes, although,originally, they appeared later in the manuscript. This shift was made so that onevolume would be mostly theoretical and the other mostly practical. The two chapters,offering a tentative repertory of diagnostic constructs for the practising clinician, arenot absolutely essential to the development of the theory. But they are highly abstractand they are in the style of the first volume—the theoretical one. The second volume is, as we have hinted, concerned with the implications ofthe psychology of personal constructs in the field of clinical practice. Here wehave striven for extensive coverage of cook-book details rather than precise logicaldevelopment and economical description. The volume discusses the role of thepsychotherapist and some of his stand-by techniques, the cataloguing of experienceand activity data, and a schedule of diagnostic procedures. Incidentally, its twochapters on experience and activity are the much shrivelled vestiges of our earlymanuscript efforts, years ago. After presenting two chapters describing how ournovel system of diagnostic dimensions may be used to structure illustrative typesof cases, we turn to a series of detailed discussions of psychotherapeutic techniquesfrom the standpoint of personal-construct theory. Five chapters of this concludethe volume. And now the reader is on his own. If Volume I, from this prefatory vantagepoint, appears to be too abstract, he can go on to Volume II, where he may expectto find somewhat more folksy reading. G. A. K. xv
  14. 14. Figure 1 Diagram of chapter content
  15. 15. Editor’s introductionIn the following pages George Kelly conducts, for all who care to follow, anextensive exploration into a strange new land of personality theory and clinicalpractice. In accordance with customary practice, Dr. Kelly, after mapping out hisown routes and sequences, carried an editor with him on the trip he had plannedfor his colleagues. The idea behind such a test run seems to be that an editor, withempathy for those who will subsequently make the trip, can help the author in hiseffort to find for his reader-travellers the best of alternative pathways, to eliminateany syntactical stumbling blocks or lexical pebbles, to spare the reader the needfor watching his own feet and hence free his attention for the significant contoursof the country he travels. An editor can perhaps further serve the reader by reporting his own impressionsof what the journey is like. Such reporting, of course, must be accompanied by acaveat, for the editor has only one nervous system, subject to all the ills that suchis heir to; and editorial travelling is done with eyes more to the paths than to thepeaks. Whatever the traveller’s perspectives and filters, getting from one end to theother of this book can be a genuine adventure—a stimulating, absorbing andsometimes frustrating adventure. If one is in a mood to see familiar phenomenafrom a new viewpoint, old concepts in new dress, old relationships in new theoreticallight, then he can take delight in following Dr. Kelly around. If one has been subjectto many of the influences lying behind the author’s new approach to personality,one can delight in finding literate expression of many insights one has dimly feltbut never succeeded in saying out loud. If one is in a mood to be optimistic aboutthe theoretical, experimental, and practical outcomes of a very new and systematicview of the human personality, the travelling will be very much worth the troubleit entails. But if one is either temporarily or temperamentally inclined to resent thenecessity of learning new language or of learning new uses for words alreadyfrozen into habit, one will experience frustration; for both conventional terms andconventional modes of thought are politely but definitely shaken up. Sometimesone cannot even read along at one’s wonted pace and stride, for the pathway takesunexpected turns—up, down, and sideways. xvii
  16. 16. Editor’s Introduction When one returns from this adventure and looks about the world to which oneis accustomed, things are different. There is a difference in the day-to-day businessof living with human personalities. One sees things one has not before noticed.One finds oneself making observations that are new to one, formulating new andunexpected sentences about human behaviour, including one’s own. The adventurehas resulted in changed perspectives. Such changes will probably happen to anyreader, whether he is concerned with theory, with detailed testing of explicit researchhypotheses, with clinical concentration on a single individual, or with everydayintricacies of relating with human beings. It seems probable that many psychologists, of varied slants of interest, manypsychiatrists, many social workers, and others who live in the world of humanpersonality will find excitement, challenge, productive confusion, and some plainpleasure in exploring with Dr. Kelly this new land. Others, it seems safe to predict,will wish to pick up their intellectual household goods and establish residence here. Fillmore Sanfordxviii
  17. 17. The psychology of personalconstructsVolume oneA theory of personality
  18. 18. Chapter oneConstructive alternativismIn this chapter, instead of starting immediately with a statement of our theoreticalposition, we reach back to uncover some of its philosophical roots. Constructivealternativism not only underlies our theory, but it is also an explicit and recurrenttheme throughout our later discussion of psychotherapeutic techniques.A. Points of departure1. Perspectives on manThis theory of personality actually started with the combination of two simplenotions: first, that man might be better understood if he were viewed in theperspective of the centuries rather than in the flicker of passing moments; andsecond, that each man contemplates in his own personal way the stream of eventsupon which he finds himself so swiftly borne. Perhaps within this interplay of thedurable and the ephemeral we may discover ever more hopeful ways in which theindividual man can restructure his life. The idea seems worth pursuing. Neither the notion of man’s march through the centuries nor that of hispersonally biased nature is especially new. The successive literature of the OldTestament portrays a well-known epic story of man’s progress. Nor has the streamof the individual man’s life escaped the attention of curious students. The highlyarticulate William James was fascinated by the currents and eddies in the streamof consciousness. The inarticulate Adolph Meyer urged his students to draw atime line through the facts in their patients’ lives. The sensitive Sigmund Freudwaded into the headwaters of the stream in a search for the underground springswhich fed it. And the impulsive Henri Bergson jumped from the bank into thecurrent and, as he was carried along, speculated that mind could be used as ayardstick for measuring time. As for personal ways of looking at things: Solomon,in writing about the worried man, said, ‘As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.’And Shelley once wrote, ‘The mind becomes that which it contemplates.’ JohnLocke, struck by the unique imperceptiveness of each of his friends during anevening’s discussion, sat down to write the Essay Concerning Human 3
  19. 19. Constructive alternativismUnderstanding before retiring for the night—a task which, incidentally, he didnot finish until twenty years later, The long-range view of man leads us to turn our attention towards those factorsappearing to account for his progress rather than those betraying his impulses.To a large degree—though not entirely—the blueprint of human progress hasbeen given the label of ‘science’. Let us then, instead of occupying ourselveswith man-the-biological-organism or man-the-lucky-guy, have a look at man-the-scientist. At this point we depart again from the usual manner of looking at things. Whenwe speak of man-the-scientist we are speaking of all mankind and not merely aparticular class of men who have publicly attained the stature of ‘scientists’. Weare speaking of all mankind in its scientist-like aspects, rather than all mankind inits biological aspects or all mankind in its appetitive aspects. Moreover, we arespeaking of aspects of mankind rather than collections of men. Thus the notion ofman-the-scientist is a particular abstraction of all mankind and not a concreteclassification of particular men. Such an abstraction of the nature of man is not altogether new. The Reformationcalled attention to the priesthood of all men in contrast to the concretisticclassification of certain men only as priests. The democratic political inventions ofthe eighteenth and nineteenth centuries hinged on the notion of the inherent rulershipof all men in contrast to the older notion of a concrete class of rulers. In a similarfashion we may replace the concretistic notion of scientists being set apart fromnonscientists and, like the reformists who insisted that every man is his own priest,propose that every man is, in his own particular way, a scientist. Let us see what it would mean to construe man in his scientist-like aspect. Whatis it that is supposed to characterize the motivation of the scientist? It is customaryto say that the scientist’s ultimate aim is to predict and control. This is a summarystatement that psychologists frequently like to quote in characterizing their ownaspirations. Yet, curiously enough, psychologists rarely credit the human subjectsin their experiments with having similar aspirations. It is as though the psychologistwere saying to himself: I, being a psychologist, and therefore a scientist, am performing this experiment in order to improve the prediction and control of certain human phenomena; but my subject, being merely a human organism, is obviously propelled by inexorable drives welling up within him, or else he is in gluttonous pursuit of sustenance and shelter.Now what would happen if we were to reopen the question of human motivationand use our long-range view of man to infer just what it is that sets the course ofhis endeavour? Would we see his centuried progress in terms of appetites, tissueneeds, or sex impulses? Or might he, in this perspective, show a massive drift ofquite a different sort? Might not the individual man, each in his own personal way,assume more of the stature of a scientist, ever seeking to predict and control the4
  20. 20. Constructive alternativismcourse of events with which he is involved? Would he not have his theories, testhishypotheses, and weigh his experimental evidence? And, if so, might not thedifferences between the personal viewpoints of different men correspond to thedifferences between the theoretical points of view of different scientists? Here is an intriguing idea. It stems from an attempt to consolidate the viewpointsof the clinician, the historian, the scientist, and the philosopher. But where does itlead? For considerable time now some of us have been attempting to discover theanswer to this question. The present manuscript is a report of what has appearedon our horizons thus far.2. What kind of universe?All thinking is based, in part, on prior convictions. A complete philosophical orscientific system attempts to make all these prior convictions explicit. That is alarge order, and there are few, if any, writers who can actually fill it. While we haveno intention of trying to build a complete system at this point, it does seem to beincumbent upon us to attempt to be explicit about some of our more importantprior convictions. The first of these convictions has to do with the kind of universewe envision. We presume that the universe is really existing and that man is gradually comingto understand it. By taking this position we attempt to make clear from the outsetthat it is a real world we shall be talking about, not a world composed solely of theflitting shadows of people’s thoughts. But we should like, furthermore, to makeclear our conviction that people’s thoughts also really exist, though thecorrespondence between what people really think exists and what really does existis a continually changing one. The universe that we presume exists has another important characteristic: it isintegral. By that we mean it functions as a single unit with all its imaginable partshaving an exact relationship to each other. This may, at first, seem a little implausible,since ordinarily it would appear that there is a closer relationship between themotion of my fingers and the action of the typewriter keys than there is, say, betweeneither of them and the price of yak milk in Tibet. But we believe that, in the longrun, all of these events—the motion of my fingers, the action of the keys, and theprice of yak milk—are interlocked. It is only within a limited section of the universe,that part we call earth and that span of time we recognize as our present eon, thattwo of these necessarily seem more closely related to each other than either ofthem is to the third. A simple way of saying this is to state that time provides theultimate bond in all relationships. We can express the same idea through extrapolation from a well-knownmathematical relationship. Consider the coefficient of correlation between twovariables. If that coefficient is anything but zero and if it expresses a linearrelationship, then an infinite increase in the variance of one of the variables willcause the coefficient to approach unity as a limit. The magnitude of the coefficientof correlation is therefore directly proportional to the breadth of perspective inwhich 5
  21. 21. Constructive alternativismwe envision the variables whose relationship it expresses. This is basically true ofall relationships within our universe. Another important prior conviction is that the universe can be measured alonga dimension of time. This is a way of saying that the universe is continually changingwith respect to itself. Since time is the one dimension which must always beconsidered if we are to contemplate change, we have chosen this particular way ofsaying that within our universe something is always going on. In fact, that is theway the universe exists; it exists by happening. Actually we tried to convey thesame notion when we said in an earlier paragraph that the universe is really existing.Indeed, every day and all day it goes about its business of existing. It is hard toimagine what the world would be like if it just sat there and did nothing. Philosophersused to try to contemplate such a world, but, somehow, they never got very farwith it. The three prior convictions about the universe that we have emphasized in thissection are that it is real and not a figment of our imaginations, that it all workstogether like clockwork, and that it is something that is going on all the time andnot something that merely stays put.3. What is life?There are some parts of the universe which make a good deal of sense even whenthey are not viewed in the perspective of time. But there are other parts whichmake sense only when they are plotted along a time line. Life is one of the latter.This is a point about which we shall have a great deal to say later when we talkabout ways to reconstruct personal lives. Whether it be the research-mindedpsychologist or the frantic client in the psychological clinic, life has to be seen inthe perspective of time if it is to make any sense at all. But life, to our way of thinking, is more than mere change. It involves aninteresting relationship between parts of our universe wherein one part, the livingcreature, is able to bring himself around to represent another part, his environment.Sometimes it is said that the living thing is ‘sensitive’, in contrast to the nonlivingthing, or that he is capable of ‘reaction’. This is roughly the same distinctivecharacteristic of life that we envision. But we like our formulation better becauseit emphasizes the creative capacity of the living thing to represent the environment,not merely to respond to it. Because he can represent his environment, he can placealternative constructions upon it and, indeed, do something about it if it doesn’tsuit him. To the living creature, then, the universe is real, but it is not inexorableunless he chooses to construe it that way. In emphasizing the prior conviction that life involves the representation orconstruction of reality, we should not imply that life is not itself real. Sometimesscientists, particularly those who are engrossed in the study of physical systems,take the stand that psychological events are not true phenomena but are ratherepiphenomena, or merely the unreliable shadows of real events. This position isnot ours. A person may misrepresent a real phenomenon, such as his income or his6
  22. 22. Constructive alternativismills, and yet his misrepresentation will itself be entirely real. This applies even tothe badly deluded patient: what he perceives may not exist, but his perceptiondoes. Moreover, his fictitious perception will often turn out to be a grossly distortedconstruction of something which actually does exist. Any living creature, togetherwith his perceptions, is a part of the real world; he is not merely a near-sightedbystander to the goings-on of the real world. Life, then, to our way of thinking, is characterized by its essential measurabilityin the dimension of time and its capacity to represent other forms of reality, whilestill retaining its own form of reality.4. Construction systemsMan looks at his world through transparent patterns or templets which he createsand then attempts to fit over the realities of which the world is composed. The fit isnot always very good. Yet without such patterns the world appears to be such anundifferentiated homogeneity that man is unable to make any sense out of it. Evena 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 forsize. They are ways of construing the world. They are what enables man, and loweranimals too, to chart a course of behaviour, explicitly formulated or implicitly actedout, verbally expressed or utterly inarticulate, consistent with other courses ofbehaviour or inconsistent with them, intellectually reasoned or vegetatively sensed. In general man seeks to improve his constructs by increasing his repertory, byaltering them to provide better fits, and by subsuming them with superordinateconstructs or systems. In seeking improvement he is repeatedly halted by the damageto the system that apparently will result from the alteration of a subordinateconstruct. Frequently his personal investment in the larger system, or his personaldependence upon it, is so great that he will forego the adoption of a more preciseconstruct in the substructure. It may take a major act of psychotherapy or experienceto get him to adjust his construction system to the point where the new and moreprecise construct can be incorporated. Those construction systems which can be communicated can be widely shared.The last half century has shown much progress in the development of ways ofmaking personal constructs and construction systems more communicable. Wehave developed a scientific psychological vocabulary. A better way of saying thisis that our public construction systems for understanding other people’s personalconstructs are becoming more precise and more comprehensive. Certain widely shared or public construction systems are designed primarily tofit special fields or realms of facts. When one limits the realm of facts, it is possibleto develop a detailed system without worrying about the inconsistencies in thesystem which certain peripheral facts would reveal. We limit the realm and try toignore, for the time being, the intransigent facts just outside the borders of thatrealm. For example, it has long been customary and convenient to distinguishbetween ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ facts. These are two artificially 7
  23. 23. Constructive alternativismdistinguishedrealms, to which two types of construction systems are respectivelyfitted: the psychological construction system and the natural-science group ofconstruction systems. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that we have onour hands two alternative construction systems, which can both be applied profitablyto an ever increasing body of the same facts. The realms overlap. Consider more specifically the realms of psychology and physiology. Theserealms have been given tentative boundaries based upon the presumed ranges ofconvenience of the psychological and the physiological construction systems,respectively. But many of the same facts can be construed within either system.Are those facts ‘psychological facts’ or are they ‘physiological facts’? Where dothey really belong? Who gets possession of them, the psychologist or thephysiologist? While this may seem like a silly question, one has only to sit incertain interdisciplinary staff conferences to see it arise in the discussions betweenpeople of different professional guilds. Some individuals can get badly worked upover the protection of their exclusive rights to construe particular facts. The answer is, of course, that the events upon which facts are based hold noinstitutional loyalties. They are in the public domain. The same event may beconstrued simultaneously and profitably within various disciplinary systems—physics, physiology, political science, or psychology. No one has yet proved himself wise enough to propound a universal system ofconstructs. We can safely assume that it will be a long time before a satisfactorilyunified system will be proposed. For the time being we shall have to contentourselves with a series of miniature systems, each with its own realm or limitedrange of convenience. As long as we continue to use such a disjointed combinationof miniature systems we shall have to be careful to apply each system abstractlyrather than concretively. For example, instead of saying that a certain event is a‘psychological event and therefore not a physiological event’, we must be carefulto recognize that any event may be viewed either in its psychological or in itsphysiological aspects. A further idea that we must keep straight is that thephysiologically constructed facts about that event are the offspring of thephysiological system within which they emerge and have meaning, and that apsychological system is not obliged to account for them. It is also important that we continue to recognize the limited ranges ofconvenience of our miniature systems. It is always tempting, once a miniaturesystem has proved itself useful within a limited range of convenience, to try toextend its range of convenience. For example, in the field of psychology we haveseen Hull’s mathematico-deductive theory of rote learning extended to the realmof problem solving or even to the realm of personality. Freud’s psychoanalysisstarted out as a psychotherapeutic technique but was progressively enlarged into apersonality system and, by some, into a religio-philosophical system. This kind ofinflation of miniature systems is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does causetrouble when one fails to recognize that what is reasonably true within a limitedrange is not necessarily quite so true outside that range.8
  24. 24. Constructive alternativism Any psychological system is likely to have a limited range of convenience. Infact, psychological systems may, for some time to come, have to get along withmore limited ranges of convenience than psychologists would like. The system ortheory which we are about to expound and explore has a limited range ofconvenience, its range being restricted, as far as we can see at this moment, tohuman personality and, more particularly, to problems of interpersonal relationships. Not only do systems, psychological and otherwise, tend to have limited rangesof convenience, but they also have foci of convenience. There are points within itsrealm of events where a system or a theory tends to work best. Usually these arethe points which the author had in mind when he devised the system. For example,our own theory, we believe, tends to have its focus of convenience in the area ofhuman readjustment to stress. Thus it should prove most useful to thepsychotherapist because we were thinking primarily of the problems ofpsychotherapy when we formulated it. In this section we hoped to make clear our conviction that man creates his ownways of seeing the world in which he lives; the world does not create them for him.He builds constructs and tries them on for size. His constructs are sometimesorganized into systems, groups of constructs which embody subordinate andsuperordinate relationships. The same events can often be viewed in the light oftwo or more systems. Yet the events do not belong to any system. Moreover, man’spractical systems have particular foci and limited ranges of convenience.5. Constructs as grounds for predictionsWe started out with two notions: (1) that, viewed in the perspective of the centuries,man might be seen as an incipient scientist, and (2) that each individual manformulates in his own way constructs through which he views the world of events.As a scientist, man seeks to predict, and thus control, the course of events. It follows,then, that the constructs which he formulates are intended to aid him in his predictiveefforts. We have not yet tried to be very explicit about what a construct is. Thatundertaking is reserved for a later chapter. But we have already said enough toindicate that we consider a construct to be a representation of the universe, arepresentation erected by a living creature and then tested against the reality ofthat universe. Since the universe is essentially a course of events, the testing of aconstruct is a testing against subsequent events. In other words, a construct is testedin terms of its predictive efficiency. Actually the testing of a construct in terms of its predictive efficiency may turnout to be a somewhat redundant affair. A man construes his neighbour’s behaviouras hostile. By that he means that his neighbour, given the proper opportunity, willdo him harm. He tries out his construction of his neighbour’s attitude by throwingrocks at his neighbour’s dog. His neighbour responds with an angry rebuke. Theman may then believe that he has validated his construction of his neighbour as ahostile person. 9
  25. 25. Constructive alternativism The man’s construction of his neighbour as a hostile person may appear to be‘validated’ by another kind of fallacy. The man reasons, ‘If my neighbour is hostile,he will be eager to know when I get into trouble, when I am ill, or when I am in anyway vulnerable. I will watch to see if this isn’t so.’ The next morning the manmeets his neighbour and is greeted with the conventional, ‘How are you?’ Sureenough, the neighbour is doing just what was predicted of a hostile person! Just as constructs are used to forecast events, so they must also be used to assessthe accuracy of the forecast, after the events have occurred. Man would be hopelesslybogged down in his biases if it were not for the fact that he can usually assess theoutcomes of his predictions at a different level of construction from that at whichhe originally makes them. A man bets that a horse will win a certain race becauseit is black and he has recently won with a black hand at poker. When the raceresults are in, however, he is likely to construe the announced decision of the judgesas being more palpable evidence of the horse’s performance in the race than is thehorse’s colour. When constructs are used to predict immediate happenings, they become moresusceptible to change or revision. The validational evidence is quickly available. Ifthey are used solely to predict an event in the remote future, such as life after deathor the end of the world, they are not likely to be so open to revision. Besides, mostpeople are in no hurry to collect validational evidence in such matters. A good scientist tries to bring his constructs up for test as soon as possible. Buthe tries them out initially in test-tube proportions. If hazards appear to be great, hewill first seek some indirect evidence on the probable outcome of his trials. Thisstraightforward testing of constructs is one of the features of the experimentalmethod in modern science. It also characterizes any alert person. But there are times when a person hesitates to experiment because he dreadsthe outcome. He may fear that the conclusion of the experiment will place him inan ambiguous position where he will no longer be able to predict and control. Hedoes not want to be caught with his constructs down. He may even keep hisconstructs strictly to himself lest he be trapped into testing them prematurely. Thisreluctance either to express or to test one’s constructs is, of course, one of thepractical problems which confront the psychotherapist in dealing with his client.We shall have more to say about these issues later. Constructs are used for predictions of things to come, and the world keepsrolling along and revealing these predictions to be either correct or misleading.This fact provides the basis for revision of constructs and, eventually, of wholeconstruction systems. If it were a static world that we lived in, our thinking aboutit might be static too. But new things keep happening and our predictions keepturning out in expected or unexpected ways. Each day’s experience calls for theconsolidation of some aspects of our outlook, revision of some, and outrightabandonment of others. What we have said about the experience of the individual man holds true alsofor the scientist. A scientist formulates a theory—a body of constructs with a focusand a range of convenience. If he is a good scientist, he immediately starts putting10
  26. 26. Constructive alternativismit to test. It is almost certain that, as soon as he starts testing, he will also have tostart changing it in the light of the outcomes. Any theory, then, tends to be transient.And the more practical it is and the more useful it appears to be, the more vulnerableit is to new evidence. Our own theory, particularly if it proves to be practical, willalso have to be considered expendable in the light of tomorrow’s outlooks anddiscoveries. At best it is an ad interim theory.B. The philosophical position6. Statement of constructive alternativismEnough has already been said to make clear our position that there are various waysin which the world is construed. Some of them are undoubtedly better than others.They are better from our human point of view because they support more preciseand more accurate predictions about more events. No one has yet devised a set ofconstructs which will predict everything down to the last tiny flutter of a humming-bird’s wing; we think it will be an infinitely long time before anyone does. Since anabsolute construction of the universe is not feasible, we shall have to be content witha series of successive approximations to it. These successive approximations can, inturn, be tested piecemeal for their predictive efficiency. Essentially this means thatall of our interpretations of the universe can gradually be scientifically evaluated ifwe are persistent and keep on learning from our mistakes. We assume that all of our present interpretations of the universe are subject torevision or replacement. This is a basic statement which has a bearing upon almosteverything that we shall have to say later. We take the stand that there are alwayssome alternative constructions available to choose among in dealing with the world.No one needs to paint himself into a corner; no one needs to be completely hemmedin by circumstances; no one needs to be the victim of his biography. We call thisphilosophical position constructive alternativism. We have now said enough about the testing of constructs to indicate that it isnot a matter of indifference which of a set of alternative constructions one choosesto impose upon one’s world. Constructs cannot be tossed about willy-nilly withouta person’s getting into difficulty. While there are always alternative constructionsavailable, some of them are definitely poor implements. The yardstick to use isthe specific predictive efficiency of the system of which it would, if adopted,become a part.7. Philosophy or psychology?Scholars customarily distinguish sharply between the forms of thought and theactual thinking behaviour of people. The study of the former is classified underphilosophy—or more particularly, logic—while the latter is considered to bepsychology. But we have taken the basic view that whatever is characteristic ofthought is descriptive of the thinker; that the essentials of scientific curiosity must 11
  27. 27. Constructive alternativismunderlie human curiosity in general. If we examine a person’s philosophy closely,we find ourselves staring at the person himself. If we reach an understanding ofhow a person behaves, we discover it in the manner in which he represents hiscircumstances to himself. A person is not necessarily articulate about the constructions he places upon hisworld. Some of his constructions are not symbolized by words; he can expressthem only in pantomime. Even the elements which are construed may have noverbal handles by which they can be manipulated and the person finds himselfresponding to them with speechless impulse. Thus, in studying the psychology ofman-the-philosopher, we must take into account his subverbal patterns ofrepresentation and construction. What we are proposing is neither a conventional philosophy nor a conventionalpsychology. As a philosophy it is rooted in the psychological observation of man.As a psychology it is concerned with the philosophical outlooks of individualman. Upon this framework we propose to erect a limited psychological theory.8. Relation to philosophical systemsConstructive alternativism represents a philosophical point of view, but we haveno intention of trying to elaborate it into a complete philosophical system. It may,however, be useful to attempt to plot its position roughly with respect to some ofthe types of philosophical systems with which scholars are familiar. Realm-wise, constructive alternativism falls within that area of epistemologywhich is sometimes called gnosiology—the ‘systematic analysis of the conceptionsemployed by ordinary and scientific thought in interpreting the world, and includingan investigation of the art of knowledge, or the nature of knowledge as such’. Theemphasis upon the constructs through which the world is scanned suggestspositivism, although most of the criticisms that are levelled at Comte are notapplicable here. Comte’s positivism is too often deprecated in terms of some of hisconcrete proposals rather than evaluated in terms of the abstract features of thesystem. Our emphasis upon the testing of constructs implies our reliance upon theprinciples of empiricism and, more particularly, pragmatic logic. In this respectwe are in the tradition of present-day American psychology. But, because werecognize that man approaches his world through construing it, we are, in a measure,rationalistic. Moreover, since we insist that man can erect his own alternativeapproaches to reality, we are out of line with traditional realism, which insists thathe is always the victim of his circumstances. Ontologically, our position is identifiable as a form of monism, although, inview of the many complex varieties of ontology, the differentiation of its monisticfrom its pluralistic aspects is hardly worth the effort. If it is a monism, it is asubstantival monism that we are talking about; yet it is neutral, and, like Spinoza,we are prepared to apply attributive pluralism to the substance whenever ourpurposes might be served thereby.12
  28. 28. Constructive alternativism Two classical issues remain to be discussed: determinism vs. free will, andphenomenology. Since both problems have to be with our design specifications fora theory of personality, we reserve the discussion of them for the next division ofthis chapter.9. The realm of psychologyThe realm of psychology is limited practically to that which can be spanned bywhatever psychological theory we happen to be using at the moment. Thetheory’s range of convenience is what determines the boundaries of thediscipline. A range of convenience is that expanse of the real world over whicha given system or theory provides useful coverage. Those features of theuniverse which do not fit neatly into the system are left out of the psychologicalrealm for the time being. If we are reasonably good psychologists, there shouldstill be enough of the universe remaining for us to make ourselves useful bystructuring it. Later, if our theoretical reasoning is extended, further areas mayfall within our ken. There are, of course, various psychological construction systems. Thesesystems differ primarily because the people who developed them were focusingtheir attention upon somewhat different events. Psychological systems have notonly ranges of convenience but also characteristic foci of convenience: points atwhich they are particularly applicable. Thus stimulus-response theories areparticularly convenient at the focal point of animal learning, field theories at thefocal point of human perception, and psychoanalytic theories at the focal pointof human neurosis. There is no clear criterion by which a theory can be labelled ‘psychological’,and not ‘physiological’ or ‘sociological’. There is much interrelationship. Thestimulus-response theories in psychology bear a close family resemblance to theinteraction theories of physiology. There are field theories in physiology whichresemble the psychology of Gestalt. Whether a theory is called ‘psychological’,‘physiological’, or ‘sociological’ probably depends upon its original focus ofconvenience.10. The function of a theoryA theory may be considered as a way of binding together a multitude of facts sothat one may comprehend them all at once. When the theory enables us to makereasonably precise predictions, one may call it scientific. If its predictions are soelastic that a wide variety of conceivable events can be construed as corroborative,the theory fails to meet the highest standards of science. A theory need not be highly scientific in order to be useful. All of us order thedaily events of our lives by constructions that are somewhat elastic. Under theseconstructions our anticipations of daily events, while not scientifically precise,nevertheless surround our lives with an aura of meaning. Because life does not 13
  29. 29. Constructive alternativismseem wholly capricious we are prepared by our personal construction systems totake each day’s new experience in our stride. But this is not all. A theory provides a basis for an active approach to life, notmerely a comfortable armchair from which to contemplate its vicissitudes withdetached complaisance. Mankind need not be a throng of stony-faced spectatorswitnessing the pageant of creation. Men can play active roles in the shaping ofevents. How they can be free to do this and still themselves be construed as lawfulbeings is a basic issue in any psychological theory. The answer lies, first of all, in our recognition of the essentially active nature ofour universe. The world is not an abandoned monument. It is an event of tremendousproportions, the conclusion of which is not yet apparent. The theories that menemploy to construe this event are themselves incidents in the mammoth procession.The truths the theories attempt to fix are successive approximations to the largerscheme of things which slowly they help to unfold. Thus a theory is a tentativeexpression of what man has seen as a regular pattern in the surging events of life.But the theory, being itself an event, can in turn be subsumed by another theory, orby a superordinate part of itself, and that in turn can be subsumed by another. Atheory is thus bound only by the construction system of which it is understood tobe a part—and, of course, the binding is only temporary, lasting only as long asthat particular superordinate system is employed.11. Determinism and man’s free willA theory binds or determines the events which are subordinated to it. It is notdetermined by the events themselves; it is determined by the superordinating pointof view of the theorist. Yet it must conform to events in order to predict them. Thenumber of alternative ways of conforming are, as far as we know, infinite, butdiscriminable from the infinite number of ways which do not conform. A person is to cut a pie. There is an infinite number of ways of going about it,all of which may be relevant to the task. If the pie is frozen, some of the usual waysof cutting the pie may not work—but there is still an infinite number of ways ofgoing about it. But suppose the pie is on the table and there is company present.Certain limiting expectations have been set up about how a meal is to be served. The pie is construed as part of the meal. There are also certain conventionsabout serving wedge-shaped slices with the point always turned toward the diner.If one accepts all the usual superordinating constructions of the situation, he may,indeed, find his course of behaviour determined and very little latitude left to him.He is not the victim of the pie, but of his notions of etiquette under which the piecutting has been subsumed. But suppose the pie makes him sick. Is he not then a victim of circumstances?We might then ask why he ate it in the first place. We could even suggest that hisillness need not rob him of his freedom. The illness may even increase his scope ofaction, as many children and hypochondriacs have discovered.14
  30. 30. Constructive alternativism The relation established by a construct or a construction system over itssubordinate elements is deterministic. In this sense the tendency to subordinateconstitutes determinism. The natural events themselves do not subordinate ourconstructions of them; we can look at them in any way we like. But, of course, ifwe wish to predict natural events accurately, we need to erect some kind ofconstruction which will serve the purpose. But the events do not come around andtell us how to do the job—they just go about their business of being themselves.The structure we erect is what rules us. Actually there are two forms of determinism which concern us. The one is thedeterminism which is the essential feature of any organized construction system—the control of superordinate constructs over subordinate elements. The second isimplied in our notion of an integral universe. The universe as it flows along is notessentially divided into independent events like cars on a railroad train. It is anessential continuity. Because of this continuity we may consider that there isdeterminism operating between antecedent and subsequent events. This is thecontinuity which is assumed in the so-called First Postulate of Logic, the Postulateof Cosmic Connectedness. But the second kind of determinism is, to our way of thinking, relativelyunimportant. The universe flows on and on. While one may abstract certain repetitivefeatures in its course, it never actually doubles back on itself. Matters would becomeenormously confused if it ever did. (The very idea of a universe that doubled backon itself is highly amusing and might even have some relativistic significance fora cosmic theorist.) Since we assume that the universe does not double back onitself, any sequence of events is the only sequence of its exact identical sort thatever occurred. It is inconceivable, then, that any sequence could have occurred inany way other than that in which it did without losing its identity. Since no eventcould possibly have happened otherwise and still have been itself, there is notmuch point in singling it out and saying that it was determined. It was a consequent—but only once! We are left with one important kind of determinism, the control of a superordinateconstruct over its elements. It should now become clear what is not determined.For one thing, an element does not determine the constructs which are used tosubsume it; for another, an element which falls outside the purview of a constructis independent of it. The latter type of independence or freedom is relativelyunimportant to us; it is only the freedom of chaos. The former type of independenceor freedom is highly significant, for it implies that man, to the extent that he is ableto construe his circumstances, can find for himself freedom from their domination.It implies also that man can enslave himself with his own ideas and then win hisfreedom again by reconstruing his life. This is, in a measure, the theme upon whichthis book is based. One thing more: since determinism characterizes the control that a constructexercises over its subordinate elements, freedom characterizes its independence ofthose elements. Determinism and freedom are then inseparable, for that whichdetermines another is, by the same token, free of the other. Determinism and freedom 15
  31. 31. Constructive alternativismare opposite sides of the same coin—two aspects of the same relationship. This isan important point for a man to grasp, whether he be a scholar or a neurotic—orboth! Ultimately a man sets the measure of his own freedom and his own bondage bythe level at which he chooses to establish his convictions. The man who orders hislife in terms of many special and inflexible convictions about temporary mattersmakes himself the victim of circumstances. Each little prior conviction that is notopen to review is a hostage he gives to fortune; it determines whether the events oftomorrow will bring happiness or misery. The man whose prior convictionsencompass a broad perspective, and are cast in terms of principles rather thanrules, has a much better chance of discovering those alternatives which will leadeventually to his emancipation. Theories are the thinking of men who seek freedom amid swirling events. Thetheories comprise prior assumptions about certain realms of these events. To theextent that the events may, from these prior assumptions, be construed, predicted,and their relative courses charted, men may exercise control, and gain freedom forthemselves in the process.C. Design specifications for a psychological theory of personality12. Theoretical models and foci of convenienceAmerican psychology has recently turned much of its attention to the problems oftheory building. There has been a revival of interest in philosophy, particularly inthe philosophy of science. Just as philosophers have begun to look around to seewhat various kinds of thinking men are actually doing, so psychologists have begunto look around to see what kinds of theories scientists in other realms have actuallybeen producing. This is new. To be sure, psychologists used to look to themethodology and the content of physiology as grounds upon which to build theirown new structure. Then physiology was accepted because its facts were presumedto be real and its methods appeared to be validated by the palpability of its facts.But now psychologists have begun to compare and contrast the theoretical structureswhich characterize a variety of other disciplines. From this examination of what isgoing on elsewhere some of them hope to discover a still better theoretical modelfor psychology. But we are sceptical about the value of copying ready-made theories whichwere designed for other foci of convenience. Psychology has already achievedsome success in developing its own theoretical and methodological approaches. Itmight now be a good plan to start abstracting the scientific principles which arebeginning to emerge from our experiences as well as others’, instead of pokingabout in the neighbours’ back yards for methodological windfalls. If we learnsomething of the principles of theory construction, we can start buildingpsychological theories which are adapted to psychological foci of convenience.Our position, then, would be that we should examine a variety of scientific theories,16
  32. 32. Constructive alternativismnot to find one which can be copied concretely, but to discover common principleswhich can be applied to the building of brand-new theories especially designed tofit psychology’s realm of events. At this point there should be no doubt about our stand on two things that it takesto build a psychological theory. The perspective should be broad and should takecognizance of principles which emerge in the comparison of various theoreticalstructures. And the theorist should also have something to theorize about. Otherwise,he may spend his time building a fancy theory about nothing: his theory will haveno focus of convenience. He should be intimately aware of a range of problems tobe solved if he is not to waste his own time and that of his readers with the expositionof his theory. The focus of convenience which we have chosen for our own theory-buildingefforts is the psychological reconstruction of life. We are concerned with findingbetter ways to help a person reconstrue his life so that he need not be the victim ofhis past. If the theory we construct works well within this limited range ofconvenience, we shall consider our efforts successful, and we shall not be toomuch disturbed if it proves to be less useful elsewhere.13. Fertility in a psychological theoryWe have already noted that a theory may be considered as a way of bindingtogether a multitude of facts. But a good theory also performs more activefunctions. It provides an explicit framework within which certain deductionsmay be made and future events anticipated. It also provides a general frameworkwithin which certain facts may be held in place, pending one’s induction ofsome specific principle among them. In both senses the theory acts as a toolfor the man who actively seeks to anticipate the future and to explore itspossibilities. One of the criteria of a good scientific theory is its fertility in producing newideas. It should lead to the formulation of hypotheses; it should provoke experiments;and it should inspire invention. In the field of psychology a good theory shouldsuggest predictions concerning people’s behaviour in a wide range of circumstances.It should lead to extensive psychological research to determine whether or notthose predictions can be substantiated. It should also encourage the invention ofnew approaches to the solution of the problems of man and his society.14. Testable hypothesesAnother criterion of a good psychological theory is its production of hypotheseswhich are testable. In contrast to other construction systems, any scientific theoryshould enable one to make predictions so precise that they are immediately subjectto incontrovertible verification. This means that the hypotheses which are deductedfrom the theory should be brittle enough to be shattered whenever the facts theylead one to anticipate fail to materialize. 17
  33. 33. Constructive alternativism The theory itself need not be so fragile as its offspring hypotheses. If it is acomprehensive theory it is likely to possess some degree of elasticity even thoughthe hypotheses deduced from it are brittle. Rarely does a scientific theory whollystand or fall on the outcome of a single crucial experiment. Especially is this truein the field of psychology, where theories must necessarily be written at a highlevel of abstraction.15. ValidityAn acceptable scientific theory should also meet another requirement. While itneed not itself have the palpable truthfulness of a cold fact, it should, in the handsof thoughtful people yield a succession of hypotheses which, in the light ofexperimentation, do turn out to be palpably true. When a theory produces ahypothesis which turns out to be verifiable, it is in a strict sense the hypothesisonly which is substantiated and not the theory. As we have already indicated, it isdifficult ever to say that one has validated a theory; the most that one can ordinarilysay is that the hypotheses turned out by a certain theory usually prove to be valid.But who knows; the same hypotheses might have been produced by other theories.In that case the other theories are at least as valid as the first one. Sometimes scientists design experiments so that hypotheses derived fromdifferent theories are tested in competition with each other. The hypothesis whichreceived the more clear-cut support scores in favour of its sponsoring theory.Suppose, for example, a researcher is eager to determine whether thepsychoanalytic theory of Freud, with its attendant therapeutic procedures, is betterthan the self-concept theory of Rogers, with its attendant client-centredprocedures. Suppose he sets up an elaborate experiment, controlling such trickyvariables as type of client, type of therapist, type of clinical setting, type of society,and so on. Suppose, also, he finds a suitable yardstick for measuring results—one which is not biased towards either theory and its implied standards of whatconstitutes mental health. Then suppose—what is, of course, highly unlikely—the experiment comes off without a hitch and the results indicate a greatertherapeutic success with one of the procedures than with the other. While thisprovides some important evidence in favour of the favoured theory, it does notnecessarily provide grounds for abandonment of the less favoured theory. Thereare always other issues which can be formulated and considered. The populationssampled in the study may not represent all the kinds of person to whom thetheories relate. The relative economy of training a group of therapists under theaegis of one theory may give it certain practical advantages which outweigh itsdisadvantages in the controlled experiment. Indeed it is almost impossible togive any comprehensive theory the final coup de grâce. Occasionally an experiment is designed in which the rival hypotheses aremutually incompatible. For example, one theory might lead us to hypothesize thata certain kind of client would commit suicide immediately and the other to predictthat he would continue to live a long and productive life. Obviously he cannot do18
  34. 34. Constructive alternativismboth. In this kind of experiment one of the two hypotheses is likely to collapse,although there is always some little ground left for equivocation. But what happensto the theory behind the discredited hypothesis? Not necessarily very much, As wehave already indicated, a comprehensive theory is so formulated that the fragilehypotheses which are deduced from it are not inescapable. The deduction of ahypothesis is always a somewhat loose affair, and the next experimenter who comesalong may not agree that the discredited hypothesis was a necessary derivative ofthe theory in the first place. By and large, however, a theory continually yielding hypotheses that leadexperimenters up blind alleys is not to be considered valid, even though one mayargue that some of the blame rests with the experimenters. A theory is an implementin man’s quest for a better understanding of the future. If it does not serve itspurpose, it is meaningless to say that it is valid. The theory becomes valid onlywhen someone is able to make use of it to produce verifiable hypotheses.16. GeneralitySometimes people make the mistake of assuming that a theory is the same as theaccumulation of a certain body of facts, rather than a set of principles whichappertain to the facts. It is easy to make this mistake, since often the facts assumetheir particular shapes only in the light of a certain theory. But the essentiallyabstract nature of the theoretical structure is lost sight of when the facts which ityields are simply classified and concretistically designated. For example, the Kraepelinian nosological system in psychiatry is generallyused as a set of diagnostic pigeonholes into which to stuff troublesome clients. Theprinciples which originally gave it its dimensional structure have long since beendiscarded or lost sight of altogether. Almost without exception the system is usedconcretistically. Now contrast with current usage of the Kraepelinian system theuse of the psychoanalytic system. Here the diagnosis is in terms of features of thecase rather than its categorical classification. The diagnostician can see the casefrom more than one angle at once. Hence he is not so likely to confuse the abstractionof dynamics, with which each case is shot through, with the concrete lumping ofthe case with others of its kind. Yet even psychoanalytic psychodynamics are often handled concretistically byadherents to the system. A patient is seen as ‘having Oedipal strivings’, as if thestrivings had taken possession of him. If the concept of Oedipal striving were usedmore abstractly, the patient would be evaluated with respect to the Oedipal strivingdimension rather than described as ‘having it’. The difference may seem obscure,but perhaps an analogy from physics will help make the point clearer. Suppose thephysicist lifted an object and said, ‘By golly, this has weight!’ This would not be avery meaningful statement since, presumably, all bodies have weight. Actually, heis treating the abstract property of weight as if it were a commodity. A carefulphysicist is much more likely to say, ‘The weight of this body is greater than theweight of that one.’ The property of weight is abstracted and the other features of 19
  35. 35. Constructive alternativismthe two bodies are disregarded for the time being. It is a system composed of thiskind of abstraction that modern psychological theory builders seek to devise. A good psychological theory should be expressed in terms of abstractions whichare of a sufficiently high order to be traced through nearly all of the phenomenawith which psychology must deal. It should concern itself initially with propertiesrather than with categories, although the properties may subsequently be used asgrounds for isolating categories. If the abstractions are well taken, they will possessa generality which will make them useful in dealing with a great variety of practicalproblems. For example, if there should be abstracted within the field of psychologya property which had the generality that mass has in the field of physics, it mightprove immensely useful. Moreover, any psychological theory that possessesgenerality throughout its structure is likely to be more valuable than one which isessentially a grouping of specific categories of persons and behaviours.17. OperationalismThe writing of the physicist Bridgeman has recently had considerable influenceamong psychological theorists. There has been a new emphasis upon the need foroperational definition of the variables envisioned in one’s experiments. Carried tothe extreme that some psychologists would cany it, this would mean that notheoretical statement could be made unless each part referred to something palpable.It is this kind of extremism which has led to the quip that while psychiatrists wouldrather be abstruse than right, psychologists would rather be wrong than abstruse. Operationalism also implies something else. It implies that scientific constructsare best defined in terms of operations or regular sequences of events. Thus, whateverit is that links an antecedent to its consequent may be called an intervening variable,and merely a statement of the antecedent-consequent linkage is all the definitionthe variable ever needs. MacCorquodale and Meehl suggest that it is better forpsychologists to stick to this way of conceptualizing variables lest they forgetthemselves and think they have to start looking for some unknown objects whichconstitute the variables. For example, a not too bright physiologically mindedpsychologist might go looking for the IQ with a microscope. Not that he wouldn’tbe successful; he might even win the Nobel Prize by pointing to something like akink in a chromosome. Variables may be operationally conceptualized by psychologists in differentways. In a time-and-motion study a variable may be a therblig—a unit of motionof some part of the body. The antecedent and consequent conditions are relativelyeasy to identify. But in some experiments the operational definition of the principalvariable is more complex. In personnel selection and training studies theidentification of the criterion—the measure of what it is we want to improvethrough selection and training—is itself a difficult problem. Yet the criterion hasto be settled upon before one can get down to brass tacks. Even after theexperimenters have agreed on what they will use as a criterion, the value of theensuing study is limited by the way in which the definition has to be written. For20
  36. 36. Constructive alternativismexample, in studies dealing with the selection and training of aircraft pilots it hasbeen customary to use the so-called pass-fail criterion—the consequent conditionis whether or not the selectee or trainee eventually gets his wings. But it is quiteappropriate for a critic to complain that getting one’s wings does not necessarilymean being a good pilot. Sometimes the antecedent and consequent conditions, which are agreed uponas giving a variable an operational definition, are themselves in need of operationaldefinition. In the field of personality the term anxiety is used to explain all kinds ofdifferent behaviours. Indeed, asking a psychiatrist to explain neurotic behaviourwithout recourse to the concept of anxiety is like asking a jockey to win a racewithout riding a horse. Yet how can anxiety be given an operational definition? Wemay say that the antecedent and consequent conditions are stress anddisorganization, respectively. But then we are faced with the need for definingstress and disorganization. If, eventually, we end up saying that stress is whatcauses anxiety, and disorganization is what is produced by anxiety, we are back atour starting point and slightly out of breath from having expended a few thousandwell-chosen words. Since stress and disorganization are both rather high-levelabstractions, it is necessary, in dealing with any client or in performing anyexperiment involving anxiety, to find, in turn, more concrete operational definitionsfor the antecedent and consequent conditions. As we see it, operationalism interposes no ultimate objection to the use of sucha term as anxiety; it means only that when one seeks ultimate proof of some anxietyfunction through experimentation one will have to define one’s operations explicitly.Operationalism is of primary concern for the experimenter; it is of only secondaryconcern for the theorist. The terms in which a theory is stated do not need to carrytheir own operational definitions on their backs, though if the theory is to beproductive it should, in the hands of experimentally minded psychologists, lead toresearch with operationally defined variables. One of the hazards of operationalism is its tendency to make researchers thinkconcretistically. It encourages experimenters to see things rather than principles.Yet, it is not things that a scientist accumulates and catalogues; it is the principlesor the abstractions that strike through the things with which he is concerned. Thusa good scientist can penetrate a bewildering mass of concrete events and come togrips with an orderly principle. The principle is not the aggregate of all the events;it is rather a property, so abstracted that it can be seen as pertinent to all of them. For example, in designing an experiment having to do with intelligence, apsychologist may have to give intelligence an operational definition in terms ofspecific scores obtained by his subjects on a certain test. This is a practical expedient.Yet, if he gets his nose too close to his data sheets, he may forget the abstractivenature of the concept and think that intelligence is just another name for the scoreshe has written down. Originally intelligence was abstracted as a property of manydifferent behaviour situations and it owes no special allegiance to a test. It was theheadlong urgency of writing an operational definition that distracted thepsychologist into thinking so concretively about intelligence. 21
  37. 37. Constructive alternativism18. ModifiabilityThere is another feature of good scientific theorizing which is not so much aproperty of theories themselves as it is of those who use them. A theory shouldbe considered as modifiable and, ultimately, expendable. Sometimes theoristsget so pinned down to deductive reasoning that they think their whole structurewill fall down if they turn around and start modifying their assumptions in thelight of their subsequent observations. One of the characteristics of modernscientific theorizing is the opening it leaves for inductive reasoning followingthe outcome of experiments. To be sure, experiments are designed around hypotheses which are temporarilyassumed to be true. From these tentative hypotheses one hazards specific predictions.If the predictions do not materialize, and if the scientist sees no other angle, he isfree to abandon his hypotheses, and he should lose no sleep when he does. Howlong one should hang on to his assumptions in the fact of mounting contraryevidence is pretty much a matter of taste. Certainly he should not abandon themthe first time something turns out unexpectedly. To do that is to make himself thevictim of circumstances. Generally one holds on longer to those assumptions whichhave more sweeping significance and readily abandons those which have onlymomentary relevance. If we apply this principle to perseverance in a theoretical position, it wouldmean that we would consider any scientific theory as an eventual candidate for thetrash can. Such an outlook may save the scientist a lot of anxiety, provided he hasflexible overriding convictions that give him a feeling of personal independenceof his theory. It may also prevent him from biasing his experimental results infavour of a theory which he dares not abandon.19. What can be proved?The function of a scientific theory is to provide a basis for making precisepredictions. These predictions are formulated in terms of hypotheses and are thensubjected to test. The outcome of the test may be essentially that which waspredicted. If the test or experiment is properly designed, one may then conclude,with a limited amount of confidence, that the hypothesis is substantiated. Thesubstantiation of hypotheses is really not quite as simple as this. The catch is in thedesign of the experiment. If the experiment is so designed that other obvioushypotheses would have expressed the same prediction, the question arises as towhich hypothesis was verified. As a matter of fact, in scientific research, one neverfinds the ultimate proof of a given hypothesis. About the time he thinks he hassuch proof within his grasp, another scientist comes along with another hypothesisthat provides just as plausible an explanation of the experimental results. The usual practice is to design the experiment so that the results, whatever theymay turn out to be, can best be expressed as the outcome of either of two hypotheses:the experimental hypothesis or the null hypothesis. The experimental hypothesis is22
  38. 38. Constructive alternativismthe one derived from one’s theoretical position or from some other systematicsource. The null hypothesis represents one’s prediction under random or chanceconditions. If the data furnished by the experiment turn out to be rather unlikelyoutcomes of chance conditions, which is what one usually hopes for, one can turnto the experimental hypothesis as the most likely alternative explanation. Forexample, if the data are such as would be expected less than one time out of ahundred under the regime of chance, the experimenter reports that he has evidenceat the coveted 1 per cent level of confidence. This is all very well until someimaginative experimenter cooks up a third hypothesis under which the samepredictions would have been made. The relevant point for the purposes of this discussion is that even the precisehypotheses which one derives from a good scientific theory are never substantiatedwith absolute finality, no matter how many experiments are performed. For onething, we are always dependent upon the second-hand proof that the unlikelihoodof the null hypothesis provides; for another, the null hypothesis never whollyrelinquishes its claim on the data; and finally, some other plausible hypothesismay turn up unexpectedly at any time.20. Where do hypotheses come from?There are roughly three ways of coming up with a testable hypothesis: (1) one maydeduce it from explicit theory; (2) one may induce it from observation—for example,from clinical experience; (3) one may eschew logical procedures and go after itwith a statistical dragnet. Each of these methods circumvents some of the disadvantages of the other two.The hypothetico-deductive method proceeds from a theory which, for the timebeing, must be considered inflexible. Sooner or later, however, the impact ofunexpected experimental results must affect the logical structure, either at thehypothetical level or at the level of the theory itself. In scientific practice the questionbecomes one of deciding upon the stage in an experiment or in an experimentalprogramme at which one must bow to facts. That stage, wherever it is, marks thepoint at which one ceases to be wholly deductive. The hypothetico-inductive method yields to facts from the outset. Evenhypotheses are formulated as minor generalizations of observed facts, and theexplicit theoretical superstructure is allowed to take shape more or less as anafterthought. Again, in practice, it seems to be impossible to adhere faithfully tothe hypothetico-inductive method. Facts can be seen only through the eyes ofobservers and are subject to whatever selections and distortions the observers’viewpoints impose upon them. Realistically, then, the hypotheses formulated arepersonally construed facts. They may be thought of as being deduced from theobserver’s implicit personal theory as much as from phenomenal events. The statistical-dragnet method also appears to accept the priority of facts. Itdiffers from the hypothetico-inductive or clinical method in two principal ways:the logical structure, both of hypotheses and theory, is minimized; and the facts 23