Experience and Learning

Basic to personal construct theory is the anticipation of events. We look to the future and make guesses about what will happen. Then, as events become revealed to us, we either validate our existing constructs or restructure these events to match our experience. The restructuring of events allows us to learn from our experiences.

The experience corollary states: "A person's construction system varies as he [or she] successively construes the replications of events " (Kelly, 1955, p. 72). Kelly used the word "successively" to point out that we pay attention to only one tiling at a time. "The events of one's construing march single file along the path of time" (p. 73).

Experience consists of the successive construing of events. The events themselves do not constitute experience—it is the meaning we attach to them that changes our lives. To illustrate this point, return to Arlene and her personal construct of independence. When her old car (a high school graduation gift from her parents) broke down, Arlene decided to remain in school rather than to return to the security and dependent status of living at home. As Arlene subsequently encountered successive events, she had to make decisions without benefit of parental consultation, a task that forced her to restructure her notion of independence. Earlier, she had construed independence as freedom from outside interference. After decidhig to go hito debt for a used car, she began to alter her meaning of independence to include responsibility and anxiety. The events themselves did not force a restructuring. Arlene could have become a spectator to the events surrounding her. Instead her existing constructs were flexible enough to allow her to adapt to experience.

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