Overview of Personal Construct Theory

George Kelly's theory of personal constructs is like no other personality theory. It has been variously called a cognitive theory, a behavioral theory, an existential theory, and a phenomenological theory. Yet it is none of these. Perhaps the most appropriate term is "metatheory," or a theory about theories. According to Kelly, all people (including those who build personality theories) anticipate events by the meanings or interpretations they place on those events (Stevens & Walker, 2002). These meanings or interpretations are called constructs. People exist in a real world but their behavior is shaped by their gradually expanding interpretation or construction of that world. They construe the world in their own way, and every construction is open to revision or replacement. People are not victims of circumstances, because alternative constructions are always available. Kelly called this philosophical position constructive alternativism.

Constructive alternativism is implied by Kelly's theory of personal constructs, a theory he expressed in one basic postulate and 11 supporting corollaries. The basic postulate assumes that people are constantly active and that their activity is guided by the way they anticipate events.

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Anxiety and Depression 101

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