The Construction Corollary

According to the Construction Corollary:

A person anticipates events by construing their replications. (Kelly, 1955, p. 50)

Like a scientist who anticipates that obsetvations will confirm a stated research hypothesis, we anticipate confirmation of our constructs (cf. Mancuso, 1998). We base our expectations of the next football game on our experiences of previous ones, of the next concert by previous ones, and so on. Events, more or less similar, occur repeatedly, and our plans for the future are based on the lessons of the past. Of course, there is always some difference. Events do not repeat themselves exactly. Nonetheless, adaptation would be impossible if we did not identify sufficient similarity among events to allow prediction of the future. We accomplish this by applying constructs to various events.

Events is a broad, inclusive term. It can be applied to events in the usual sense of the word; for example, "New Year's Eve is a time for celebration" applies the construct "a time for celebration" to the event "New Year's Eve." Most often, though, Kelly's concept of events is used to refer to people. Thus, if we say that "Hitler was disturbed," we are applying the construct "disturbed" to the event (in this case a person) "Hitler."

The language of constructs and prediction sounds quite cognitive and has been criticized as being overly intellectualized, ignoring the emotional side of human experience (Bruner, 1956; Rogers, 1956). Kelly intended these processes to be understood more broadly (cf. J. Adams-Webber, 1990). Unverbalized and unconscious anticipations are also included. Kelly (1955, p. 459) refers to a preverbal construct as "one which continues to be used even though it has no consistent word symbol." Constructs may be experienced as emotions (Landfield & Epting, 1987, p. 15). If a person becomes tense every time his or her father is present, that is evidence for a construct relating to the father, even if the individual is unaware of any ideas about it and cannot verbalize it. One therapist quotes a patient who has developed a preverbal construct as a consequence of sexual victimization in childhood: "When my husband touches me, I feel a chill go through me. I don't know why, as he is a really caring man and I know he would not hurt me" (Cummins, 1992, p. 360). The "chill" is evidence of her construct, which she cannot express in more precise language. While such preverbal constructs are difficult and painful to uncover, they are important keys to personality. Many psychosomatic disorders (headaches, stomach or bowel problems, etc.) result from unverbalized constructs; the body expresses constructs in its own language. In therapy, the client may learn to verbalize such constructs. For example, one patient with frequent chest pains learned to verbalize her anger, and the pains rapidly improved (Leitner & Guthrie, 1993). We might compare such preverbal constructs with the unconscious emotional experiences described by psychoanalysts—experiences in which emotions occur without accompanying conscious content (Shean, 2001).

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