The Dichotomy Corollary

Constructs are always bipolar. Kelly's (1955) Dichotomy Corollary states:

A person's construction system is composed of a finite number of dichotomous constructs, (p. 59)

Good-bad, popular-unpopular, intelligent-stupid, and so on are examples of dichotomous constructs. Either one pole or the other may be applied to an event (person). It is also possible for the construct itself to be deemed irrelevant (see the Range Corollary below) and neither pole applicable to a particular event. One side of the bipolar construct is typically used more often than the other. The poles are referred to as the likeness end and the contrast end because of the way they are measured in the REP test (discussed later in the chapter). The likeness end is generally most used and describes how several people are seen to be alike. The contrast end tells how other people are seen as different. The nature of an individual's dichotomies may come as a surprise to the individual. It is generally the contrast end that is less available, or submerged.

When people change, especially in response to stress, the dichotomous nature of constructs has important predictive implications for Kellian therapists. Under stress, people often change from one pole to the opposite pole of a dichotomous construct. Such changes can be manifested as religious conversions, turning sober after being alcoholic, or in literature, the transformation of miserly Scrooge to a more generous soul in Dickens's Christmas Carol (Vaillant, 2002). Kelly (1955, p. 938) offers the example of a client who changes from kindly to hostile. Another example is the police officer who becomes a lawbreaker (D. A. Winter, 1993)- Such changes from one pole to another are called slot movement. Kellian therapists are especially attentive to the client's often unstated opposites since these are directions in which change may occur, especially when stress (either in therapy or in the world) makes current patterns inadequate. With a detailed understanding of the particular individual's constructs, a therapist can make an educated guess of the direction that person will move when currently operating choices cease being validated. This may offer an advance warning of dangerous change. On the posi tive side, a therapist armed with such information can use planned invalidation of currently operative constructs to trigger change in a client, when it is judged that such change would be in a safe and desirable direction.

Both poles of the construct must be understood from the individual's point of view. Often dichotomies are not strictly logical. The opposite of ambitious, for example, may be happy. Dichotomies vaiy from one person to another. Alvin Landfield (1982) cites the example of two people with quite different contrasts to liveliness. For one, the contrast was exhaustion; for the other, suicide. The implications of these different dichotomous constructs are obvious.

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Responses

  • wegahta
    How individual corollary differs from organization corollary and the possible implications?
    10 months ago

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