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PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Personal Construct Theory, Independent People, Cognitive Style

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- We are like computers. We take in, process, store and retrieve information from the
environment. Information comes through our sense organs and we work on it.
- The output of human activity is human behaviour. Humans process information in order to
- Social-cognitive approaches to personality- theories and conceptions of personality that
emphasizes the extent to which humans are information - processing systems who use
schemas, beliefs, values, expectancies, and other cognitive constructs to guide their
behaviours in the social world.
o Focuses on how people make and use mental representations of themselves, their worlds,
and others, which shape and are shaped by perceptions and impressions of ourselves.
o Cognition (schemas, beliefs and values) influence social behaviour & social behaviour
influences cognition
o People differ from one another on the kinds of self-representations & social construals that
characteristically formulate and act upon.
- Kelly proposed a theory of the person that had no resemblance to class theorys of Freud, Jung,
Rogers, Maslow, Murral, Allport, Eysench, Cettel, & the behaviourists
- Kelly was an overnight celebrity in personality psychology because of his book
- Kelly’s unusual terms became part of the standard lexicon of personality psychology like
personal construct, range of convenience, fixed-role therapy, and Rep Test. He left us with a
provocative view of human nature and a set of stimulating ideas about psychological
individuality, grounded in the image of the person as an inquisitive scientist seeking to
predict, control, and explain the social world.
George Kelly’s Theory
- Other psychologists assigned a central role to human motivation, but Kelly said that the
“problem” of human motivation is not a problem at all. You can't search for reasons why
people do what they do. It doesn't have to do with reinforcement, or motives, or sex and
aggression or goals.
- Theory: a person is motivated to predict or anticipate what will happen to them. What moves
people to act is their desire to know what the world has in store for them. A peson is like a
scientist, seeking to predict and control events.
- Kelly states that each of us classify our worlds by developing personal constructs-
which is a characteristic way of seeing how some things are alike & some things are
different from each other.
o Every construct is bipolar- specifying how 2 things are similar (same pole), and
different from a third thing (lying at the opposite pole)
o Ex. you may routinely classify your friends in terms of the personal construct
“serious/funny”. Grant and Jack are serious; Dean differs from them in that he is
funnier. All 3 are similar, yet different from each other.
o These construct will predict how you will act in the future. Ex. you will talk about
serious issue with Grant and Jack but crack jokes with Dean.
- Each person is best understood in terms of their own constructs.
- Each person develops their own construct system that contains a number of constructs
organized into a hierarchy (organization corollary) one of the postulates of the theory). So
some coordinates are superordinal (important) and others are subordinal (less important)
- Every person’s construct system is unique (individuality corollary), which means that
everybody divides up subjective experience in a different way. To know a person’s construct
system is to see the world through their eyes (sociality corollary)
- Given a person’s construct system, some constructs differ from each other by a range of
convenience (range corollary). Ex friendly/unfriendly construct can guide you through many
experiences while liberal/conservative will have a narrower range of convenience (unless you
are a serious liberal person, then if you see a well suited man, you will assume this guy is a
Republican). You could be wrong so constructs are like hypotheses. It’s a hunch you feel about
a person that provides you with a starting point in you interaction with that person, a way of
anticipating what may or may not happen next. ANTICIPATIONS GUIDE BEHAVIOUR &
o Kelly;s fundamental postulate: a person’s processes are psychologically channelized by
the ways in which they anticipate events.
- Constructs are highly permeable while others are not (modulation corollary). A permeable
construct is open to modification and addition of new elements (a.k.a. open minded person).
But if you can't mofidy your constructs, you are rigid. Complete permeality is not good though
because it wont work well in anticipating events.
- Constructs can contradict each other (fragmented), then they will have a hard time making
consistent sense of the world and anticipating events in an adaptive way (fragmentation
- There is no unconscious, the “unconscious” are just constructs that are nonverbal, submerged or
suspended. They are submerged because they don't fit and/or contradictory, but these can still
channelize behaviour and experience.
- “anxiety” = when we are faced with experiences that our construct are not prepared for. This is
fear of the unknown.
- “guilt” = a perception of one’s apparent dislodgement from their core role structure
- Core role structure is the construction a person has of who they are in relation to significant
people (ex. parents). Its embedded within the person’s general construct system. So guilt
follows when you perceive that one is no longer living according to an especially valued aspect
of one’s personal-construct system.
Exploring Personal Constructs: The Rep Test
- Role Construct Repertore Test (REP Test)- a personality assessment procedure designed by
Kelly to explore personal constructs in people’s lives.
- One version asks you to make a series of comparisons among those people who play important
roles in your life. A role = an understanding or expectation of what particular people in a
person’s life do. The role of mom has a person’s understanding of how moms behave in various
- You write down people’s names who fit certain descriptions and then you take 3 people at a
time and see what makes them similar and the word that contrasts it; these are your bipolar
- People who use many different kinds of constructs have cognitive complexity, they tend to
view the world in a highly differentiated manner. People who use few construct have simpler,
more global construct system
- Research has looked at construct similarity among friends and peers. Students who have similar
construct systems tend to become friends, be very close and stay friends over a long time. It
was a better predictor than traits (they’re close not cuz they act the same way, but cuz they see
the world through the same way). This is cuz they want confirmation from others of their own
conscious meanings. SHARING meanings is more important than DOING the same thing.
- Kelly viewd the person to be like a scientist, continually categorizing experience and
testing out hypotheses as they anticipates and reacts to events in the world. People are
constantly processing info about the world in order to anticipate and adapt to the
challenges of social life.
- Cognitive styles-characteristic and typically preferred modes of processing info, like
field independence-dependence and integrative complexity.
o Exist on borderline on things associated w/ personality & things associated with
- Cognitive styles are not the same thing as cognitive abilities, like verbal and numeric
abilities, measured on intelligence tests. Cognitive abilities assess how WELL a person
performs on cognitive tasks, cognitive styles tap into a person’s characteristic WAY of
processing information
- Cognitive style is partly captures in the big 5 (people high in O process info in a
differentiated, abstract manner)