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Chapter 8


Course Code
Marc A Fournier

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Chapter 8: Self and Other – Social Cognitive Aspects of Personality
Social cognitive approaches to personality- theories and conceptions of personality that emphasize the extent
to which human beings are information processing systems who use schemas, beliefs, values,
expectancies, and other cognitive constructs to guide their behaviour in the social world.
Among the most important inputs in human life are our perceptions and impressions of others, which shape and
are shaped by our perceptions and impressions of ourselves
He wrote and published his two volume The Psychology of Personal Constructs in 1955
oThis book took the field of psychology by storm
oIt presented a boldly original theory of the person that seemed to bear little if any
resemblance to the classic personality theories of the day, such as those proposed by Freud, Jung,
Rogers, Maslow, Murray…
oThe unusual terms Kelly proposed became part of the standard lexicon of personality
psychology- terms such as personal construct, range of convenience, fixed-role therapy, and Rep
Many personality theories have traditionally assigned a central role to human motivation
Kelly asserted that the ‘problem of human motivation is not a problem at all.
oThe search for underlying principles to explain why people do what they do is futile
oWe need not posit behaviour approach and inhibition systems, sexual aggressive instincts
(Freud), principles of reinforcement (behaviourists), needs and motives (Murray, McClelland), or
goals, strivings, or the urge toward self actualization (Rogers, Maslow) to explain what motivates
people to act
People are alive, they act by virtue of being alive, its that simple!- Kelly
His belief implies a fundamental principle of motivation a person is motivated to predict or anticipate what
will happen to him/her (what moves people to act is their desire to know what the world has in store
for them)
According to Kelly, each of us classifies his/her world by developing personal constructs: Kelly’s concept of a
characteristic way of constructing how some things are different from each other.
oEvery construct is bipolar, specifying how two things are similar to each other and
different from a third thing
oFor example: I may routinely classify my friends in terms of the personal construct
serious/funny”/ Grant and Jack are relatively serious; Dean differs from them both in that he is
relatively funny. All three friends are in fact, similar and different from one another in many great

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Each person develops his/her own construct system that contains a number of constructs organized in a
hierarchy (“organization corollary”), this means that within any construct system certain constructs
are superordinal) encompassing many other constructs) and others are subordinal (being
encompassed by larger constructs)
To know another person’s construct system is to see the world through his/her eyes (‘sociality corollary’)
Within a given person’s construct system, particular constructs differ from one another with respect to their
range of convenience (‘range corollary’): Kelly’s concept of the extent to which a given personal
construct is likely to guide a person’s interpretation of events and the behaviour he/she is likely to
oThus, the constructfriendly/unfriendly” may have a wide range of convenience: it is
likely to guide the person’s anticipations of events in a large number of situations. By contrast, the
constructliberal/conservative is likely to have a narrower range of convenience for most people
Constructs are more like hypotheses to be tested that like assumed facts
i.e. seeing a middle aged man at a cocktail party, dressed in a 3 piece suit, hair impeccably groomed,
wrist watch is expensive one may assume he may be a political conservative (hypothesis)
Anticipations guide behaviour and experience, in the words of Kelly’sfundamental postulate”,a person’s
process are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he/she anticipates events
Constructs differ in other ways too; a permeable construct is open to modification and the introduction of new
elements (a person that is open minded); by contrast, a person who is unable to modify his/her
constructs in light of new information and expanding experiences is likely to be viewed by others as
relatively rigid and inflexible
In Kelly’s cognitive view, the “unconscious is merely those constructs that are nonverbal, submerged, or
oFor certain constructs we are unable to assign a verbal name; thus, we may not be aware
of them
oYet these unconscious constructs continue to ‘channelize behaviour and experience
oWhen we confront inexplicable events in the world for which our construct system does
not seem to be prepared, we experience anxiety.
oAnxiety is a fear of the unknown- the fear that the blooming, buzzing confusion cannot
be understood.
oguilt is a “perception of one’s apparent dislodgment from his core role structure~ core
role structure is the construction a person has of one he/she is in relation to significant people, such
as parents
Kelly viewed the person to be like a scientist, continually categorizing experience and testing hypotheses as he
or she anticipates and reacts to events of the world.

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One of the best ways to get a feel for Kelly’s approach is to participate in the Role Construct Repertory Test
(rep test) - a personality assessment procedure designed by Kelly to explore personal constructs in
people’s lives.
Step One: compile a Role Title Test i.e. the person would write down a name that fit a specific
description (cannot repeat any names)
Step Two: compare and contrast them in a way to discern some of the important personal constructs you
employ to make sense of your interactions with these people.
For each set of three numbers, think of how the people corresponding to the first two
numbers are similar to each other and at the same time different from the person
corresponding to the third number.
Step Three: each of the 15 pairings of “similar” andcontrast represent a single construct. At this point
the analysis of you response can take many different paths.
One line of research examined individual differences in cognitive complexity as revealed by the Rep Test.
oPeople who use many different kinds of constructs are said to manifest higher levels
of cognitive complexity
oPeople who use few different kinds of constructs are viewed as having a simpler,
more global construct system
Similarity of constructs was a more significant predictor of friendship formation than was similarity on self
report measures of traits (if their perceptions of the world is the same, they are more likely to be
friends, not because they behave the same)
Kelly signaled the importance of social-cognitive adaptations in human personality and the role of mental
representations of self and others in everyday behaviour.
People are constantly processing information about the world in order to anticipate and adapt to the challenges
of social life
Cognitive styles- characteristic and typically preferred modes of processing information, such as field
independence-dependence and integrative complexity
Cognitive styles are different cognitive abilities; while cognitive abilities assess how well a person performs on
cognitive tasks, cognitive styles tap instead into a person’s characteristic way or manner of
processing information
In recent years, educational psychologists have been especially interested in indentifying different styles of
learning among students in order to improve teaching in the schools.
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