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COURSE NOTES: Personality

Chapter 13:

Based on the following textbook, with supplements and modifications by the author:
Cloninger, S. (2004). Theories of Personality: Understanding Persons (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Prentice Hall.
Instructors who have adopted this text may obtain supplementary Powerpoint presentations from the publisher.

term denotes a term that you should know how to define, and to recognize and give examples.

person denotes an important person. You should remember this person's name and what (s)he has done.

findingdenotes an important research finding.

issuedenotes an issue that you should be able to discuss or explain.

Chapter 13: 

personKelly: Personal Construct Theory

"jackass theory" (rather than "pitchfork" or "carrot" theory): the nature of the animal

termpersonal construct: a person's concept for predicting events

  • insensitive men
  • loyal friends you can rely on

termman-the-scientist: Kelly's metaphor for human personality

Constructive Alternativism

termconstructive alternativism: the assumption that people can interpret the world in a variety of ways
  • I believe in the power of hard work (so far, but maybe I'll change my mind later).
  • The teacher is (a) a tyrant, or (b) a professional with high standards.

termFundamental Postulate: "A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which (s)he anticipates events."

The Experience Cycle [graphic: See Figure 13.1 in the Cloninger text on page 387.]

validation or invalidation

The Process of Construing

  • The Construction Corollary
  • The Experience Corollary
  • The Choice Corollary
  • The Modulation Corollary

termConstruction Corollary: "A person anticipates events by construing their replications."

termpreverbal constructs (such as emotions)

  • "When my husband touches me, I feel a chill go through me. I don't know why, as he is really a caring man and I know he would not hurt me." (Cummins, 1992, p. 360)
  • Preverbal constructs can produce psychosomatic disorders.
    • headaches
    • stomach problems
    • bowel problems
    • high blood pressure

termExperience Corollary: "A person's construction system varies as he successively construes the replications of events."

termChoice Corollary: "A person chooses for himself that alternative in a dichotomized construct through which he anticipates the greater possibility for extension and definition of his system."

  • the term"elaborative choice"
  • (Incidentally, current personal construct theorists have suggested that although people should make the elaborative choice, they don't always. It's a goal, not a given.)

termModulation Corollary: "The variation in a person's construction system is limited by the permeability of the constructs within whose ranges of convenience the variants lie."

  • termpermeable construct: a construct that is open to adding new elements
    • people I like
    • movies I enjoy (assuming that I'm open to liking new people and enjoying new movies)
  • termconcrete construct: a construct that is not open to new elements
    • miracles [by one who doesn't believe they happen now]
    • honest politicians [by one who believes they are all crooked]

The Structure of Construct Systems

  • The Dichotomy Corollary
  • The Organization Corollary
  • The Fragmentation Corollary
  • The Range Corollary
termDichotomy Corollary: "A person's construction system is composed of a finite number of dichotomous (2-sided) constructs."
  • ex: "good-bad"; "difficult-easy"; "fair-unfair"
  • One pole of the construct system seems more desirable than the other.
  • The contrast pole might not be what you expect. [cartoon in lecture]
    • success -- failure
    • success -- learning experiences
  • Or even ...
    • success -- depression
    • success -- rage
  • Within one person, we expect one or the other pole to be active at a given time. Because constructs are personal, we can't assume that the same objective reality will be recognized by everyone.

termslot movement: abrupt change from one pole of a construct to its opposite, often precipitated by stress

  • an honest cop who turns to crime
  • a former drug addict who recovers and becomes a counselor
  • or a successful person who, when success stops, moves to the other pole (failure? depression? rage?)
termOrganization Corollary: “Each person characteristically evolves, for his convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs.”
  • What are these ordinal relationships?
    • superordinate constructs: apply broadly; generally abstract
      • core constructs: central to identity
    • peripheral constructs: narrower and more readily changed
  • The "laddering technique" is used in therapy to identify these ordinal relationships.
    • Sometimes people move up to superordinate relationships too quickly.
termFragmentation Corollary: “A person may successively employ a variety of construction subsystems which are inferentially incompatible with each other.”
  • a tyrant at work; a pussycat at home
termThe Range Corollary: “A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a finite range of events only.”
  • "range of convenience"

The Social Embeddedness of Construing Efforts

  • The Individuality Corollary
  • The Commonality Corollary
  • The Sociality Corollary

termIndividuality Corollary: “Persons differ from each other in their constructions of events.”

termCommonality Corollary: “To the extent that one person employs a construction of experience which is similar to that employed by another, his (or her) psychological processes are similar to those of the other person.”

termSociality Corollary: “To the extent that one person construes the construction processes of another, he may play a role in a social process involving the other person.”

  • It's very difficult to have a social relationship with someone who is psychotic. The psychotic person does not understand your constructs, and you likely can't understand hers or his. (It's easier to have a social relationship with a criminal.)

termThe Role Construct Repertory (REP) Test

termCognitive Complexity

  • Evidence: different ratings of the target people with Construct 1, Construct 2, Construct 3, etc.
  • If the ratings are similar on Construct 1, Construct 2, Construct 3, etc., that shows low complexity, EVEN IF THE VERBAL LABELS OF THE CONSTRUCTS ARE DIFFERENT.
  • example:
    • rich–spoiled–unhappy–irresponsible–selfish people
    • poor–disciplined–happy–responsible–giving people
    • (NO rich–disciplined–unhappy–responsible–giving people)

Personality Change

Emotions Related to Change

  • issuethreat: "the awareness of imminent comprehensive change in one's core constructs"
    • produces guilt
  • issuehostility: "the continued effort to extort validational evidence in favor of a type of social prediction which has already proved itself a failure"
    • ex: stubbornly continuing to find evidence that a failed marriage is viable

Effective Action: termThe C-P-C Cycle

  • C: circumspection: trying out several constructs for a situation
  • P: preemption: selecting one construct
  • C: control: acting on the construct

Loosening and Tightening Constructs: termThe Creativity Cycle

  • loosening or tightening constructs
  • ex: brainstorming to loosen constructs


Understanding the Client’s Constructs

Exploring and Changing Constructs

  • time binding: "That sort of thing happened a long time ago, in childhood. It doesn't happen any more; it can't. You wouldn't react the same way now, as an adult."
  • word binding: "That's not love; that's control.“ or "That's not sex; that's aggression."

Fixed-Role Therapy

Constructs in Context: Personal Stories

findingResearch Findings

Clinical Populations

Business Applications and Vocational Choice

Other Research

Constructivism, Social Constructionism, and Postmodernism

Constructive alternativism is compatible with post-modernism. (The context must be taken into account; there is no universal, objective reality.)

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Ch. 1: Introduction
Ch. 2: Freud
Ch. 3: Jung
Ch. 4: Adler
Ch. 5: Erikson
Ch. 6: Horney & Relational
Ch. 7: Allport
Ch. 8: Cattell & Big Five
Ch. 9: Biological
Ch. 10: Skinner & Staats
Ch. 11: Dollard & Miller
Ch. 12: Mischel & Bandura
Ch. 13: Kelly
Ch. 14: Rogers
Ch. 15: Maslow
Ch. 16: Conclusion