The first theorist to adopt the cognitive perspective was George Kelly and he held the view that people are like scientists. By referring to persons as scientists, Kelly meant that every individual is constantly engaged in the process of understanding themselves and the world around them similar like the scientists in the laboratory who test this understanding by making predictions about the observable outcomes of the events (Green B. (2004). And like applied scientists and engineers they also use this understanding to reshape themselves or some aspect of the world to which they belong. In this way, scientific activity is an essential and constant aspect of human existence. Therefore Kelly named this approach the theory of personal constructs. He defined the term construct as a category that represents few aspects of the knowledge of the world and this construct also helps in guiding the individual’s perception and the memory of events and their responses. Personal constructs are important because these cognitive categories differ for each person. For instance people cannot understand the world except through their own constructs. Therefore, in order to understand a person's response to events every individual has to understand the constructs through which he or she has perceived those events (Kelly, George Alexander (1963).
Kelly’s theory has a main principle that is called the constructive alternativism where he believes that there are many ways of viewing an event and people vary in terms of how many alternative constructs are available to them and which they choose to apply at the given time. Kelly also states that the objective does not matter but the action and experience are determined by the reality of the subject. However the main criteria are how the events in the outside world are constructed by an individual. Hence many people chose among these alternative constructs of an event which further determines their experiences and also their responses to that particular event. Kelly stated that this theory is in the form of a fundamental postulate which is essential in the reasoning and a corollary of a statement that requires no proof ( Miller M. & Rierchert B. P. (2001). The theory is a phenomenological approach, rather than a positivist one. All action and thinking is undertaken in a scientific manner. This basically means trying things out to see whether they work or ways of making sense of the world are not necessarily conscious and articulate but may be inferred from behavior. Therefore Kelly does not refer to learning alone but also to the changes that take place in the constructs in the given time and this happens only because the process of learning is very important in the system of personality development.
It can be concluded that Kelly stated that the theories of personality were not defined accurately and is difficult to test in many clinical cases and the observer contributed more to the diagnosis than the patient. Kelly acknowledged that both the therapist and patient would each bring a unique set of constructs to bear in the consulting room. Therefore, the therapist could never be completely objective in construing the client's world (Wright R. P. (2004). The effective therapist however is the one who construed the patient's material at a high level of abstraction within the patient's system of construction. The therapist could therefore comprehend the ways in which the patient analyzes the world that were disordered and also help the patient to change their personal constructs.
Green B. (2004). Personal construct psychology and content analysis. Personal Construct Theory & Practice, 1, 82-91
Kelly, George Alexander (1963). A Theory of Personality: The Psychology of Personal Constructs. W.W. Norton and Company. pp. 190 pages
Miller M. & Rierchert B. P. (2001). Frame mapping: a quantitative method for investigating issues in the public sphere, In: M. D. West (Ed.), Theory, method, and practice in computer content analysis (pp. 61-75).Westport: Ablex.
Wright, R. P. (2004). Mapping cognitions to better understand attitudinal and behavioral responses in appraisal research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 339-374
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