Personal Construct Perspectives on Forensic Psychology

By James Horley | Go to book overview

Preface: Constructive alternativism and personal responsibility

Jack Adams-Webber

George Kelly (1955) developed a constructivist model of 'person-as-scientist' within the framework of which a host of psychological issues have been reformulated. Although it evolved originally in the idiographic context of his own clinical experience, and is classified widely as a personality theory (e.g., Pervin & John, 2001), this model has provided the theoretical ground for novel hypotheses in many areas of inquiry, including cognition, psycholinguistics, life-span development, psychopathology and education, among others. Its extraordinary deployability and scope is evidenced further by an expanding range of applications in such disparate fields as artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, psychiatry, experimental aes-thetics, nursing, management, marketing, analysis of political debates, and literary criticism, to cite a few examples. As James Horley points out in his introductory chapter, the various contributors to this particular volume review a rapidly growing body of research that has extended the range of convenience of Kelly's model into the relatively new area of forensic psychology.

Kelly (1955) based the central assumptions of his model on a single epistemological premise, his principle of "constructive alternativism". It asserts that 'reality' does not reveal itself to us directly, but rather it is subject to as many alternative ways of interpreting it as we ourselves can invent. Hence, we have the rich diversity of human experience. Moreover, according to Kelly (1955), our current representations of events are anticipatory in function. In order to predict our future experience, each of us develops a "personal construct system" and attempts to accommodate it to the unknown structure of reality. This system affords the underlying ground of coherence and unity in the ongoing experience of each individual.

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