The primary tool, or diagnostic instrument, for Kelly's psychology is known as the repertory grid. The original test devised by Kelly was meant to be used in a clinical, or pre-clinical setting. His idea was that the test, role construct repertory test (Rep test), as administered through his "grid" would serve five functions: 1) to define the client's problem in a way that it could most easily be addressed; 2) to uncover the client's own personal constructs, or manner in which the person functions moves and will move for the purpose of the examination; 3) to provide hypotheses in the clinical setting which can be carefully observed, monitored, and utilized; 4) to search and discover what resources the client has available that might not be obvious to a therapist except through such a tool; and 5) to uncover and accent the problems of the client that also might have been overlooked by the therapist.
Examples The test focuses on role constructs for the purpose of seeking an understanding of a person's personal social behavior. As created by Kelly, it was an application of a psychological test procedure already in use, known as the concept-formation. As the administration of the test developed, it became a simple grid. The grid itself is a table divided into columns, and essentially sorts people. There are two outer columns that list human characteristics. The remaining columns are filled with the names of people or objects that fit into a list of categories. For instance, in addition to places for each parent, siblings, and employer, and other similar categories. There are also places for such listings as a teacher that you liked, and one you disliked; a spouse or significant other; a person of the same sex you disliked in high school; and several other categories of people with whom you've interacted. Kelly's traditional test provided for up to 21 of those columns. Each person is listed with a designated number. The names are also written on cards. The tester shows the subject these cards in groups of three, and always asks the same question: "How are two of these similar and the third one different?" Each answer the subject gives represents a construct of the subject. Individual names rather than generalized concepts such as "male" or "female" are considered preferable because they are more personal to the subject, and provide the first inroads into the gathering of information necessary to analysis. The examiner sorts through these responses and recorded.
Kelly noted six constructs the subject might construe that could create the need for a follow-up to the test in order to make finer distinctions. Such constructs and their explanation are: 1) situational constructs—when a subject might answer, for instance, that two people are alike because they are from the same town; 2) excessively permeable constructs—when a subject would indicate that two people were alike simply because they are both men; 3) excessively impermeable constructs—a subject might answer that two people are alike because they are each firefighters, but the third is different because he or she is a law enforcement officer; 4) superficial constructs—when a subject might find a similarity simply because two people wear the same size of shoes; 5) vague constructs—when the subject indicates that both objects share a similar characteristic by saying something such as, "Oh, I don't like either of them"; and, 6) constructs which are a direct product of the role title—the subject responds to the question of similarity between two people, in the example Kelly offers, by saying that, "Both are hard to understand."
From the beginning, Kelly allowed for the possibility of variations of the rep test. He offered various elaborations through which a therapist might administer the test according to determining both personal and public construct systems. What he did proscribe was that certain assumptions should be accepted as premise to the test. Those he indicated were that: 1) of the "permeability of the constructs elicited"; 2) "preexisting constructs are elicited by the test"; 3) the test must be representative of all the people with whom the subject creates the construed role; 4) the subject must demonstrate an understanding of the constructs of others in order to understand the social interaction, even if that understanding is inadequate; 5) the subject must have clear role association in relation to the object, with constructs regarding that person clearly defined; and, 6) the subject must adequately communicate the constructs created and their explanation to the examiner.
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