Kelly claimed that constructs operate according to a fundamental postulate. This postulate maintains that each person directs thoughts and cognitions in a way that permits the most accurate prediction of future events. If a woman has a personal construct which states that her boyfriend is a thoughtful person, and he sends her flowers while she is in bed with the flu, her construct would be regarded as an accurate one. If, however, that same boyfriend used her illness as an opportunity to date other women and ignored her illness in the process, it would be necessary to adjust her construction system because it does not accurately predict her boyfriend's behavior. This process of changing one's construction system in order to predict future events more accurately is an ongoing one, designed to decrease uncertainty in the future.
While the fundamental postulate is critical to Kelly's attempts to predict and explain behavior, it is not sufficient to cover all aspects of a person's behavior and the choices that are made which cause that behavior. In order to address this additional detail, Kelly provided a series of eleven corollaries to his fundamental postulate. These corollaries are supporting statements that provide a detailed analysis of thoughts and behaviors which cannot be directly derived from the fundamental postulate.
The construction corollary maintains that people continue to learn as they are presented with similar events in life. For example, if a man's mother has given him a birthday present for the last thirty years, his prediction that he will receive another present from her on his next birthday makes sense. Similarly, if one has watched a particular television program at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights for the past several years, one's prediction that it will again be on television at the same time next Monday night is a reasonable one.
Another important corollary to Kelly's fundamental postulate is the dichotomy corollary. This states that all constructs consist of pairs of oppo-sites. That is, a college course may be either interesting or uninteresting, but it cannot be both at the same time. One important aspect of the dichotomy corollary is that each construct must include three members or items, with two of the members having the same characteristic and the third member having the opposite characteristic. For example, breathing and not breathing would not be a legitimate construct in evaluating three friends. Because all of them breathe, the proposed construct would not tell how the three individuals are different as well as alike. Therefore, it would not reduce uncertainty in the future.
A third corollary to Kelly's system which is particularly important is the range corollary. This maintains that a construct is only relevant in dealing with a finite number of events. The events for which a construct is deemed applicable is called its range of convenience. Terms such as "happy" and "sad" would not be within the range of convenience in depicting the characteristics of a tree or a book, while they might be critical in evaluating one's relatives.
Varying degrees of applicability can be found within a series of constructs. For example, the construct "kind versus cruel" would be more relevant in evaluating a relative or girlfriend than it would be in considering the qualities of an elevator operator one occasionally encounters. Kelly's fundamental postulate and supporting corollaries provide considerable information. The theory also provides some interesting applications in terms of personality assessment and therapeutic intervention.
Was this article helpful?