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George A. Kelly is one of the most important psychologists when it comes to cognitive psychology and personality theories. He himself wrote almost once a whole book about it, that he doesn't want to be assigned to this direction in any case.

Independently of this, Kelly assumes that there is no reality. In the following this thought is derived:

At the center of his theory is the construct. A person is in possession of different constructs. A construct represents experiences regarding to the own person and the social and material environment and provides them with meaning.

A person doesnˋt have to be aware of these constructs.

With the help of these constructs one can orient oneself in the world. One can classify events, but also anticipate future events (which creates cognitive control and is one of the most important needs for humans), etc.

Kelly then developed several assumptions about constructs. These he calls corrolaries. There are 11 in total and one of them, for example, is the "individuality corrolary." According to this, individuals differ in their construction of events.

The key, for the assumption that there is no reality, is Kelly's thought of "Constructive Alternativism":

Thus, in principle, there are alternatives to every construction. This means that a person may have represented an experience by a certain construct, but could also have formed a completely different construct for the identical experience.

Since a person's access to reality can only be through constructs, the inevitable conclusion is that it is impossible for reality to be represented as such!

How do we then come to the conclusion that "things are just the way they are", if things are in theory just as much different and there can be no "right" view at all.

Kelly himself says: “It does remind us, that all our present perceptions are open to question and reconsideration, and it broadly suggest that even the most obvious occurrences of everyday life might utterly transformed it we were inventive enough to construe them differently.” (Kelly, 1970, p. 1)


Kelly, G.A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton.

Kelly, G.A. (1970). A brief introduction to personal construct theory. In D. Bannister (Ed.), Perspectives in personal construct theory (pp. 1-29). London: Academic Press.

Kelly, G.A. (1980). A psychology of the optimal man. In A.W. Landfield & L.M. Leitner (Eds.), Personal contruct psychology: Psychotherapy and personality (pp. 18-35). New York: Wiley.

Dedicated to Mrs. S.

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