of cognitive awareness
|"The level of
from high to low. A high-level construct is one which is readily
socially effective symbols; whose alternatives are both readily
which falls well within the range of convenience of the client's major
constructions; and which is not suspended by its superordinating
Vol.2 , p. 6/1991).
Personal constructs come into use at
various levels of our awareness. Construing at a high-level involves
usually call "conscious awareness" or "thinking". Construing at this
of awareness also means that the alternatives (or opposite poles)
each personal construct are available to us. At the lowest level there
construing which has no verbal labels attached it, and so cannot be
"thought about". Although Kelly states that preverbal construing may or
occur before the onset of speech - and so have no verbal labels
attached to it
- in general practice constructs that have been developed after the
language are more often referred to as "non-verbal constructs". It has
suggested that an alternative term for such construing is tacit
Kelly proposed that these "levels of
cognitive awareness" be substituted for unconscious
for making this change are crucial for our understanding of his psychology of
personal constructs. Freud and other psychodynamic theorists
some physical energy was necessary to explain why people moved at all.
notion stemmed from the fact that physicists of the time saw the world
consisting of "inert" matter which could only be moved by some "force"
"energy". Freud came from a scientific background and so reasonably
some "force" was needed to prod human beings into action. This energy
human beings he called "psychic energy". That energy was seen as
the Id of the personality and
together they formed The Unconscious.
he did not want to start from that point. He saw human beings as being
and not "inert" matter and, if that were so, one essential ingredient
matter is that it moves. The issue for psychology, he argued, is to
we move as we do. So important did he think this whole issue to be that
incorporated it into the Fundamental Postulate
of his theory. It is "a
person's processes that are
psychologically channelized by the ways in which he
anticipates events". He says: "For
our purposes, the person is not an
which is temporarily in a moving state but is himself a form of motion"
1955/1991, p. 48/Vol 1 p. 34). Thus, the notion of "unconscious"
as fundamental in personal construct theory as is "conscious"
construing . And
it is this aspect of Kelly's theory that makes it crucially different
In order to deal with construing that
place outside our conscious awareness, Kelly proposed that we consider
construing as taking place at various levels
of cognitive awareness.
level of cognitive awareness is preverbal
construing - which is
before the onset of language and is definitely "unconscious". Then
there is submergence
- in which one pole of a personal construct is not available, and suspension -
in which one or more of the
up a construct have been "dropped out" when a new construct is formed;
relates this to forgetting
But there are also other constructs
Kelly's theory which render aspects of our construing "unconscious".
These are, subordination, impermeability and loosening.
However, it is interesting
that Kelly sees these latter ways of construing as only "unconscious"
therapist's point of view and not from the client's. Kelly says: "The
may observe the apparent shifting that goes on under loose
and, because he cannot follow it, hypothesize that some stable
conceptualization is taking place" (Kelly, 1955/1991, p.
466/Vol 1 p.
Many of the theoretical constructs in personal construct theory can be
to construing at a preverbal level, such as tight
and loose. For
can be very loose as in dreaming or very tight as in core construing
"I am fundamentally a worthless person".
Thus, with "low levels of cognitive
awareness" relating to what in other systems may be called "unconscious
processes", the elimination of the need for some "force" to make a
psychologically, and the incorporation of "processes" in the Fundamental
Postulate, the concept of levels of cognitive awareness is clearly
aspect of personal construct theory.
An alternative way of looking at unconscious
processes in personal construct theory has been proposed by Bell
- Bell, R. C. (1996)
How can personal
construct theory explain disorders of perception and cognition? In B.
J. Costigan, L. Viney & W. Warren (eds) Personal Construct Theory:
Psychology for the Future. Australian Psychological Society.
- Neimeyer, R. A.
structure and meaningfulness of tacit construing. In H. Bonarius, R.
& S. Rosenberg (eds) Personal
Construct Psychology: Recent Advances in Theory and Practice. London: