| A constellatory
construct is one that fixes the other
realm memberships of its elements.
This is stereotyped or typological thinking. (Kelly,
1955/1991, Vol. 2, p. 6/1991)
One might say that "a rugby player is
male, large, tough, likes bodily contact and is aggressive". A rugby
player can, of course, be considered as being other things - such as a
father, having a liking for cats - but when construed as a rugby
other attributes automatically follow and that is constellatory,
construing. But it does not go as far as does preemptive
which says that "if that man is a rugby player he is nothing
but a rugby player". The opposite pole of constellatory
construing. To construe propositionally would be to say "that man is,
amongst other things, a rugby player" and not specify any elements that
automatically go with being a rugby player. Preemptive,
and propositional constructs are all
descriptions of the control they
exercise over their elements.
Constellatory construing can be seen in
personal construct theory in the way superordinate
constructs are said to be
linked to their subordinate constructs
within a person's construing. In a
psychotherapy setting, "transference" may cause problems for the
therapist. He is seen as "a father figure" and that "father
figure" comes with a number of elements fixed to it meaning he is seen
a highly prejudicial, stereotyped
way. The client is very clear about just what
sort of person the therapist is, and the therapist invalidates that
If a person used constellatory
exclusively it would be very difficult to be creative or to change. But
people would use them exclusively. It is useful to recognise when one
stereotypes. Perhaps in the classroom - all children with red hair are
shout, misbehave and so forth. In the clinical situation, certain
constellatory in that the clinician looks for specific behaviours that
his model of "disorder". Such teachers and clinicians overlook events
and behaviours that do not "fit". Bannister (1981) points out just
how common constellatory/stereotypical construing in relation to "the
disabled". Walker (2003) links constellatory and propositional construing
different degrees of dependency.
Stereotypes are everyday examples of
constellatory construing and they make life easier for us. They play a
our daily routines. But Fransella (1977) goes further than that
that our stereotypes may, in fact, play an important role in defining
see ourselves. She cites evidence to indicate that some people with a
- such as being "depressed" (Rowe, 1971),
(Fransella, 1972), "an agoraphobic"
(Bannister, 1962), or someone who
"commits arson" (Fransella & Adams, 1971) - can be put into a
category but just not see themselves as belonging in that category. We
ourselves, the sort of person we are, by being clear about what we are
a sense we do this with our stereotypes. For instance, a person may say
best friend is a rugby player! But he is quite different from all the
An exception is made of the individual and the stereotype is not
Constellatory, stereotypical construing is an efficient and easy way of
sense of the world. It is very resistant
to change mainly because we rarely put
our stereotyped, constellatory construing to the test. Walker
relates this to nonvalidation.
Construing a disability. In A. Brechin, P. Liddard, & J. Swain
(eds) Handicap in a Social World. London: Hodder
- Fransella, F.
& Adams, B. (1966) An illustration of the use of repertory grid
in a clinical setting, British Journal of
social and clinical Psychology, 5, 51-62.
F. (1977) The self and the stereotype. In:
New Perspectives in Personal Construct
Theory. D. Bannister (ed). London: Academic
- Rowe, D. 1971 Poor prognosis in a case of depression as
predicted by the repertory grid British
Journal of Psychiatry, 118, 231-244.
- Walker, B. M.
(2002) 'Nonvalidation vs. (in)validation: implications for theory and
practice'. In J. D. Raskin & S. K.
Bridges. Studies in Meaning: Exploring
Constructivist Psychology New York: