|Kelly (1955) defined constriction in terms
of the process of reducing one’s perceptual field, thereby limiting
construed. He contrasted it with dilation,
which is the expansion of the
perceptual field. However constriction could also be compared to preemption, the
latter involving a reduction in construing to only one way of viewing
something. Constriction refers to what we make sense of (elements) while preemption
refers to the curtailment of what we use to make sense of things (constructs).
Kelly regarded constriction as of
importance clinically. He considered it to be one of the important diagnostic
dimensions that personal construct clinicians might use for assessment. He
argued that individuals used constriction to limit anxiety, reducing the world
that they found overwhelming to something manageable. He observed it to
particular importance in depression, a
position that others have elaborated
(e.g. Neimeyer, 1985; Rowe, 1987). Indeed he referred to some suicides as "the
ultimate constriction" (Kelly, 1961).
There have been a number of attempts to
measure constriction, predominantly using repertory grids. Measures used
include cognitive complexity (e.g. Space
& Cromwell, 1980), low levels of
construct conflict (e.g. Sheehan, 1985), over-use of particular ratings
the midpoint of the rating scale (e.g. Neimeyer, Heath & Strauss,
concrete construing (e.g. Landfield, 1976). But it should be noted that
measures focus on construing, not the perceptual field that is central
used measures that are more closely aligned with Kelly’s definition,
on elements. Exploring the use of midpoint ratings on the element
with people who self-harm, Winter,
Bhandari, Metcalfe, Riley, Sireling, Watson
& Lutwyche (2000) have found higher levels of hopelessness and
ideation associated with a more constricted (high midpoint) usage.
Gournay (1987), while formulating an account of agoraphobia,
used the degree of
differentiation between elements by constructs as a measure of degree
constriction. They found that constructs concerning tenderness and
interpersonal conflict did not readily differentiate between elements,
that the area of interpersonal conflict was largely outside the range
convenience of the construing systems of agoraphobics.
been attempts to assess constriction that are not based on repertory
including use of questionnaires (Chambers, 1987) and photography
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Beverly M. Walker