| Kelly’s theory deals
specifically with personal construct
systems which, though they may be explored
and understood by others,
are unique to the individual. His individuality
corollary emphasises difference
in our processes of anticipation and
construction of events, and, while the commonality
suggests that there may be similarities and overlaps
within our systems, these similarities are between our personal
of events. We may appear to be using identical constructs, but they are
to have differing implications in the
context of our personal construing
system. Our social and cultural context will be significant primarily
of how we construe it.
constructionists have developed our
understanding of the social nature of construction, proposing
created within a society or culture, which become embedded in its language or
socialisation procedures, and which influence, or even determine, the
construct systems of individuals.
In contrast to these ideas, corporate
constructs can be described as those created between people, or
which are explicitly understood and used by the group. They are the
product of a number of individuals. The theory and practice of PCP, for
example, could be seen as a set of corporate constructs, since it is
and elaborated by a group of psychologists, made available through
and used by the group in their work and personal lives.
Corporate constructs, while being shared
a large degree, are nevertheless liable to differing interpretations.
we may have a corporate understanding of PCP, made explicit through
such as this encyclopaedia, we are likely to vary widely in the
sense we make of these "shared" understandings, and in our subsequent
behaviours. Groups and communities of all kinds are likely to contain
sub-groups of people whose interpretation of events is broadly similar,
markedly different from others’.
Such a perspective on the personal,
and corporate web of construing can help us understand the gaps we
between the formal statements of corporate intent (for example in
organisational mission statements or political manifestos), and the
contrasting and less predictable behaviours of those individuals and
subscribe to them.
Balnaves and Caputi (1993) have proposed
the term "corporate actor" to describe the group within which the
constructs are held. They illustrate this with a football club as a
actor in its processes of making decisions, choosing players, enforcing
and so on. The people in the club are aware of these constructs and act
they were their own. When they play, they follow the rules of the game
abide by the club’s choices. This does not deny the subsequent
behavioural interpretations of these corporate constructs, described by
Balnaves and Caputi as "individual real-time construing", such as
whether to pass the ball or run with it. It also does not rule out the
possibility of argument with, or transgression of, the corporate
individual members or sub-groups, who make counter-statements through
From this point of view, we see that an
organisation’s corporate constructs are neither reducible to the
personal constructs of its members - largely because of the complex
interdependencies of individuals in groups - nor can they be held to be
solely in the corporate body, as these shared constructs only acquire
through the behavioural interpretation (or even subversion) of them.
Walker (1996) has noted that the use of the term personal constructs
implies our individual responsibility for our constructions "and for
experiments that result from their application". The corporate entity
therefore be considered responsible for the actions resulting from its
statements. An individual may for example be struck off a professional
for transgressing the corporate code.
An interesting implication of this idea
responsibility arises when we consider the possibility that, in
Balnaves and Caputi’s definition, corporate constructs may not always
explicit or published. A recent example in the UK would
be the suggestion that some organisations are "institutionally racist".
is no implication that these organisations have necessarily set out to
racist; such racism has been defined as "unwitting". We might surmise
collectively developed constructs and shared construction processes at
articulated level have resulted in widespread racist behaviours.
the institution is held to be responsible as well as, and perhaps more
the individuals or sub-groups whose actions have come to light. We
need consider ways of exploring those corporate constructs which are
verbally articulated or consciously recognised by either the corporate
its members, but which have significant social implications.
- Balnaves, M. and Caputi, P. (1993). Corporate
constructs: to what extent are personal constructs personal?
Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 6, 119-138.
- Walker, B. M.,
(1996), A psychology for
adventurers – an introduction to personal construct psychology from a
perspective, in Kalekin-Fishman, D. and Walker, B.M. The construction of group
realities. Malabar: Krieger