| Extension and definition
|Kelly proposed that the elaborative choice maybe one of extending or
defining the construct system – or indeed both. Extending the
construct system means increasing its range of conveniences and hence
making more of life’s experiences meaningful. There is a valorisation
of adventure generally in Kelly’s writing, and extension is clearly
essential to the person’s successful adaptation to the world of events.
But he also recognised that elaboration might involve definition
– making the construct system more explicit and clear cut. In Kelly’s
view, most problems of elaboration seem to be due to over-definition
(see Butt, 1998), and Kelly likened definition to constriction , a strategy he associated
with defence against anxiety. Nevertheless, definition, like tightening may be seen as a cyclic process
that balances the possibility of over-extension. Bannister used to draw
on a military metaphor to explain their relationship: an army that just
digs in will win no victories, but an army that out-runs its supply
lines will soon encounter disaster. From his point of view, extension
and definition together balance movement with consolidation. The more
of life’s experience that one can construe, the more meaningful it
becomes. But anxiety occurs at the fringes of our construction, and
hence the need for definition and constriction.
So extension and definition in some ways resemble other pairs of
concepts in PCP: dilation and constriction, loosening and tightening
(the creativity cycle ), circumspection
and pre-emption (the CPC cycle).
Extension, dilation, loosening and circumspection all imply a
broadening of perspective, while definition, constriction, tightening
and pre-emption all imply a narrowing or
concentration. But elaboration through extension and definition need
not be cyclic; both can be seen in the same activity. The person ‘as a
form of motion’ is always engaged in some activity, and Kelly
recommended understanding people’s spontaneous activities –
interests and hobbies - in order to appreciate how and where their
of construction work most effectively. People "hoose what events
to elaborate upon because they appear amenable to treatment"
1955, p. 735). He used the example of someone listening to sports
to illustrate his point. Here is a framework that is defining enough to
be comfortable, while exciting and extending enough to provide surprise
novelty and interest.
T. (1998) Sedimentation and elaborative choice. Journal of
Constructivist Psychology, 11, (4) 265-281
G.A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. (2
volumes) New York: Norton.