Kelly, loose versus tight construing is one of the most
important constructs in his theory. It is about the process of construing and
nothing about what is construed. It relates to that central component
personal construct theory - that construing is about predicting.
Loosening is defined as characteristic of constructs
that lead to varying predictions. To construe loosely means placing an element
at one pole of a construct today and on the opposite pole of that
tomorrow. Loose construing is thus somewhat elastic but, importantly,
retains its identity within the person's construing system. One thinks
in dreams. Kelly puts it like this:
"To think loosely?
One does it, despite
himself, in the daily appraisal of people and things. Today's joy is
sadness and yesterday's regret; the failure of the moment is the
success of a
lifetime; and the inanimateness of stationary things turns into willful
intransigence whenever we stub our toe. Yet the wavering construction
substantially the same; joy is still contrasted with sadness, failure
success, and inanimateness precludes willfulness; it is only that they
unstable relationships with the objects they are designed to keep in
1955/1991, p. 1030/Vol 2 p. 330)
says in that quotation, we all often think loosely as we go about our
lives, but it is very apparent in dreaming.
Kelly talks a great deal
about dreams and interprets them as largely concerned with preverbal
constructs. In this sense, some of our constructs that are involved in
construing are also at very low levels of
cognitive awareness and
therefore not available to conscious
from tight to loose construing and back again defines the Creativity Cycle.
people are so "locked in" to loose construing that they are unable to
tighten in order to deal with their world at all. Such people are
psychiatry as suffering from the type of "thought disorder" found in
some of those suffering from schizophrenia.
Bannister (1962, 1963) carried out
a research programme to test the theory suggested by Kelly that such
disorder is the result of very loose construing. A summary of
can be found in Fransella (2003). In the past, such "thought disorder"
was said to be similar to that personified in the paintings of such
people as Picasso. But
Picasso was able to tighten his construing at the end of his
painting session and join others in social conversation - those with
disorder cannot do that.
construing is sometimes seen as similar to propositional
the former is a construct about process and the latter is about how a
relates to its elements. "One day I think my feet are too big,
thought they were too small" - I'm construing my feet loosely. To construe my
feet propositionally I might
say "amongst other things, my feet are too
big". I am certain about that and construe my feet, in terms of size,
tightly and not loosely. Kelly points out the difference by explaining
that the Creativity Cycle starts
with loosened construing involving a single construct, whereas the C-P-C
Cycle starts with propositional construing in which the person
array of fairly tight constructs from which a choice is to be made in
stage of the Cycle" (Kelly, 1955/1991; p. 1061/Vol 2 p. 351).
tight-loose dimension is crucial in personal
construct theory because it is
about our ability to be creative and, therefore, about change.
D. (1962) The nature and
measurement of schizophrenic thought disorder. Journal of
Mental Science, 108, 825-842.
D. (1963) The genesis
of schizophrenic thought disorder: a serial invalidation hypothesis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 109,
F. (2003) From theory
to research to change. In F. Fransella (ed) International
Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.