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Propositional construing
A propositional construct is one which carries no implications regarding the other realm memberships of its elements. This is uncontaminated construing.
Kelly gives the following examples: philosophical attitudes; any roundish mass can be considered, among other things, a ball; although this is a ball, there is no reason therefore to believe that it could not be lopsided, valuable, or have a French accent (Kelly, 1955, p. 156-7; 1991, Vol 1, p. 109). The opposite pole of the construct is constellatory construing. This construct of propositional versus constellatory construing, along with the idea of preemptive construing are Kelly's descriptions of the control that constructs may exercise over other constructs (or elements as Kelly calls them).
In everyday living, it would not be very practical to construe propositionally all the time since you would have great difficulty in coming to any conclusions. For instance, in watching a rugger match, you would be so busy trying to decide whether the oval object that was being thrown around was a ball or not that you would miss the point of the game. So, it is certainly useful to construe preemptively at such times and say 'that is an oval ball and nothing but an oval ball' for the duration of this game. 
However, in the context of clinical work, Kelly suggests that all his diagnostic constructs are intended to be used propositionally. "If a person is anxious, he may also be construing loosely or tightly, or comprehensively, or he may be guilty, or he may be hostile" (Kelly, 1955, p. 531; 1991, Vol 1, 390). It also means that along with one's analysis of, say, a self characterisation, one will accept the possibility that some other way of analysing the script may be just as "true".
Propositional construing should not be seen as the same as loose construing. Propositional construing is about how personal constructs related to one another. But loose construing is about the predicted outcome changing whenever a personal construct is used - today I think apples are good for me whereas yesterday I thought they were best given to cattle. The only connection between propositional construing and loose construing is that propositional constructs may be used loosely but they may equally be used tightly.

  • Kelly, G.A. (1955). The Psychology of Personal Constructs. New York: Norton.
Fay Fransella

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Last update: 6 December 2003