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Construals of society
Maintaining that society may often be the source of a client's constructs, Kelly (1955/1991) conflates society with culture and points out repeatedly that country of origin, gender, race, and age are likely to influence construals of elements of human experience. Significantly, he refrains from attempting a comprehensive definition of society as the source. The deliberate opacity indicates that, as with other elements, Kelly did not envision a theoretical limit to the number of alternative constructions that can be rung by different individuals on the element, society. Therapists and researchers who ignore the possibility that society can be construed in different ways may, therefore, be cutting themselves off from a deeper understanding of how clients' construals of the nature of "society" as a whole are likely to influence individuals' construct systems. In connection with this whole, the space where individuals are called upon to confront experiences, Kelly's assumption of constructive alternativism is supported by the structures of formalized theory in sociology. The practices of scientists of society confirm the ambiguity of the term "society" and provide leads as to the range of possible construals.
Among sociologists, it is widely accepted that their field is a discipline that relies on several paradigms (Ritzer, 1975). That is to say, the object of sociological study, society, is viewed in different ways by sociologists affiliated with different research communities. Among the alternative perceptions are understandings of society as a macro-structure, as a network of functions, a product of exchange, an on-going construction through micro-interaction, or as an accumulation of practices. These conceptions are formalizations of everyday construals of social living (Kalekin-Fishman, 2003). It is highly likely that the hierarchical organization of clients' personal constructs provides indications of the nature of the society in which clients locate the situations they confront. Understanding differential construals of society can provide the psychotherapist and the client with insight into comprehensive problems of validation.


  • Kalekin-Fishman, D. (2003) Social relations in the modern world. In: F. Fransella (ed.) International handbook of Personal Construct Psychology. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 143-152.
  • Kelly, G. A. (1955/1991) The psychology of personal constructs. London: Routledge.
  • Ritzer, G. (1975) Sociology: A multiple paradigm science. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Devorah Kalekin-Fishman

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004