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In 1966, Fransella started exploring the problem of stuttering from a personal construct theory perspective. She set out to test three things. First, to examine the range of convenience of the theory - could it offer an explanation of why some people persist in a form of behaviour developed in childhood even though it is clearly so undesirable to the sufferer? Second, if a personal construct theory of stuttering were formulated, could that lead to an effective form of therapy? Third, could it be demonstrated that behaviour and construing are linked as personal construct theory hypothesises?
Her theory of stuttering was based on the definition of the Choice Corollary offered by Hinkle that "a person chooses for himself that alternative in a dichotomized construct through which he anticipates the greater possibility for increasing the total number of implications of his system. That is to say, a person always chooses in that direction which he anticipates will increase the total meaning and significance of his life." (Hinkle, 1965, p. 21). Thus, a child whose speech was disfluent from onset will never have known what it means to be fluent. Not only is disfluent speech more meaningful to the child but fluency is relatively meaningless in the context of communicating with adults. That theory was tested by hypothesising that the implications of being someone who speaks fluently would increase as speech became more fluent. This was measured by means of bi-polar implications grids and measures of speech disfluencies. The therapy programme following on from the theory and focused on helping the client construe what it would mean to be a fluent speaker.
The research confirmed that the range of convenience of personal construct theory was wide enough to encompass the problem of stuttering; a therapy programme was designed based on the theory of stuttering; and it was demonstrated that as speech behaviour changed, so did construing of how the person saw themselves.

  • Fransella, F. (1972) Personal Change and Reconstruction: Research on a Treatment of Stuttering. London: Academic Press.
  • Hinkle, D. N. (1965) The Change of Personal Constructs from the Viewpoint of a Theory of Implications Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Columbus: Ohio State University

Fay Fransella

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004