Personal Construct Psychology, Constructivism, and Postmodern Thought

Luis Botella

Department of Psychology

Ramon Llull University (Barcelona, Spain)

George Kelly's original formulation of Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) can be viewed as a radical alternative to the prevailing zeitgeist of American psychology in the 1950's. The sharp--and sometimes virulent--polarization between early behaviorism and psychoanalysis did not leave room enough for Kelly's views of human beings as proactive agents, and his phenomenological emphasis on how people make sense of their experience. Thus, Kelly's reluctance to relate his work to his contemporary theoretical environment was probably due to the lack of a comfortable ecological niche for PCP, and to the peculiarities of Kelly's own development as a scientist and psychotherapist (see Kelly, 1969a).

However, once launched into the public domain, every scientific theory and philosophical discourse tends to acquire a life of its own, largely independent of its original creator. As suggested by Gergen (1982) the generativeness of a particular theory or discourse can be assessed by the degree of controversy and further developments brought forth by that theory. A theory--at least a generative one--is not only a body of conceptual assumptions, but what a community of scientists do with these assumptions. This paper is a critical contribution to the ongoing debate concerning one of these developments in PCP--the attempt to subsume Kelly's theory under the notion of constructivism and, at a more superordinate level, to relate constructivism to the notion of postmodern thought.

The link between PCP and constructivism was first explicitly discussed by Mahoney (1988), together with his own definition of constructivism. Some personal construct theorists have also found meaningful to refer to PCP as a constructivist theory (e.g., Feixas and Villegas; 1990, Neimeyer; 1993), and even the International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology changed its name in 1994 to the Journal of Constructivist Psychology. Since constructivism is becoming a widely accepted--and even trendy--term in mainstream psychology (see Bruner, 1990), subsuming Kelly's theory under that term can have far-reaching implications for the future of PCP. Some of these implications are summarized in the significant question posed by Chiari and Nuzzo (1993, July); is PCP a now obsolete forerunner of constructivism or rather its avant-garde? I will go back to this question later on in this paper.

Linking constructivism to postmodern thought is even a more recent trend. Gergen's social constructionist perspective on the saturated self (Gergen, 1991) generated a growing interest in postmodern thought and its implications for psychology. Some of the works born out of that interest explicitly explored the relationship between constructivism and postmodern thought, particularly McNamee and Gergen (1992) and Kvale (1992a). From a PCP perspective, Neimeyer (1993) and Villegas (1992) have also noted the link between postmodern thought and constructivism. Again, since postmodernism is becoming a trendy term, not only in psychology but in an overwhelming variety of contemporary cultural domains (see Anderson, 1990), the question of how does PCP fit with postmodern thought deserves a careful consideration.

Constructivist Metatheory

This section will focus on the basic metatheoretical features of constructivism. I will refer to the work of contemporary authors instead of discussing the historical significance of constructivist forerunners like Vico, Kant, or Vaihinger--such a historical discussion can be found in Mahoney (1988, 1991).

Constructivist metatheory has been characterized by Mahoney (1988, 1991) as organized around three related themes: (a) proactive cognition, (b) morphogenic nuclear structure, and (c) self-organizing development. While these three themes are shared by most constructivist theories, I would like to emphasize the difference between theory and metatheory, and to suggest that Mahoney's themes belong to the former but not necessarily to the latter. I agree with Chiari and Nuzzo (1993, July) that Mahoney's definition is so comprehensive that can even be shared by such divergent theoretical approaches as Jungian analytical psychology, humanistic personality theories, and some approaches to cognitive psychology.

Essentially, the prefix meta- indicates a reflexive loop. Thus, for instance, metascience refers to the science of scientific knowledge (see Houts, 1989), and metalearning refers to learning that deals with the nature of learning (see Novak and Gowin, 1984). In this sense, a metatheory should be a theory that deals with the nature of theories, i.e., with the nature of epistemic assumptions implicit in theory construction. Metatheories are superordinate to the content of any particular theory, and include two basic sets of assumptions on: (a) the nature of knowledge, and (b) epistemic values.

As for the nature of knowledge, constructivist metatheory assumes that knowledge is a hypothetical (i.e., anticipatory) construction. Thus, it departs from the traditional objectivist conception of knowledge as an internalized representation of reality. This constructivist epistemic assumption can be traced back to Kant's philosophy and to Popper's notion that no knowledge originates in pure observation, since every act of observation is theory laden (see Popper, 1974).

Epistemic values, according to Howard (1986) are "those criteria employed by scientists to choose among competing theoretical explanations" (p. 135). Questions on epistemic values rarely arise in objectivist metatheory, since knowledge is viewed as a representation of reality and, consequently, explanations are chosen according to their truth value--i.e., their correspondence with the external reality they represent. The objectivist conception of knowledge and truth are thus closely linked and, as noted by Mahoney (1991) imbued science with justificationism--the reliance on the authority of facts to justify a given knowledge claim. Later on in this paper I will discuss some significant shortcomings of both correspondence theory and justificationism as highlighted by constructivist theorists.

Constructivism cannot rely on the original/copy correspondence metaphor, since it departs from a representational conception of knowledge. Justification by means of the authority of truth is then regarded as an illusion, a "never-achieved ideal or horizon-concept" (Howard, 1986, p. 134). This non-justificationist position leaves constructivist metatheory facing the task of articulating an alternative set of epistemic values, taking into account that values are, by definition, subjective preferences.

Although constructivist epistemic values vary according to different constructivist theories, all of them can be viewed as alternatives to the justificationist position. Two of the most pervasive sets of epistemic values in constructivist metatheory, however, correspond to (a) the pragmatic value of knowledge claims (i.e., their predictive efficiency, viability, and fertility), and (b) the coherence of knowledge claims (i.e., their internal and external consistency, and unifying power). Some constructivist theories have, nevertheless, incorporated epistemic values traditionally alien to scientific reasoning. For instance, narrative psychology and, to a certain degree, social constructionism, adopt aesthetic and rhetorical criteria to assess the quality of knowledge claims. Different knowledge domains (e.g., science, politics, arts, law) incorporate different conventional criteria--i.e., different epistemic values--to assess whether a given argument is well constructed. In history, for instance, a given knowledge claim is preferred to the extent that it helps to retrospectively explain events. In literary fiction, narratives that adjust to a good narrative form are preferred over those that do not. In philosophy and law, claims are assessed according to their rhetorical qualities. In music, poetry, and the visual arts, the emotional impact of a given work is often used as a criterion of its quality. Scientific knowledge is not viewed by constructivist metatheory as a privileged and exclusive means to access reality. Consequently, some constructivist theories equate all knowledge with scientific knowledge--e.g., Kelly's (1955/1991) metaphor of the person as scientist--or scientific knowledge with other forms of knowledge--e.g., Gergen and Gergen's (1986) notion of scientific knowledge as a narrative construction.

A series of corollaries can be derived from these two basic epistemic assumptions of constructivist metatheory. In fact, different constructivist theories emphasize different possible corollaries. This differential emphasis led to the proliferation of what Neimeyer (1993, p. 224) terms the "varieties of constructivist experience". Table 1 represents an attempt to put together the main theoretical approaches that claim a connection to constructivist (or constructionist) metatheory.

Radical constructivism as discussed by Maturana and Varela (1987), von Foerster (1984), and von Glaserfeld (1984), rejects the possibility of objective knowledge, since "all knowledge depends upon the structure of the knower" (Maturana and Varela, 1987, p. 34). Thus, subject and object are constructions (or operations) of the observer, and not independently existing entities. Even if there is an ontological reality, we can only know it by assessing how well our knowledge fits with it. Von Glaserfeld (1984) clarifies the notion of fit by using the metaphor of a key and a lock; even if a key opens the lock, we cannot know for sure that it corresponds to it (probably we could find another key that would also open the lock). Thus, radical constructivism views knowledge as a construction--versus an internalized representation of an externally independent reality.

According to Maturana and Varela (1987), living beings are autopoietic (self- creating or self-producing) systems in the sense that they are capable of maintaining "their own organization, the organization which is developed and maintained being identical with that which performs the development and maintenance" (Andrews, 1979, p. 359). The notion of autopoiesis is similar to Mahoney's (1988) concept of morphogenic nuclear structure, and is supported by von Foerster's (1984) contention that the central nervous system operates as a closed system organized to produce a stable reality.

Organisms interact by means of structural coupling, i.e., by co-drifting and setting up the mutual conditions for effective action. Maturana and Varela (1987) equated effective action with survival. Consciousness and language emerge through the experience of structural coupling and effective action; hence "to live is to know (living is effective action in existence as a living being)" (Maturana and Varela, 1987, p. 174). Chiari and Nuzzo (1993, July) note how this radical constructivist notion supports the inextricably intertwined nature of the personal and the social dimensions of human experience. By equating knowledge with effective action (Maturana and Varela, 1987), or with viability (von Glaserfeld, 1984) radical constructivism subscribes to the second theme in the definition of constructivist metatheory--i.e., the rejection of epistemic justificationism.

Social constructionism (see Gergen, 1985) focuses explicitly on the role of social processes in the construction of meaning. Consequently, Gergen (1982, 1985) rejected both exogenic and endogenic epistemologies. Endogenic epistemologies are those that emphasize the role of the individual mind in the construction of meaning, while exogenic epistemologies emphasize the role of external reality. Social constructionism places knowledge neither within individual minds nor outside them, but between people. In other words, according to social constructionism, knowledge is generated by people interacting and collectively negotiating a set of shared meanings. By rejecting the objectivist conception of knowledge as an internal representation, social constructionism shares the view of knowledge as a construction--a social construction in this case. Gergen and Gergen (1986) asserted that:

Objects or events of the world cannot be identified independently of the concepts of understanding with which one approaches them. The concepts must precede, rather than be derived from, observation. (p. 23).

The question of how to choose among knowledge claims has evolved in the work of social constructionists. In a recent work, Gergen (1992) includes at least three different criteria; (a) contribution to technological advance, (b) contribution to cultural critique, and (c) contribution to the construction of new worlds. The first one includes "sound prediction and personal skills within various practical settings" (Gergen, 1992, p. 26), and is viewed as the least significant one. The second one emphasizes the role of knowledge in freeing us from the imprisoning effects of reified cultural understandings, and is a fundamentally political and value laden endeavor. The third one is based upon the notion of generative theory, i.e., "a theory designed to unseat conventional thought and thereby to open new alternatives for thought and action" (Gergen, 1992, p. 27). In any case, the three criteria proposed by social constructionism can be seen as three instances of the (social and political) uses of knowledge, and share the constructivist rejection of justificationism.

While both radical constructivists and social constructionists share the critique to representation and justificationism, the latter prefers the term constructionism to emphasize their mutual differences. Hoffman (1991), aptly notes that, while radical constructivism tends to promote an image of the nervous system as a closed unity, social constructionism sees knowledge as arising in social interchange, and mediated through language.

Narrative psychology as discussed by Sarbin (1986) proposes narrative emplotment as the organizing principle in the proactive construction of meaning. According to Sarbin (1986) human beings make sense of otherwise unrelated events by imposing a narrative structure on them. Thus, for instance, when presented two or three pictures, we tend to emplot a story that relate them to each other in some way and help us predict how will it likely evolve. Narrative emplotment, then, equates knowledge with the anticipatory construction of narrative meaning.

Both Sarbin (1986) and Spence (1986) propose narrative smoothing as the criterion according to which a given knowledge claim is tacitly chosen. In his approach to self-deception, Sarbin (1986) notes how some people maintain self-narratives that are apparently counter-factual, a phenomenon traditionally explained by means of such mechanistic constructs as repression or dissociation. When narrative smoothing is used as an explanatory principle, however, such constructs are redundant. Narrative psychology proposes that people tacitly edit their self-narratives (by spelling out inconsistent information) "so that the self as a narrative figure is protected, defended, or enhanced" (Sarbin, 1986, p. 17). Thus, narrative psychology shares the constructivist critique of knowledge justification by means of its correspondence with objective reality.

Developmental constructivism as originally discussed by Piaget (e.g., Piaget and Inhelder, 1969) and further elaborated by researchers of postformal development (e.g., Commons et al., 1989, 1990) also views knowledge as a proactive construction of the knowing organism. According to developmental constructivism (particularly Piaget's version of it), knowledge is an active construction of the knowing subject, triggered by the quest for equilibrium--i.e., by the cognitive system's need for order and stability. Piaget's rejection of the empiricist conception of knowledge, for example, is founded on the constructivist notion that knowledge cannot be viewed as a copy of the external world since "only a copy could supply us with the knowledge of the model of the copy being made, and, moreover, such knowledge is necessary for the copy of the model" (1971, p. 361). Parenthetically, Piaget's anti-empiricist argument is identical to the one discussed by the Spanish social constructionist Ibáñez (1992). Ibáñez notes that knowledge cannot logically be viewed as a representation or a copy of reality, since in order to know whether something is a good copy of something else we need to independently access both versions so as to compare them. However, how could we possibly have access to reality independently of our knowledge of it?

Developmental constructivism also departs from the objectivist conception of truth as correspondence between mental representations and reality. According to most organismic perspectives, including the Piagetian approach, knowledge systems develop by means of recurrent qualitative shifts in the direction of increased complexity (Werner, 1957). Thus, knowledge can never be considered an accurate depiction of reality, since each new refinement will require justification at a newer and higher level. Developmental and organismic constructivism, then, equates useful knowledge with dialectically adaptive action; i.e., the ability to adapt one's knowledge structures to the environment and to adapt the environment to one's knowledge structures.

Piagetian constructivism, however, is controversial in two ways. First, it limited its focus of convenience to the development of logico-mathematical reasoning from birth to adolescence. Second--and related--it equated adult cognition with the construction of a world that has been described as constituted by closed systems (Basseches, 1984). The attempt to extend Piagetian thinking beyond formal operations has generated a growing body of research on adult cognition from metatheoretical positions even closer to constructivism than Piaget's initial one (see Commons et al., 1989, 1990).

Assimilation theory as originally proposed by Ausubel (1963, 1968) and further elaborated by Ausubel, Novak, and Hanesian (1978) represents an alternative constructivist approach to Piagetian ideas in educational psychology. Assimilation theory equates meaningful learning with the learner's deliberate effort to relate new knowledge to concepts he or she already possesses. Thus, learning is equated with meaning making instead of information processing, thereby emphasizing the proactive role of the learner's construction processes in the creation of new knowledge.

In assimilation theory terms, the usefulness of a new concept depends on its being relatable to other concepts in the subject's knowledge system--i.e., its being assimilated. Propositions linking concepts are not necessarily right or wrong, true or false, but accepted or unaccepted by "a community of learners all of whom share many concept meanings but each of whom holds his or her own idiosyncratic conceptual hierarchy" (Novak, 1993, p. 183). Knowledge claims are chosen, according to Novak (1993) following a dialectical process; on the one hand creative individuals are recognized as those most able to restructure their knowledge hierarchy, on the other hand the knowledge hierarchy held by the community progressively evolves. Thus, epistemic values according to Novak (1993) can be viewed as a composite of social consensus (as proposed by social constructionism) and increasing complexity (as proposed by developmental constructivism).

Personal Construct Psychology (Kelly, 1955/1991) can be defined as a constructivist theory to the extent that one accepts the characterization of constructivist metatheory discussed above. Kelly's theory of personal constructs was the first attempt to devise a theory of personality and psychotherapy based on a formal model of the organization of human knowledge. Kelly's philosophy of constructive alternativism asserts that reality is subject to many alternative constructions, since it does not reveal to us directly but through the templets that we create and then attempt to fit over the world (Kelly, 1955/1991).

The constructivist conception of knowledge as an anticipatory construction is explicit in PCP's fundamental postulate; a person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he or she anticipates events. The constructivist notion of predictive efficiency as an epistemic value is also shared by PCP. Adams-Webber and Mancuso (1983) noted how, in PCP terms, the question is not whether our constructions are true or false, but whether they are useful dimensions for tracing alternative courses of action and then making sense of feedback from experience.

When placed upon the ground of other constructivist theories, PCP stands out as a historical forerunner. The pioneering contribution of Kelly has been acknowledged, among others, by Mahoney (1988) and Mischel (1980), who noted that Kelly was able to anticipate in the 1950's many of the major directions of contemporary psychology.

It would be unfair and misleading, however, to relegate PCP to the status of a mere forerunner of contemporary constructivist theories. In fact, PCP is nowadays backed up by an impressive body of research--more than 2,000 mostly empirical publications, according to Neimeyer (1993). The development of PCP has been fostered by Grid methodology, an outstanding example of how the phenomenological emphasis of constructivism can be reconciled with quantitative research. The degree of technological developments in PCP is also impressive, especially as far as computer programs for Grid analysis are concerned. Also, the originally clinical focus of personal construct theory (see Winter, 1992, for an exhaustive review) has been progressively extended over the years, and it ranges nowadays from thanatology (Neimeyer and Epting, 1992), to Artificial Intelligence (Ford and Adams-Webber, 1992), education (Pope and Keen, 1981), communication (Applegate, 1990), or narrative psychology (Mancuso, 1986). These and other related developments render PCP not only a forerunner, but an avant-garde among constructivist theories (see Chiari and Nuzzo, 1993, July).

Even this sketchy discussion of different constructivist theories shows some features of the contemporary constructivist scene that I will focus on in the next pages.

First, not all of the constructivist approaches have the same theoretical status. Some of them constitute formal theoretical systems (e.g., PCP, Piaget's theory), while others are younger and, therefore, less developed.

Second, while all of the approaches in Table 1 broadly share a common conception of knowledge and non-justificationist epistemic values, their mutual compatibility at subordinate levels is sometimes controversial. For instance, social constructionism and PCP differ in their relative emphasis on the social versus personal origin of construing. However, some PCP theorists (e.g., Mascolo, 1994) have recently tried to reconcile both approaches by proposing a social constructivist psychology. Similarly, the compatibility between Piaget's approach and PCP has been questioned by some authors (e.g., Rychlak, 1990). Salmon (1970) even suggested that Piaget's philosophical assumptions are not constructivist, since the assimilation/accommodation process means that we can experience outer reality and distinguish it from our inner world. However, Piaget's approach has been included in Table 1 because it has been explicitly characterized as constructivist by some other authors (e.g., Rybash, Hoyer, and Roodin, 1986; Soffer, 1993; von Glaserfeld, 1974). Thus, I am not suggesting that all constructivist theories constitute a unified whole, but that they share a superordinate core of metatheoretical assumptions. This shared metatheoretical core allows the ongoing exploration of cross-fertilizations between different constructivist approaches, the final goal being not an overarching unification but the increasing complexity of constructivist thought.

Third, given the trendiness of the term constructivism in psychology (particularly when related to a paradigm shift and a weariness with positivism), authors from unrelated theoretical traditions are converging towards constructivist assumptions. For example, Spence (1982) distinguished between historical truth and narrative truth in psychoanalysis. While the former is related to the objectivist notion of truth, the latter is closer to the constructivist conception of coherence--in this case, therapeutic narrative smoothing. Such a notion apparently approximates psychoanalysis to constructivism, but it has yet to be seen whether the metatheoretical incompatibilities between constructivism and psychoanalysis can be surmounted. Sass (1992), for instance, highlights that, from a psychoanalytic point of view, Spence's aestheticism can be seen as an epic of disbelief and that it can even have a kind of "corrosive or debilitating effect--especially for people who already suffer from problems of a schizoid or narcissistic type" (Sass, 1992, p. 174). Thus, I have not included this and other constructivist developments in non-constructivist theoretical traditions, since their viability remain uncertain.

Finally, it is still difficult to conceptually discriminate between different kinds of constructivism. Some dimensions have been proposed, but to my view none of them is satisfactory enough. To end this section, I will briefly focus on some of these dimensions.

Mahoney (1988) distinguished radical from critical constructivism. According to him, radical constructivism denies the existence of an independent reality and is indistinguishable from idealism, while critical constructivism do not deny the existence of a real world and is basically realist. However, it is misleading to discriminate between epistemic assumptions using an ontological criterion. Chiari and Nuzzo (1993, July) aptly noted that no form of constructivism makes any claim about the (non)existence of an ontological reality, but about the possibility of objectively knowing it.

Von Glaserfeld (1984) distinguished between trivial and radical constructivism. Radical constructivism in von Glaserfeld's terms (which are different from Mahoney's use of the same label) maintains that, although there probably is a reality out there, knowledge does not reflect this reality objectively, but it reflects "exclusively an ordering and organization of a world constituted by our experience" (von Glaserfeld, 1984, p. 24). Trivial constructivism according to von Glaserfeld (1984) maintains merely that new ideas are founded on prior ones--a commonsensical notion now widely shared by most psychological theories. The main problem with von Glaserfeld's dimension is that it places all constructivist theories in the same pole (all of them can be considered radical), while it is hard to find an example of trivial constructivism. Novak (1993) thinks otherwise, since according to him, "most cognitive scientists are only trivial constructivists, not radical constructivists" (p. 169). However, to the extent that Novak equates trivial constructivism with cognitive psychology based on the computer metaphor, I doubt that it can be termed constructivism at all (but see Ford and Adams-Webber, 1992, for a constructivist approach to Artificial Intelligence).

Lyddon (1990, May) employed Pepper's (1942) taxonomy of worldviews to discriminate among (a) mechanistic constructivism, (b) formistic constructivism, (c) contextualist constructivism, and (d) organismic constructivism. Again, Lyddon's taxonomy presents some difficulties. On the one hand, research data indicate that mechanism and formism are incompatible with constructivist epistemic assumptions (see Berzonsky, 1992, June; Botella and Gallifa, in press). This incompatibility should be obvious, since mechanism is based upon the root metaphor of the world as a machine, and formism is based upon the root metaphor of the world as constituted by fixed and discrete entities (Pepper, 1942). Accordingly, mechanism implies that nature is ruled by laws to be uncovered, and formism implies that the entities that constitute the world have an essential nature that can be eventually discovered. Both corollaries are incompatible with the constructivist conception of knowledge as a construction (versus a discovery). Thus, what Lyddon identifies as formistic constructivism (radical constructivist theories in Mahoney's terms) is based on essentially anti-formistic worldviews. For instance, Maturana and Varela's (1987) rejection of the epistemological and ontological separation between subject and object is at odds with the formistic notion that the world is constituted by independently existing entities with an inner essence to be discovered. What Lyddon (1990, May) terms mechanistic constructivism (information-processing cognitive theories and social learning theories) is only putatively related to constructivist epistemology. Information-processing theories largely emphasize processing at the expense of meaning making, portraying human cognition as a reactive storage of preformed information, instead of as a proactive construction of meaning. Bruner (1990) points out how most of these theories are technologically sophisticated revisions of the Stimulus-Response approach. Social learning theory, although increasingly sensitive to the constructivist theme of human proactivity (see Bandura, 1989), still adheres to an objectivist conception of knowledge justification. Lyddon (1990, May) recognizes that social learning theory "tends to conceptualize constructed knowledge as (a) composed of discrete representations, and (b) deemed valid or 'true' to the degree that it accurately reflects environmental realities" (p. 11). Again, this objectivist conception of truth is at odds with constructivist epistemic assumptions.

On the other hand, Lyddon's (1990, May) categories of contextualist and organismic constructivism also present some difficulties. While constructivist metatheory is coherent with Pepper's (1942) contextualism and organicism, both worldviews overlap to some extent (see Botella and Gallifa, in press, for an empirical research on the relationship between constructivism, contextualism, and organicism). Pepper (1942) admitted that contextualism and organicism were so closely related that they could be considered only one theory. These overlap is obvious in the case of PCP, which has been alternatively termed contextualist (Sarbin, 1977), organicist (Crockett, 1982) and both (Berzonsky, 1992, June; Botella and Gallifa, in press).

Having discussed the basic features of constructivist metatheory and to what extent does PCP fit with them, I will now turn to the second main point of this paper--the notion of postmodern thought and its connection with constructivism and PCP.

Postmodern Thought

Before attempting to outline the main assumptions of postmodern thought, a previous distinction should be drawn. Throughout this paper, I will discern three different uses of the term postmodern, according to the definitions discussed by Kvale (1992b, p. 2). First, postmodernity refers to the social and historical conditions of a postmodern age; second, postmodernism refers to the cultural correlates of a postmodern age; and third, postmodern thought refers to the philosophical and scientific correlates of a postmodern age. While not altogether unrelated, I agree with Kvale (1992b) that it may be useful to discern these three different meanings, since they are often used interchangeably and may be contributing to a growing confusion in the field.

The nature of postmodernity has been addressed in best-selling books such as Anderson's (1990) "Reality isn't what it used to be", or Toffler's (1990) "Powershift". According to the latter (Toffler, 1990), power in contemporary western societies has shifted from the reward of wealth or the threat of violence to the production and consumption of knowledge. The shift from an industrial "smokestack economy" (Toffler, 1990, p. 10) to a post-industrial "super-symbolic economy" (Toffler, 1990, p. 10) is a correlate of a general decentralization and deconstruction process--not only in politics and economy, but also in science, philosophy, and the arts. Thus, postmodernity abandons the Enlightenment search for bedrock truth on which to build up unchallengeable belief systems (Toulmin, 1990). The relativism implicit in the postmodern abandonment of Enlightenment ideals has been equated to incredulity (Lyotard, 1993), ambivalence (Bauman, 1993), and disbelief (Anderson, 1990).

According to O'Hara and Anderson (1991, p. 20), postmodern consciousness has been raised by "the cumulative effect of pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, consumerism, mobility, and increasing access to news and entertainment". As a consequence of these emerging global awareness, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny that there are many different worldviews, and that it is not at all clear why one's own should be better. On the other hand, the blurring of the line between reality and fiction has become customary in TV newscasts and reality shows, and the advent of virtual reality will probably dissolve the few remaining distinctions between fact and fiction. Thus, not only it is undeniable that there are many worldviews, but none of these worldviews is based upon a privileged access to reality (whatever reality means).

The awareness of multiplicity and of the impossibility to have a direct access to reality constitute core notions of constructivism and PCP. However, relativism, incredulity, ambivalence, and disbelief are not necessarily corollaries of these core notions. Hence a basic discrepancy between postmodernity and constructivism, to which I will go back later on.

Postmodernism as a cultural and artistic expression of a postmodern age constitutes so loose and permeable a construct that it encompasses practically every cultural phenomenon in the last few decades. Andy Warhol's pop art, rock videos (Kvale, 1992b); Las Vegas architecture (Venturi, Scott Brown, and Tzenour, 1972); and even punk rock (Anderson, 1990), together with a hotchpotch of largely unrelated forms of cultural--or countercultural--expression have been characterized as postmodern. Such a looseness and permeability may be characteristic of the very phenomenon the term refers to, and it makes almost impossible to assess its link with constructivism.

While it probably makes not a lot of sense to look for connections between constructivism and postmodernism in the visual and performing arts (because of their different ranges of convenience), this is not the case with postmodern literature. Again, it is not easy to define what postmodern literature is, or even what period it constitutes. In his exhaustive research on the uses of the term, Bertens (1993) arrives at no less than 10 different notions discussed by relevant literary critics. However, as noted by Fowler (1989, p. 366), "distinguishing much postmodernist fiction was an awareness that simple realism leaves out a good deal, and presupposes countless assumptions about what constitutes the real". The abandonment of the modernist goal of literary imitation of reality released postmodern fiction writers to experiment with alternative narrative forms. That was the case, for instance, of John Fowles' authorial intrusions in "The French Lieutenant's Woman", Umberto Eco's tongue-in-cheek pastiche of styles and fake Latin quotations in "The Name of the Rose", or Lawrence Durrell's multiplication of versions of the same narrative in "The Alexandria Quartet". According to Durrell, the intercalary fashion of his Alexandria Quartet had Einstein's relativity propositions as an analogy. The whole of the four novels were intended as a challenge to the time-saturated conventional novel; the reader is left with the task of making sense of different visions and re-visions of events happening in the same time dimension. Durrell's multiplication of narrative voices leads the reader to a view of reality, as manifested by one of the characters in The Alexandria Quartet, that probably many a constructivist would endorse:

We live lives based upon selected fictions. Our view of reality is conditioned by our position in space and time--not by our personalities as we like to think. Thus every interpretation of reality is based upon a quite unique position. Two paces east or west and the whole picture is changed. (Durrell, 1988, p. 210).

Durrell's narrative device echoes Dostoievsky's polyphonic novel, i.e., a novel with no single author, but with many different authorial voices expressing different viewpoints. From a constructivist perspective, Hermans, Kempen, and van Loon (1992) proposed the polyphonic novel as a metaphor for the self. According to them, the I has the capacity to imaginatively play different positions in the self-space, and to relate dialogically to other positions (as different authors talking to each other). These different voices, that can be viewed as possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986), "exchange information about their respective Me's and their worlds, resulting in a complex, narratively structured self" (Hermans, Kempen, and van Loon; 1992, pp. 28-29).

The notion of a dialogical self and the metaphor of the postmodern polyphonic novel are consistent with the earlier work of Mair (1977). He proposed, from a PCP perspective, that the self was better understood as a community of selves, thereby anticipating what is nowadays a common assumption in social constructionism (see Gergen, 1991). Conceiving the self as a decentralized, dialogical and polyphonic narrative construction (as postmodern fiction does) has lead constructivist theorists to an ongoing controversy on whether PCP is too strongly individualistic, and whether it could (and should) be rendered more sensitive to the social matrix of construing--see Mascolo (1994) for a positive answer, and Rychlak (1990) for a negative one.

While postmodernity and postmodernism can be related to constructivism, postmodern thought as previously defined is the key term in my comparison, since it refers to the philosophical zeitgeist of the postmodern age.

Polkinghorne (1992) defines postmodern thought as a reaction to the limits of modernist epistemology. According to him, modernism aligned itself with a worldview based on the metaphor of an ordered universe, ruled by mathematical laws that could eventually be uncovered by science. The modernist program had its origin in the works of XVII century philosophers and scientists such as Descartes and Newton, who endeavored to counterbalance Montaigne's skepticism and to find a solid epistemic ground for their metaphysical beliefs (cf., Toulmin, 1990). Modernist epistemology found its more articulated expression three centuries later, in the program of the Vienna Circle. This selected group of philosophers and scientists contributed to renew the epistemic foundations of XIX century positivism by incorporating the logico-mathematical notions developed by Russell and Whitehead. Paradoxically, the Vienna Circle's attempt to elucidate the epistemic ground of scientific knowledge (particularly as carried out by Popper) contributed to literally cut this very ground from under science's feet. Again, the underlying theme in the raising of a postmodern consciousness echoes the notions of loss of faith (Polkinghorne, 1992), incredulity (Lyotard, 1993), ambivalence (Bauman, 1993), and disbelief (Anderson, 1990) towards the modernist program.

Loss of faith and disbelief have lead some postmodernist authors to a radical form of relativism denying any possibility of knowledge. Derrida's doctrine of deconstruction (see Derrida, 1976) has been interpreted as such an ideology of despair by some critics (e.g., Melichar, 1988). The very term deconstruction is a hybrid between destruction and construction, conveying the idea that any text can be dismantled and eventually found to be self-contradictory. Deconstruction embodies the postmodern incredulity towards metanarratives in a fundamental way; since there is no ultimate foundation on which to base our discourse, every construction is nothing but a whimsical fiction. A good example of the deconstructivist method is Steele's (1986) deconstruction of Freud's and Jung's autobiographical accounts. Steele found both life accounts to be full of inconsistencies, narrative smoothing, omissions, distortions, and ideological biases. A particularly significant omission is Jung's exclusion of Antonia Wolff, his mistress for over 30 years, from his autobiography. Apparently Wolff's support was paramount to Jung during his confrontation with Freud in 1912-1915. However, in Jung's "Confrontations with the Unconscious" (see Jaffe, 1973) the joint use of omission and narrative smoothing transformed Antonia Wolff into a series of spiritual figures in dreams and fantasies that guided Jung and introduced him to the mysteries of the unconscious and the archetypes (see Steele, 1986). Not only autobiographies, but all kind of texts have been deconstructed and found self-contradictory, from Thoreau's "Walden Pond" to the American Constitution (see Anderson, 1990). As a consequence of its radicalism, Derrida's philosophical position has been ironically summarized by Anderson (1990, p. 87) as "wrong you are whatever you think, unless you think you're wrong, in which case you may be right--but you don't really mean what you think you do anyway".

While these radically relativistic forms of postmodern epistemology are at odds with constructivism, Polkinghorne's (1992) affirmative definition differs from relativism in including neopragmatic criteria for choosing among knowledge claims. Thus, Polkinghorne's notion of postmodern epistemology includes the following four basic themes: (a) foundationlessness, (b) fragmentariness, (c) constructivism, and (d) neopragmatism.

Foundationlessness, according to Polkinghorne (1992), refers to the notion that we human beings have no direct access to reality, but only to the product of our constructions. Thus, human knowledge is inevitably speculative, since we have no definite epistemic foundation on which to build it.

Fragmentariness refers to the postmodern emphasis on the local and situated, instead of the general and totalizing. According to Polkinghorne (1992, p. 149), "knowledge should be concerned with these local and specific occurrences, not with the search for context-free general laws". The postmodern notion of the self as a polyphonic narrative, as discussed above, is a good example of this local emphasis. In fact, the very notion of context-free general laws is meaningless in postmodern epistemology; due to the strong hermeneutic influence on postmodern thought, it is assumed that every text is understandable only when located in its context.

Constructivism as Polkinghorne (1992) uses the term is closely related to foudationlessness, and refers to the notion that:

Human knowledge is not a mirrored reflection of reality, neither the reality of surface chaos nor that of (if they exist) universal structures. Human knowledge is a construction built from the cognitive processes (which mainly operate out of awareness) and embodied interactions with the world of material objects, others and the self. (Polkinghorne, 1992, p. 150).

Polkinghorne aptly notes that the three themes of foundationlessness, fragmentariness, and constructivism may generate a relativistic epistemology. So far, it is possible to assert that no knowledge claim can be privileged, but these radical relativism leaves one unable to act upon the world, to make choices, to take stands. Thus, a fourth theme should be included if postmodern thought is to avoid solipsism and nihilism; the theme of neopragmatism.

Neopragmatism according to Polkinghorne (1992) concentrates on local and applied knowledge. Polkinghorne's emphasis on pragmatic and situated knowledge is common to other proponents of a postmodern psychology, such as Gergen (1992), and Kvale (1992c). The neopragmatic question is not whether a given proposition is true (i.e., is it an accurate representation of reality?) but whether accepting it as if it were true leads to the anticipated outcome. Neopragmatic knowledge is thus based on the predictive usefulness of a particular proposition. The link between neopragmatism and earlier American pragmatism (particularly in William James' version) is obvious; James equated truth with satisfactoriness and satisfactoriness with predictive usefulness (see Suckiel, 1982). However, neopragmatism differs from earlier pragmatism in that the former does not hold that knowledge claims can be accumulated and progress toward a final state--such a proposition would be inconsistent with postmodern foundationlessness, fragmentariness, and constructivism.

Based on the above characterization of constructivist metatheory and postmodern thought, the remaining of this paper will focus on a related question; how postmodern is constructivism?

How Postmodern is Constructivism?

The main attempts to relate constructivist metatheory to postmodern thought come from social constructionist and narrative approaches (cf. Kvale, 1992a; McNamee and Gergen, 1992). Positivist views of scientific knowledge have been equated with modernist psychology (e.g., Gergen, 1992) and, consequently, their abandonment or overcoming has been termed postmodern psychology. Thus, since the main epistemic alternative to positivism is represented by constructivism, it is tempting to conclude that constructivist metatheory embodies a postmodern view. However, the indiscriminate use of the term postmodern might have controversial consequences for constructivism unless a more restricted definition of postmodern thought, such as Polkinghorne's (1992), is accepted. The main difficulty with subsuming constructivism under the label of postmodernism--apart from the very ambiguity of the label itself--comes from what I regard as undesirable implications of the postmodern loss of faith in an objectively knowable reality. As I noted before, while constructivism goes beyond relativism by endorsing certain epistemic values (admittedly subjective), some postmodern approaches get stuck in the ultimate nihilism of celebrating disbelief. Radical relativism eventually leads to disengagement and a sort of epistemic paralysis, since every utterance or knowledge claim is regarded as self-contradictory. Thus, some postmodern approaches, such as deconstruction, often fall in their own trap and "find themselves in the position of affirming (and desiring) something that they also declare is impossible to attain" (Natoli and Hutcheon, 1993, p. 200). The translation of such a postmodern blind alley into areas such as psychotherapy or education could easily leave postmodern psychotherapists and educators unable to meaningfully relate to their clients--after all, what is the use of psychotherapy or education if any construction of reality is as good as any other?

Before the popularization of the term postmodernism, Perry (1970) noted that, in intellectual development during the passage from adolescence to adulthood, relativism had a paralyzing effect unless it was overcome by what he termed commitment, defined as:

An affirmation of personal values or choices in relativism. A conscious act or realization of identity and responsibility. A process of orientation of self in a relative world. (Perry, 1970, p. 258).

Perry's notion of commitment is especially relevant in this context, since commitment is viewed as an advance beyond relativism. In my view, commitment as defined by Perry is an essential element of constructivism. This is the point also made by Efran and Clarfield (1992) when they claim that:

In our interpretation, the constructivist framework insists that (1) everyone has personal preferences, (2) people are entitled to express those preferences, and (3) such choices should not be 'disguised' as objective truths or realities. For us, a 'truth' is a set of opinions widely shared. (p. 201).

Efran and Clarfield (1992) complain that constructivist notions (particularly from the work of Maturana and Varela) have been widely misunderstood by postmodern psychologists as a call for an anything goes mentality. For instance, Maturana and Varela (1987) discuss that instructive interaction is an illusion on the part of an observer, since the viable changes in every learner will be determined by his or her unique organization and structure. This does not entail, however, that education is an impossible task; Efran and Clarfield (1992) aptly note that "because students are structured similarly and share commonalities of language and heritage, there will also be points of intersection in their experiences" (p. 206). That radical constructivism does not endorse an anything goes mentality can be seen in Maturana and Varela's (1987) metaphor of the epistemic odyssey as a passage between Scylla (the rocks of dogma) and Caribdis (the whirlpool of solipsism)--a metaphor I find illustrative of all constructivist theories.

To a certain degree, social constructionism and narrative psychology could also be swallowed by the postmodern Caribdis if they fail to articulate the epistemic values that inform them. However, Gergen's (1992) recent work can be viewed as such an attempt. Also, as I noted in a preceding section, implicit to the narrative approach is the quest for coherence and "progressively more encompassing meanings" (Gonçalves, 1994, p. 115), which can be seen as a constructivist departure from the postmodern epistemic paralysis.

Developmental constructivism is harder to be viewed as relativist, since it encompasses the logic of natural selection--i.e., cognitive operations survive to the extent that they help the organism to adapt to the environment. Thus, obviously not anything goes, and what does not go is extinguished. However, the logic of the survival of the fittest may be considered tautological, since it predicts that a species will survive if it is the fittest, and that it is the fittest because it has survived. Attempts to apply Campbell's (1974) evolutionary epistemology to constructivism (e.g., Mahoney, 1991) should consider its possible tautological nature, since evolutionary epistemology is based upon the same reasoning.

Personal construct psychology, in its turn, has never been a relativistic theory. Kelly (1955/1991) left no room for an anything goes attitude when, in the introductory pages of his work, he stated that:

We consider a construct to be a representation of the universe, a representation erected by a living creature and then tested against the reality of that universe. Since the universe is essentially a course of events, the testing of a construct is a testing against subsequent events. In other words, a construct is tested in terms of its predictive efficiency. (p. 9).

Interestingly, Kelly's position was misinterpreted by Gergen (1982) as quintessentially positivist--so positivist that Kelly had turned positivist scientific knowledge into a desideratum for all knowledge. What Gergen (1982) failed to note, however, was that Kelly's notion of science was explicitly opposed to positivism--why if not should Kelly refer to predictive efficiency instead of plain truth? Walker (1992) aptly notes that Kelly's is not a position that advocates the degree to which our perceptions of the world are accurate as the goal for mental health; "Instead, what Kelly asserted is of significance is that we should continue our search to reach out into what we yet do not know, sometimes blindly, but at least some of the time with courageous, imaginative daring" (Walker, 1992, p. 268).

While aligning itself with an indiscriminate version of postmodernism may render constructivism unnecessarily nihilistic, this is not the case if a positive definition of postmodern thought, such as the one discussed by Polkinghorne (1992) is adopted. The four features of Polkinghorne's definition of postmodern thought are compatible with constructivist theories such as the ones discussed in this paper.

Both foundationlessness and, obviously, constructivism (as defined by Polkinghorne, 1992) are a cornerstone of radical constructivism, social constructionism, narrative psychology, developmental constructivism, assimilation theory, and PCP. My previous discussion of the nature of knowledge according to these six constructivist approaches highlighted how all of them depart from the objectivist and modernist conception of knowledge as a representation of an independent reality.

Fragmentariness, defined as the concern with local and specific knowledge instead of context-free general laws, is also characteristic of social constructionism and narrative psychology. Both approaches equate psychological knowledge with historical knowledge (see Gergen, 1973; Sarbin, 1986), and focus on the contextual circumstances of their own inquiries.

From a PCP viewpoint, Viney (1992) noted that the constructivist emphasis on uniqueness seems unlikely to foster the generalizability of research results. This may actually be the case if research results based upon the content of construing are generalized, since PCP acknowledges the potentially idiosyncratic nature of construing. However, generalizations based upon the process of construing have proven useful in the past--see, for example, Winter's (1991) review of research on disorders of the structure of the construct system. Thus, PCP shares the postmodern focus on fragmentariness of knowledge based upon the content of construing, but transcends fragmentariness as far as the process of construing is concerned.

Piagetian constructivism constituted an attempt to elucidate the general and universal laws of human cognitive development, and thus it cannot be equated to fragmentariness. Interestingly, Piaget's indiscriminate generalization of his results has been strongly criticized by contemporary developmental constructivists (see Rybash, Hoyer, and Roodin, 1986, for a detailed review). Particularly, Piaget's assumptions on the structured wholeness and universal progression of cognitive developmental stages have been largely questioned by postformal models that emphasize the role of domain-specific expertise in cognitive development. Rybash, Hoyer, and Roodin (1986) view adult cognitive development as synonymous with the growth of expertise in a variety of self-organized knowledge domains--i.e., unique domains of knowledge constructed by the developing individual, the number and types of which cannot be specified a priori. Fragmentariness, though not an original theme in Piaget's approach, is thus included in postformal approaches to developmental constructivism.

Neopragmatism is also shared by constructivist approaches. All of the main constructivist theories discussed in this paper reject the justificationist criterion of truth and replace it by a set of epistemic values having to do with viability, adaptability, coherence, and predictive efficiency--i.e., with the usefulness or fruitfulness of knowledge instead of its truth. As far as PCP is concerned, Kelly (1955/1991), recognized that his emphasis on the testing of constructs implied a reliance upon a form of pragmatic logic. The pragmatic logic of PCP (see Adams-Webber, 1989; Adams-Webber and Mancuso, 1983), can be traced back to the influence of William James' early pragmatism upon Kelly, and also to the influence of the German philosopher Hans Vaihinger (Kelly, 1969b).

Vaihinger was one of Kant's students, and he formulated his own philosophical system (Vaihinger, 1924) known as the philosophy of as if. Vaihinger proposed that knowledge has the function of defending us in the fight for existence. Thus, the best ideas are those that help us to adapt to the environment. According to Vaihinger (1924), even if metaphysics is an illusion, it is not useless, since it helps us to cope with everyday life. For example, Vaihinger argued that we should live as if we have an immortal soul, since life without an immortal should would be meaningless. Kelly (1969b) interpreted Vaihinger's philosophy of as if as a system of thought in which all matters confronting human experience might be best regarded in hypothetical ways. Kelly's conception of constructs as hypotheses to be tested in terms of their predictive efficiency constitutes the core of PCP's pragmatism, and also informs such central notions as the philosophy of constructive alternativism, the metaphor of the person as a scientist, and Kelly's suggestion that language be used in an invitational mood.

As noted before, neopragmatism generates a positive--instead of nihilistic--epistemology, and helps postmodern thought to transcend the radical relativism implicit in some forms of postmodern philosophy. When neopragmatic criteria are included as epistemic values, constructivism fits comfortably within the framework of what has been termed a postmodern psychology (see Kvale, 1992a). The last and final section of this paper will focus on the potential advantages of relating constructivism to postmodern thought, and on the role of PCP in the contemporary call for an overcoming of a modernist (i.e., objectivist) psychology.

Closing Thoughts: The Role of PCP and Constructivism within a Postmodern Psychology

Throughout this paper, I have discussed the common metatheoretical assumptions of different constructivist theories, and the conceptual viability of linking constructivist metatheory to a positive and restrictive definition of postmodern thought (see Polkinghorne, 1992). Driven to this point, the reader might be asking, so what? If PCP is a constructivist theory and constructivism embodies the goals of a postmodern psychology, what difference does it all make for the future of PCP? The last section of this paper is an attempt to elucidate the potential contributions of PCP and constructivism to an agenda for the future of a postmodern psychology. This section is organized around three main areas of psychology that are already being influenced by postmodern thought, and are likely to be even more influenced in a not so distant future: psychological knowledge, psychological practice, and psychological research. My intention is to demonstrate how a postmodern turn in all of these areas is congenial with constructivism in general, and with PCP in particular.

a. Psychological knowledge

As discussed in a previous section, psychological knowledge according to postmodern thought should shift from the modernist quest for abstract and context-free theoretical knowledge to local and relevant knowledge.

Psychological knowledge should be relevant not only to psychological practice (as I will discuss later on), but also to what Gergen (1992) calls the construction of new worlds, i.e., to the opening of new alternatives for thought and action, both socially and individually. The construction of new worlds has an inevitably political dimension attached to it, since it is related to committing psychological knowledge to moral and political values. Mahoney (1991) aptly noted that any attempt to render scientific knowledge value-free is ultimately self-contradictory, because neutrality is a value in itself. Constructivism leads one to the conclusion that "knowledge cannot be disentangled from the process of knowing, and all human knowing is based in value-generated processes" (Mahoney, 1991, p. 451). Commitment to moral and political values has never been avoided by PCP (e.g., Bannister, 1979), while it has probably received less attention than it deserved. Kelly (1977) advocated the commitment of psychological knowledge to the human enterprise on what would appear contemporary postmodern grounds:

If a man, say a psychologist, remains aloof from the human enterprise he sees only what is visible from the outside. But if he engages himself he will be caught up in the realities of human existence in ways that would never have occurred to him. He will breast the onrush of events. He will see, he will feel, he will be frightened, he will be exhilarated, and he will feel himself feared, hated, and loved. (Kelly, 1977, p. 11).

A second and related development in the postmodern approach to knowledge is the shift from the study of cognitive processes to the epistemology of the knowledge sought (Kvale, 1992). This postmodern shift echoes Mahoney's constructivist claim that "it is impossible to separate human knowledge from human knowing processes and the human knower" (Mahoney, 1989, p. 138). Thus, psychology becomes synonymous with epistemology, and constructivist epistemology is not conceived of as the study of information processing, but of meaning making. Again, constructivism appears as the potential avant-garde of a postmodern turn in psychology.

A third item in the postmodern agenda for the study of knowledge is the continuity between academic psychology and related sources of knowledge. Kvale (1992b) notes how anthropology, social sciences, the arts, or literary criticism provide provocative insights regarding the human situation today--sometimes even more provocative than psychology itself. Constructivism has been a leading force in the building and crossing of bridges between psychology and other disciplines. For instance, narrative approaches to psychotherapy are not rare among constructivist practitioners (e.g., Gonçalves, 1994; White and Epston, 1990). Also, following Kelly's comparison of the good novelist and the good scientist (Kelly, 1969b), some personal construct theorists have equated psychology with story-telling (Mair, 1990), and have explored the use of autobiographical writing in psychotherapy (Botella and Feixas, 1993).

(b) Psychological practice

Advocates of a postmodern approach to psychology are increasingly regarding professional practice as a source of psychological knowledge (cf., Kvale, 1992b; Lather, 1992; Polkinghorne, 1992). For example, Polkinghorne (1992) views the study of psychotherapy in practice as a potentially postmodern discipline, since the epistemology of practice is naturally informed by the postmodern themes of foundationlessness, fragmentariness, constructivism, and neopragmatism.

Constructivist researchers have also shown an active interest in the psychology of practice. For example, Mahoney and Craine (1991) studied the process of belief change in practicing psychotherapists as a result of their professional development. Also, Ford et al. (1991) pioneered a personal construct approach to knowledge engineering. Using computerized analysis of Repertory Grids, a set of rules is elicited from expert practitioners thereby modeling a relevant body of heuristic knowledge. These and related developments in constructivism and PCP could offer potentially significant contributions to a postmodern psychology of practice.

(c) Psychological research

The call for a broader approach to research methodologies is common to advocates of a postmodern psychology (see Kvale, 1992a)--as well as to a growing number of scholars and practitioners. The shift from a modernist to a postmodernist conception of knowledge and truth has lead to a reappraisal of the role of psychological research. In postmodern terms, research is not viewed as a mapping of some objective reality, but as an interactive co-construction of the subject investigated (Kvale, 1992b). This conversational and interpretive view of psychological research requires a multi-method approach, fostering the use of qualitative, hermeneutic, phenomenological, and narrative methodologies.

Again, constructivism and PCP are optimally prepared to follow the postmodern tide in psychological research. For example, Mahoney (1991) includes as a research priority for constructivist psychology an expansion of "traditional research methodologies to include qualitative, process-sensitive measures of human change" (p. 451). In a similar vein, Howard (1986, p. 172) advocated the use of qualitative methodologies and "techniques that preserve the meaning of an action for a person (as opposed to techniques that focus on the experimenter's favored construct)" as an item in the agenda for the next one hundred years of psychological research. Psychological research from a PCP viewpoint, although it has relied too heavily upon Grid methodology (Neimeyer, 1985), is becoming increasingly aware of issues of reflexivity. Viney (1987) proposed a mutual orientation method to constructivist research that embodies the postmodern call for a co-construction of research results. Also, personal construct theorists are increasingly adopting qualitative and hermeneutic research methods such as narrative analysis (see Viney, 1992), discourse analysis (see Villegas, 1993), and original forms of textual analysis such as Feixas and Villegas' (1991) method for analyzing personal constructs extracted from autobiographical texts (see Botella and Feixas, 1993, for an example).

In summary, constructivism is optimally suited to satisfy the new demands and interests generated by a postmodern turn in psychology. This postmodern turn embodies the challenging of modernist and objectivist views such as the representational and cumulative nature of knowledge, the justificationist value of truth, the passive and processing role of human cognition, and the value free nature of scientific inquiry. Such a postmodern challenge also informs the metatheoretical core of constructivist theories. Among the set of constructivist theories discussed in this paper, PCP can be regarded as simultaneously a historical forerunner and an avant-garde. From the perspective of forty years since it was first launched into the public domain (Kelly, 1955/1991), personal construct theory appears in 1994 even more generative than in 1955. The slow but increasing acceptance of constructivism and postmodern thought in mainstream psychology contributes to a revitalization of Kelly's ideas, opening a promising future for PCP.


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