What is the Definition of Construct?


A construct is a theoretical construction that is developed to solve a certain scientific problem. For epistemology, it is a conceptual or ideal object that implies a class of equivalence with brain processes.

The construct is beyond the concrete mental process known as ideation and the physical and social process that communication implies. That is why some sciences, such as mathematics, consider constructs as autonomous objects, even when they have no real existence.

Construct in psychology

For psychology, a construct is a bipolar descriptive category that allows each individual to organize experiences and data from reality. The construct can be understood as a hypothetical entity that is difficult to define within the framework of a scientific theory.

The psychological construct, therefore, is a verbal label that discriminates between elements according to the characteristic it abstracts (cold / hot, good / bad, new / old, etc.).

Kelly’s work

The American psychologist George A. Kelly, who lived between 1905 and 1967, developed the theory of personal constructs (generally abbreviated as TCP), which is based on constructive alternativism, a philosophical postulate according to which each attributes a meaning to each experience as a result of a personal construction.

Kelly argued that reality is subject to various personal constructions, and that among them there are some helpful and others negative. All this is included in a great process that consists of successively building and rebuilding, and is related to what the psychologist called the cycle of experience, an endless process whose results are directly linked to people’s mental health, and that consists of the following steps:

* anticipate the experience ;
* get involved in the outcome;
* meet the event;
* validate or invalidate the anticipated;
* constructively review the system.

Another concept that Kelly developed is called construct system constriction, a phenomenon that occurs when an individual reduces self-perception to minimize apparent incompatibilities. In other words, he does not want to have new experiences, because he fears that they will invalidate him. This commonly occurs in cases of agoraphobia and depression.

Construct types

According to Kelly’s theory, it is possible to distinguish between the following types of construct:

* nuclear : governs the processes by which identity is maintained. It can be said that it includes the deepest beliefs, those that give meaning to the individual and that, therefore, cannot be easily modified;

* Peripheral : it derives from the previous type of construct, although it has greater flexibility, so it is easy to modify it;

* lax : the one that leads to variable predictions without putting the person at risk and can occur in very flexible or creative individuals, or in patients with schizophrenia;

* preverbal : it is used even if it does not have a verbal label, and it is mainly found in disorders of a psychosomatic type;

* rigid : leads to invariable predictions, such as a generalization (“all women want to be mothers”). It is typical of individuals with very clear ideas, although it also occurs in cases of obsession;

* subordinate and superordinate : the person establishes a hierarchy for each construct, and placing the subordinates below the superordinate. An example can be the construct “expensive / cheap” as a subordinate of “bad / good”, understood as a relationship between “expensive” and “bad”, and “cheap” and “good”.

It is known as a social construct, on the other hand, the entity that arises in a system built by the members of a society. The members of said construct behave as if this entity existed, respecting certain conventional rules. Social constructivism is the current of thought that analyzes social constructs.

Construct state, on the other hand, is the form that an adjective or a noun takes in various Semitic languages, such as Hebrew or Arabic.