Prescott Lecky: Pioneer in consistency theory and cognitive therapy. Stevens, Michael, J. Journal of Clinical Psychology 48(6): Prescott Lecky's . Creator: Lecky, Prescott, Title: Self-consistency: a theory of personality / by Prescott Lecky. Call Number: LEC. Created/Published: New York. Prescott Lecky (November 1, – 30, ) was a lecturer of Psychology at Columbia Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.
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Threat Threat was defined by Kelly as an awareness that a comprehensive change was imminent in your core constructs and, therefore, in your conception of yourself. In the broadest sense, threat can be induced when we perceive any plausible alternative to our core constructs. The assistance of a long-term psychotherapist is helpful in this process. In contrast, fear, defined as an awareness that an incidental change is imminent in your core constructs, is much less interesting. Guilt Guilt is defined as an experience that accompanies your perception that you have become dislodged from your core role. Your core role is the subsystem of constructs that enables you to predict and describe your behavior. It gives you a sense of identity.
This conceptualizes emotions as similar to positive and negative reinforcement, a link that Kelly rejected. In the next section, the ideas of a theorist who was a precursor to PCT, Prescott Lecky, will be presented, and his ideas, although limited, are provocative. Lecky felt that such dynamic systems can have only one purpose, one source of motivation, and he proposed the need for unity or self-consistency as this universal dynamic principle.
Personality is an organization of values that are consistent with one another. The individual always tries to maintain his integrity and unity of the organization, even though we might judge his behavior to be irrational or disturbed.
This organization defines his role, furnishes him with standards, and makes his behavior appear regular. Conflict is a result of environmental input conflicting with the system. The system then tries to eliminate this conflict. Lecky saw individuals as having two tasks: a maintaining what he called "inner harmony" within their minds, that is, an internally consistent set of ideas and interpretations, and b maintaining harmony between their minds and the environment, that is, between their experience of the outside world and their interpretations of this experience.
For Lecky, learning was a process of assimilating new experiences. As the person assimilates these experiences and maintains his organization in a greater variety of situations, he maintains his independence and sense of freedom.
Psychological development is a process of assimilating new information so as to maintain a self-consistent organization of values and attitudes. Whereas learning serves to resolve conflict, conflict must always precede learning. Conflict may profitably be viewed as a clash between two modes or ways of organizing.
We need to feel that we live in a stable and intelligible environment. We need to be able to foresee and predict environmental events and, by anticipating them, prevent sudden adjustments.
Anxiety is caused by breakdowns in our predictive system. To do this we may have to avoid certain situations or make overly simplistic judgments, but the goal is self-consistency. For some individuals, preservation of their predictive system without change becomes a goal in itself, and they seek experiences that confirm their predictions and avoid situations that disconfirm their predictions.
This definition of anxiety is identical to that of Kelly, and the strategy described by Lecky is what Kelly called hostility.
Lecky brought emotions into his theory in a way consistent with Kelly's ideas but extending them. Love Lecky defined love as the reaction toward someone who has already been assimilated and who serves as a strong support to your idea of self. In this definition, Lecky added a component to the definition provided by McCoy. If we translate this into PCT, in order to love someone, we first have to be able to construe the individual.
Then, the way in which they construe our core self has to be consistent with the way in which we construe our core self. If this is the case, then they agree with our self-concept and, thereby, support it.
Grief Lecky defined grief as an emotion that is experienced when your personality must be reorganized due to the loss of one of its supports. This is a very narrow view of grief. Kennedy, then the emotion that people experience is not this type of grief since the President did not support the way in which we construe ourselves.
If our pet dies, then we may experience grief for it is possible that our pet did support the way in which we construe ourselves. For example, if we construe ourselves as a kind and caring individual, and if we showed this facet of ourselves with our pet, then losing the pet loses a support for our self-concept.
In this situation, we experience anxiety, and the anxiety cannot be reduced. In some of these situations, we may eventually be able to construe the objects, and then the hatred will diminish.
Alternatively, we can avoid or destroy those objects so that we do not have to attempt to construe them a hostile manoeuver. Horror is the emotion felt when we are confronted with experiences that we are not prepared to assimilate, such as a ghastly accident. In time, we may be able to assimilate this experience, and then the horror will diminish.
Pleasure Experiences that increase consistency and unity give rise to joy and pleasure. Pleasure is experienced when we master new experiences, for example, when we learn to like nasty tasting foods, such as olives or bitter coffee. If we could learn to tolerate more bitter substances than coffee, other pleasures would replace our liking for coffee.
The same is true for other sensory modalities. For example, as we mature, we come to like more and more complex music, art, and literature. The more difficult an accomplishment, the more pleasure we derive from it. Pleasure is clearly related to the basic desire for unity or self-consistency, and it can be understood only historically. Pleasure comes into existence because of a difficulty that is overcome, and continuous pleasure demands continuous solution of new problems.
This definition of pleasure differs considerably from related emotions defined by McCoy such as happiness, joy, pleasure, delight, mirth and satisfaction. Guilt If your behavior violates your self-concept, you feel guilt. In PCT, this is when you have become dislodged from your core role. Fear Fear is experienced when we fail to resolve inconsistencies.
Emotions were seen by Lecky as characteristics of behavior when first encountering a new problem. They are, in fact, a way of assisting the acquisition of control over the experience and, when the experience is assimilated, the emotion will be reduced.
Emotions do not disorganize behavior. The new experience disorganizes the behavior, or rather the personality, which in turn leads to greater stereotypy in the person's behavior. Although George Kelly claimed to have no emotion in his theory, he did discuss at least four basic emotions threat, fear, guilt and anxiety.
McCoy explored how other emotions could be incorporated into PCT and extended the range of emotions that could be accounted for. The result is that we can conclude that PCT is not a theory of personality in which emotions have no place. Rather, the full range of human emotion can be explained using the concepts of PCT. The logic of passion. Fransella Ed. International handbook of personal construct psychology, pp. Chichester, UK: John Wiley. Butt, T. George Kelly: The psychology of personal constructs.
Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Cummins, P. Working with anger. Ekman, P. Emotions in the human face. New York: Pergamon. Izard, C. Patterns of emotions. New York: Academic Press. James, W. What is an emotion?
Mind, 9, 188-205. Katz, J. Personal construct theory and the emotions. British Journal of Psychology, 75, 315-327.
Kelly, G. The psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton.
Kirsch, H. Emotions and personal constructs. Scheer Ed. The person in society, pp. Giessen, Germany: Psychosozial-Verlag. Lecky, P. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Lester, D. Attempted suicide as a hostile act. Journal of Psychology, 68, 243-248. Mandler, G.
Mind and body. Mascolo, M. Functioning of epigenetically evolved emotion systems. International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 3, 205-222.
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A reconstruction of emotion. Bannister Ed. New perspectives in personal construct theory, pp. McCoy, M. In fact, research indicates that when members of small groups receive self-verification, for either positive or negative self-views, their creative performance improves, and this is partially mediated by feelings of connection with other group members Swann et al.
Presumably, when self-verification reigns within groups, knowing that others were predictable and reliable made people more comfortable with one another, and this laid the groundwork for superior performance.
Self-verification processes seem to be especially useful in small groups composed of people from diverse backgrounds. That is, out of a fear that they will be misunderstood, members of diverse groups may often be careful to avoid expressing controversial ideas. Self-verification may reduce such fear by convincing them that they are understood.
For this reason, they may open up to their co-workers.
Such openness may, in turn, lead them to express off-beat ideas that lead to problem-solving. Performance may benefit Swann et al. Evidence also suggests that verifying feedback negative feedback for those with low self-esteem and positive feedback for those with high self-esteem can even improve creativity.
In addition, eliciting negative but self-verifying evaluations may help to keep anxiety at bay. For example, one set of investigators Wood et al. Whereas high self-esteem persons reacted quite favorably to success, low self-esteem participants reported being anxious and concerned, apparently because they found success to be surprising and unsettling.
Similarly, others Ayduk et al. The opposite pattern emerged for people with positive self-views. Societal Outcomes Self-verification processes are also adaptive for groups and the larger society. For example, self-verification can help eradicate social stereotypes.
In small groups, those who offer other group members self-verification are more likely to individuate them — recognize them as unique individuals rather than as exemplars of social stereotypes Swann et al. Over time, such treatment could influence targets and perceivers alike. Targets who are treated as unique individuals will be encouraged to develop qualities that reflect their idiosyncratic competences and capacities.
At the same time, perceivers who individuate other group members may begin to question their social stereotypes. There is also evidence that self-verification strivings may play a role in extreme behaviors committed on behalf of a group. Because the personal and social self are functionally equivalent among such individuals, challenging one is tantamount to challenging the other.
Consistent with this view, when these individuals had a personal self-view activated by challenging its validity, they displayed compensatory self-verification strivings by reasserting their group identity. Among fused persons, such compensatory activity took the form of increased willingness to perform extraordinary behaviors for the group.
The Dark Side of Self-Verification Processes In general, self-verification strivings are adaptive and functional, as they foster feelings of coherence, reduce anxiety, improve group functioning and erode social stereotypes Swann et al. Nevertheless, for those who possess inappropriately negative self-views, self-verification may thwart positive change and make their life situations harsher than they would be otherwise. For example, self-verification theory predicts that those who see themselves as disorganized or unintelligent should prefer evidence that others also perceive them as such.
It is obvious why people work to maintain some negative self-views. After all, everyone possesses flaws and weaknesses, and it makes perfect sense to develop and maintain negative self-views that correspond to these flaws and weaknesses. For example, people who lack some ability as in those who are tone-deaf or color blind will have numerous reasons for bringing others to recognize their shortcomings.
Self-verification strivings may, however, have deleterious consequences when people develop inappropriately negative self-views — that is, self-views that exaggerate or misrepresent their limitations e. But the adaptiveness of self-verification strivings are much less clear when people develop globally negative self-views e. Active efforts to maintain such negative self-views by, for example, gravitating toward harsh or abusive partners are surely maladaptive.
And the workplace may offer little solace, for the feelings of worthlessness that plague people with low self-esteem may make them ambivalent about receiving fair treatment, ambivalence that may undercut their propensity to insist that they get what they deserve from their employers Weisenfeld et al. Furthermore, if people with negative self-views are stressed by positive information, over an extended period such information might actually produce debilitation.
Empirical support for this possibility comes from several independent investigations. An initial pair of prospective studies Brown and McGill 1989 compared the impact of positive life events on the health outcomes of people with low versus high self-esteem.
Positive life events e. It is remarkable that positive life events were apparently so unsettling to people with low self-esteem that their physical health suffered.
Clearly, for those who develop erroneous negative self-views, it is important to take steps to disrupt the self-verifying cycles in which they are often trapped. More generally, such instances illustrate how the process of self-verification can sometimes have negative consequences even though it is adaptive for most people most of the time.
There are also indications that the desire for self-enhancement is truly fundamental. Second, traces of a preference for positivity emerge at a tender age. For example, as early as four and a half months of age, children preferentially orient to voices that have the melodic contours of acceptance Fernald 1993.
Third, among adults, a preference for positive evaluations emerges before other preferences Swann et al. In particular, when forced to choose between two evaluators quickly, participants selected the positive evaluator even if they viewed themselves negatively.
Only when given time to reflect did participants with negative self-views choose the negative, self-verifying partner.
Yet as potent as the desire for positivity may be, the results summarized earlier in this chapter indicate that self-verification strivings are quite robust.
In light of the existence of numerous relevant studies, the most appropriate means of testing the relative merits of self-enhancement versus self-verification approaches was to review all available studies that meet the design criteria specified by the two theories. In a comprehensive meta-analysis Kwang and Swann 2010 , self-verification strivings were equal to, or stronger than, self-enhancement strivings, pointing to the existence of a more balanced and variegated motive system than one driven purely by self-enhancement.
Perhaps the most parsimonious way of conceptualizing the relationship of self-verification and self-enhancement is to recognize each motive as emerging as part of a sequential process. Immediate responses are more likely to be self-enhancing, while more considered responses are more likely to be self-verifying. This is because self-enhancement strivings require only one step: upon classifying the evaluation, people embrace positive evaluations and reject negative evaluations.
In contrast, self-verification strivings logically require at least two steps. After classifying the evaluation, it must be compared to the self-view, for only then can the person discriminate verifying evaluations from non-verifying ones. Depriving people of cognitive resources while they choose an interaction partner should interfere with their ability to access their self-concept Swann et al. One approach focuses on tradeoffs between self-verification and other motives such as positivity, particularly in close relationships e.
One fascinating issue here is how people create and sustain idiosyncratic social worlds that are disjunctive with the worlds that they have created outside the relationship Swann et al. In particular, how are people able to compartmentalize their identities and navigate between social worlds in which they have negotiated distinctive identities Swann and Bosson 2008?
And how does self-verification unfold in a world that is not only outside of a given relationship but outside a given lifetime? A new theme that has emerged recently involves the impact of self-verification strivings on how we want to be perceived after we die. For example, a series of studies Heintzelman et al. Another emerging theme has explored how self-verification plays out within and between groups. Cross-cultural studies of self-verification support the universality of self-verification strivings Seih et al.
Not only is the self-verification motive found among groups around the world, but recent work has also explored how people verify their group identities as well as their personal identities e. Other work interested in differential self-verification effects based on social identity has compared the self-verification strivings of monoracial and multiracial individuals.
Multiracial people may expect less verification of their race-related identities since those identities may be less visibly apparent. As a result, multiracial individuals are more interested in interacting with others who see them as they see themselves Remedios and Chasteen 2013.
This is a particular challenge because self-verification on the part of those with low self-esteem can lead them to seek out negative feedback, which then reinforces that low self-esteem in a cyclical process. It turns out that simple-minded approaches to this problem not only fail to work, they may actually backfire. For example, repeating positive self-affirmations makes people with high self-esteem feel better but actually makes those with low self-esteem feel worse Wood et al.
Such messages are not an effective strategy for raising self-esteem for those who need it most: people with low self-esteem. In addition, reframing compliments from a partner in a more abstract way that encourages the individual with low self-esteem to reflect on the meaning and significance of that compliment is helpful. Such reframing may encourage people with low self-esteem to feel more positively about themselves and their relationships Marigold et al.