This is the way that it usually works, when I want to express what I’m thinking: when it rains, it pours! So I want to talk about one more idea, Kelly’s idea of “constructs.” Constructs are interpretations that we have about the world that help us to predict behavior. Kelly uses 11 corollaries to help explain this idea child. If you want less of the theory and more of my ideas and evaluation, skip down to “Sociality,” that’s where it gets interesting, but understanding the theory is important too!

Construction: I can anticipate events by construing their replications (my friend is often late, so probably will be for this instance too!) This anticipation is not possible without replication.

Individuality: people just differ in construction of events, it’s what makes everyone different.

Organization: the construction system is built around relationships between constructs

**Dichotomy: **Our construction system is based upon a finite number of dichotomous constructs. We look at people and situations and characterize them, but there has to be a spectrum, I can’t understand something if I don’t understand it’s opposite. I can’t understand good without having a knowledge of bad, safety doesn’t make sense without it’s opposite danger, etc :and going off of this idea, I would say that most people take the safe route and just stick with the constructs they already have, which I guess you might call being narrow minded or unable to be empathetic, but it makes them less likely, i would speculate, to be able to connect with other people that have different constructs (look at the world in a different way) And then I would also say that people who have an idea of a concept but DON’T understand the level of the opposite either 1. take the idea and applications of it for granted (good health, a good friend) or 2. become stuck in a one minded perception in that when the opposite DOES come along they might negate its value (oh, that’s not very important) or just apply the dominance of their end of the spectrum and make value statements (well, that person just needs to be happy , why wouldn’t he?

**Choice: **I can be safe and look at something with my established construct system, or take a chance and try to apply a new construct, the choice corollary is trying to look at the world in a different way. It’s a risk, of course, but I think that people who take the risk have a more developed, complex system of constructs than those who opt for the safe route.

Range: every construct has an appropriate range it can be applied to. Every construct doesn’t apply in every situation

Experience: corollary says that my construct system varies as I successfully/unsuccessfully construe the replication of events.

**Modulation: **some constructs are more plastic/malleable/changeable than others.

**Fragmentation **corollary says that because these constructs are in constant change, there is the possibility for inconsistent behavior

**Commonality: **similar construct systems = similar personalities (the idea that “wow, we see the world in such a similar way!! I feel you!!”)

**Sociality: **(the most interesting, in my opinion) to the extent that one person can construe the construction process of another person, he may play a role in social processes involving the other person. So I have to understand someone else’s construction in order to have an interaction with them, and the role I play is dependent on how I understand the other person to perceive me, or how the other person construes my role should be. (Man, this just feels so real, that people, (that I) act, based on how I think others expect or want me to, and me being able to do that requires that I understand the person on a non-superficial level. And of course this isn’t all or nothing, I can see sharing some constructs with another person and enough so that personalities are similar, but not all.

For example, in my daily speculation I was thinking about the idea of affection, on an emotional and a physical level, and I realize that I’m pretty one sided. I don’t have an understanding of emotionally caring for someone else, not to say that I am incapable of it, but it’s in its infancy. My way of showing emotional support is to make you feel good with buying you things, baking you cakes, giving you cards, and sharing things like quotes, music, and ideas that have made me feel better when I am down, but I have a hard time willingly putting myself in the emotional shoes of another person, and trying to actually live his or her experience to understand it.

But why Vanessa, why?!? Well I can easily say that in my family, there is a lot of physical affection: hugs, doing nice things for each other that might make them feel better, but there isn’t a lot of venturing into the “I felt this way when you did this: do you understand?” That and I’m the youngest, which has always placed me at the receiving end of all types of affection, and less so at the giving end. So that has made me weaker on the emotional affection side, and leaning heavily on valuing physical affection. It’s not that I don’t understand it or feel it, but that I don’t know how to express it or deal with it in relation to other people.

Here’s the frustration, I can’t express the best way I know how to give affection, physically, with most people outside of family and the rare occurrence of a boyfriend. It’s sort of a contradiction, and I can see how being unable to make a friend or someone I care about feel better might make me distant, or even worse, just seeming like I don’t care. It isn’t socially acceptable, outside of an intimate physical relationship, to express affection through kisses, or touch, or hugging and gazing into eyes and hoping for the life of me that the emotions that I feel and want to express and share somehow are transferred physically. I’m not saying that I WANT to express physical affection towards everyone, I don’t, but I sure as heck need to work on expressing emotional affection a lot more than I do, because no, bonking heads with someone does not imbue them with the strong things I feel and want to share, and sending a card or baking a cake can only go so far. I’m limited to being able to listen to someone, share things that have made me feel better, and give relentlessly, and hope that said person feels better.

The implications of this? I’ll have no problem expressing physical affection in a relationship, but I’ll have trouble with friendships. And then when you think about the construct system, that people who have similar constructs have similar personalities and therefore “understand” one another (which arguably leads to a good friendship, no?) and this last social corollary, that we act based on what we perceive others to expect of us, well when I am in need of affection, I’m pretty sure that my friends won’t know how to give it to me, and that sucks on their side. When my friends need support and my limited strategies don’t work, I’m not going to know what else to do other than backing off and giving them space, and hoping that he or she can resolve things in absence of me.

But all that said, it’s very reassuring that this system is so open for change, and growth. And one thing I do know about myself, that gives me the ability to understand the thinking of a lot of different types of people, is that I am cognitively complex. It basically means that I take chances on my own constructs and try out different ones all the time, and it leads to a larger range of constructs, and consequently an easier ability reading other people. And a higher level of cognitively complexity = a better ability to predict other people’s behavior and reactions. I might not be able to directly read your mind, but by understanding your thinking, I can predict your behavior and what you might be feeling and thinking.

Again, for me it’s all about figuring these things out, seeing a dynamic that someone else might not be able to see because they aren’t open to it or it hasn’t even crossed their mind, and then sharing that with them. But it’s hard to the extent that not everyone values emotional insight, for some the emphasis is on academia, or achievement, or career success, or living up to expectations, or material things, (or maybe just not thinking about what they value much at all, and just striving towards some future moment) to the extent that I value wisdom.

I know I’ll always struggle with the idea or knowledge that I can understand a person on a deeper level than they know, but I’m unable to have a conversation with said person about this either because they aren’t open to those sort of ideas, or maybe I perceive them to be less cognitively complex, or pure and naive so that I can’t open up to them because he or she isn’t ready for the opening of that Pandora’s box..

Either way, our society still really struggles with valuing wisdom, on so many levels. It’s just a lot harder to be a feeler than a thinker and a doer, for which you see measurable sources of success- and that looks really great at an institution like Duke. Then it becomes about being able to accept yourself, maybe re-evaluate your idea of “success,” and accept that there is a discrepancy between what you value (and when I say YOU I mean I) and what society values , but that’s a whole other can of worms, to be prodded at another day.

Suggested Citation:
Sochat, Vanessa. "Affection: the spectrum of emotional vs physical." @vsoch (blog), 03 Mar 2008, (accessed 04 Feb 24).