George Kelly: A contemporary Psychologist

George Alexander Kelly Biography

George Alexander Kelly was born in Kansas, United States, on April 28, 1905. He is often regarded as the father of clinical cognitive psychology. He was a personality theorist, psychologist, therapist, and educator. He was a single child. Their family moved a lot during his younger years. Therefore, his early education is fragmented. He completed his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics and a master's degree in sociology. He later went on to pursue a bachelor's in Education degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as an exchange student. He later returned to the United States to continue his psychology studies and his graduate and doctoral degrees in the same.

After the completion of his Ph.D. He worked as a psychotherapist in Kansas. Due to the consequences of World War II, Kelly started working as an aviation psychologist for the U.S. Navy. He was responsible for a training program for local civilian pilots, among other things. He was later appointed as professor and director of clinical psychology at the Ohio State University. Under his guidance, OSU's graduate psychology training program flourished. It was while he was working here that he made great contributions to the field of psychology of personality. His work on personality gained him international recognition, and he was called to talk about his work in various institutions worldwide. George Kelly breathed his last on March 6, 1967.

Practice as a Clinician

During the year 1931, he was teaching physiological psychology at Fort Hays Kansas State College. While working, he became aware of the struggles and suffering of the farming families in this region of west-central Kansas. After that, he took a slightly more humanitarian decision and created a rural clinical service.

During those times, all psychology students received basic training in psychoanalysis. He applied the same in his clinical practice. He made people lie down on a couch, engage in free association, and share their dreams with him. When he observed any signs of resistance or aggressive and sexual urges, he would calmly express his impression of the same to them. He found it astonishing that these relatively simple folks accepted these explanations of their issues with such openness. After some contemplation, he found that these people had undoubtedly trusted him, the expert.

New Insights

Gradually he lost his interest in psychoanalysis. As time passed, he grew more unsure about the standard Freudian explanations of problems. According to him, they were far-fetched and were quite unfitting to the lives of farm families living in Kansan. Even as his explanations became increasingly unorthodox, his patients still believed him. Not only did they believe him, but they also made a recovery, Slowly but steadily. Slowly a realization dawned upon him that what mattered to these people was that they had an explanation for their problems and a means of understanding them. The "chaos" of their life needed to take on some order. Moreover, he learned that while almost any order and understanding from higher authority was happily accepted, order and understanding from within their own lives and culture were superior.

These insights led him to develop his philosophy and theory of personality. This work marked his major contribution to the field of psychology and made him well-known and well-acknowledged in the field of psychology. The two-volume work, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, which was released in 1955, immediately became renowned as a distinct and significant breakthrough in personality research.

Kelly: Cognitive Psychologist or Humanistic Psychologist

Some contemporaries of Kelly regard him as a cognitive psychologist, yet others see him as a humanistic psychologist. Kelly, for one, opposed being labeled. Kelly clarified that he does not see himself as a cognitive psychologist. While talking about Kelly's work, Carl Rogers said that he was skeptical about Kell's overly intellectual approach to psychotherapy. However, Kelly noted that he was influenced by J.F. Herbart (1776 –1841). This could be attributed to their similar background in mathematics, physics, and education. Kelly wanted to insist that his idea was so distinctive that it could not be compared to any of his contemporaries' theories. Kelly has received criticism from experts for neglecting to mention his ancestors. Kelly claimed a background that other psychologists of his era did not share. This was only one of many ways Kelly offered his theory and himself as a distinctive alternative to other psychology schools.


Kelly's role in the development of clinical psychology cannot be forsaken. Both through his work at Ohio State University and his leadership roles with the American Psychological Association (APA), he added major contributions to the evolving field of psychology.

Perhaps Kelly's greatest contribution to psychology is his personal construct theory of personality, and it is a wide theory based on the notion that individuals behave like scientists testing their ideas or constructs about the nature of reality and themselves. In addition, Kelly created the Role Construct Repertory Test, a tool for assessing an individual's worldview or personal role constructs. In addition, Kelly used fixed-role therapy, which involved having a client "try on" multiple roles.

Compared to other well-known psychologists, Kelly concentrated on clinical work and instructing graduate students rather than publishing much research. His 1955 book The Psychology of Personal Constructs, issued in two volumes - Volume 1: A Theory of Personality and Volume 2: Clinical Diagnosis and Psychotherapy - is his most well-known theoretical work.


Kelly's theories have gained rather than lost ground in the years after his passing. A series of biannual international conferences on personal construct psychology has been held since 1975 in the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Australia, with regional conferences supporting the theory's expanding popularity every other year. The International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology was published in 1988, and in 1994 it expanded its scope and changed its name to the Journal of Constructivist Psychology, adding to the theory's dozens of books and thousands of journal articles. The online publication Personal Construct Theory & Practice was started in 2004. Personal construct psychology is today regarded as a viable specialization with a wide worldwide readership that is both a historical forerunner and an essential contributor to the developing field of constructivist psychology. All this goes on to probe the significance of Kelly's work.


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