Essences Article Accepted for Publication

My article, “On Essences in Constructivist Psychology,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. It should appear in late 2011 or early 2012. Here is the article’s abstract:

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical PsychologyThe notion of essence in psychology is examined from a constructivist viewpoint. The constructivist position is summarized and differentiated from social constructionism, after which constructs are distinguished from concepts in order to position ontology and epistemology as modes of construing. After situating constructivism in relation to philosophical approaches to essences, the distinction between essences and kinds is examined and the presumed constructivist critique of essences in psychology outlined. It is argued that criticizing constructivism as an “anything goes” form of anti-realism fails to grasp how constructivist psychology, by emphasizing structure and viability, does indeed place limits on the constructions people may hold. In applying a constructivist understanding of essences in general to those fundamental to human psychology, people can be seen as having three essential psychological qualities: they are closed systems, active meaning-makers, and irreducibly social beings. Yet a constructivist view also maintains that these psychological essences only hold while operating within and committed to a constructivist perspective. In other words, what counts as an essence always depends on one’s assumptions, or how one construes events. Finally, a personal construct theory model of essentialist and nonessentialist construing is introduced based on the assumption that everyone construes in both essentialist and nonessentialist ways at different times because doing so is pragmatically viable.

Updated “Constructivism in Psychology” Article

An updated version of my 2002 online article, “Constructivism in psychology: Personal construct psychology, radical constructivism, and social constructionism,” is now available at this web address:

This version includes some copy editing corrections (most importantly, Ernst von Glasersfeld’s last name is now spelled correctly in this version) and an updated list of web links (the links in the original article are nearly 10 years old and many are no longer active or have changed; new links of sites added since 2002 have also been added).

The original version remains available on the American Communication Journal site.

Full reference:

Raskin, J. D. (2002). Constructivism in psychology: Personal construct psychology, radical constructivism, and social constructionismAmerican Communication Journal5(3). Retrieved from (Simultaneously published in Studies in meaning: Exploring Constructivist Psychology, pp. 1-25, by J. D. Raskin & S. K. Bridges, Eds., 2002, New York: Pace University Press) Available online in HTML Available in PDF format [HTML link is original version; pdf link is updated version]

19th International Congress on Personal Construct Psychology

I am the program chair for the 19th International Congress on Personal Construct Psychology, which will be held in Boston July 19-22, 2011.



Proposal Form in Microsoft Word
Submit completed proposals by January 20, 2011

In keeping with the congress theme, “Pushing the Boundaries of Constructivism: Collaborating across Theories, Applications, and Methods,” we are looking for proposals that incorporate multiple constructivist perspectives and/or reach out to multiple disciplines.

Beginning with personal construct psychology in 1955, constructivist-influenced theories have been used in multiple ways in psychology, other social sciences, and the humanities. The goal of this congress is to bring together those incorporating one or more modes of constructivist thought into research, theory, scholarship, and professional practice.

Presentations are sought that elucidate any of these areas. They can be quantitative or qualitative research projects, theoretical explications, or applied projects including but not limited to the areas of psychotherapy, assessment, supervision, group and community work. This congress will allow participants to learn more about cutting edge efforts utilizing constructivist approaches while making new connections with colleagues who share similar visions.

Age-related Stigma and Golden Section Article Published

An article based on MA Psychology alum Becky Widrick’s thesis has been published in Aging & Mental Health, Volume 14, Issue 4 (May 2010), pages 375-385:

Aging & Mental HealthAge-related stigma and the golden section hypothesis

Authors: Rebekah M. Widrick; Jonathan D. Raskin

Objectives: The present study used the golden section hypothesis, which predicts that people organize information in a ratio of 61.8% positive to 38.2% negative, to examine age-related identities. It was predicted that people would rate identities of the aging population in accordance with a reverse golden section hypothesis. That is, people would assign negative ratings 61.8% of the time and positive ratings 38.2% of the time. Method: A golden section survey was completed online by 148 participants. Along the top of the survey were 15 identities: child, elderly person, grandparent, middle-aged adult, nurse, musician, adolescent, senior citizen, business person, lawyer, secretary, mental patient, homeless person, retired person, and self. On the left side of the survey were 12 adjective pairs with well-established positive and negative poles: generous-stingy, pleasant-unpleasant, true-false, fair-unfair, active-passive, energetic-lethargic, sharp-dull, excitable-calm, strong-weak, bold-timid, hard-soft, and rugged-delicate. Results: Elderly person and senior citizen were rated in a manner consistent with the reverse golden section hypothesis. In keeping with previous findings, the self was rated positively precisely 71% of the time. Combined ratings of the remaining identities were consistent with the traditional golden section hypothesis. A prior finding that mental patient and homeless person would produce a reverse golden section pattern was not replicated. Conclusion: Certain elderly identities evoke a reverse golden section rating pattern. This suggests that such identities have stigma associated with them. Because American society has coupled aging to stigma, people have come to associate negative connotations with certain age-related terms.

My Social Justice Chapter in Studies in Meaning 4

I have a chapter examining social justice from a constructivist perspective in my 2010 co-edited volume, Studies in Meaning 4: Constructivist Perspective on Theory, Practice, and Social Justice. The chapter is intended to offer a constructive critique of the ways social justice is often invoked in the counseling professions. Here is an excerpt that provides an overview of the chapter:

Studies in Meaning 4The idea of social justice, generally speaking, is something everybody finds appealing and agreeable. Further, criticizing social justice perspectives runs the risk of getting one accused of favoring injustice. For these reasons, few have critically scrutinized the philosophical and practical issues arising from the move toward a social justice orientation in counseling and related professions. This chapter employs ideas from constructivism and social constructionism in examining social justice in psychology and counseling. After establishing social justice counseling as a distinct theoretical orientation, a constructivist critique of this orientation is developed. Social justice counseling is criticized as: (1) espousing naïve realism; (2) being theoretically unelaborated; (3) imposing values; (4) being hubristic; and (5) going beyond psychology and counseling’s range of convenience. Social justice counselors are urged to articulate a detailed theoretical approach that restricts its focus of convenience to counseling and demonstrates its utility compared to existing counseling approaches. (Raskin, 2010, p. 248-249)


Raskin, J. D. (2010). Constructing and deconstructing social justice counseling. In J. D. Raskin, S. K. Bridges, & R. A. Neimeyer (Eds.), Studies in meaning 4: Constructivist perspectives on theory, practice, and social justice (pp. 247-276). New York: Pace University Press.