Constructivist Psychology NetworkThe following information comes from Raskin (2002):

When psychologists use the term “constructivism” in its most general sense, what do they mean?  In his historical analysis of the changing nature of knowing, Sexton (1997) divides human history into three distinct eras: premodern, modern, and postmodern.  Each of these periods emphasized a particular ontological perspective that shaped how people dealt with events, problems, and solutions. The premodern era (from the sixth century B.C. through the Middle Ages) emphasized dualism, idealism, and rationalism. Faith and religion played central roles, and “effective change efforts were prayer, faith, thinking, and/or reasoning” (Sexton, 1997, p. 5).  By comparison, the modern era (roughly from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century, though modern thought still dominates much of current discourse) stressed empiricism, logical positivism, scientific methodology, the identification of objective truths, and validity. One consequence of the modern era

Sexton (1997) labels the third (and present) era as postmodern/constructivist and depicts it as accentuating the creation, rather than the discovery, of personal and social realities.  The postmodern/constructivist era stresses the viability, as opposed to the validity, of knowledge claims.  It also pays special attention to epistemological issues.  Investigators and theorists become concerned with the how people know, as well as what they know. Compared to modernism (wherein truths independent of subjective bias are revealed to neutral scientists), postmodernism/constructivism highlights human participation in the construction of knowledge:

was to solidify scientific and professional knowledge as the legitimate source of understanding the world.  Through the logical process of science we could discover that which was true. . . . Scientific knowledge was assumed to be a mirror image of objective reality. (Sexton, 1997, p. 7)

Because constructivism focuses on ways in which persons and societies create (rather than discover) constructions of reality, its adherents often exhibit varying degrees of skepticism about whether persons have direct and accurate access to an external world. In other words, constructivists see reality as

noumenal —that is, it lies beyond the reach of our most ambitious theories, whether personal or scientific, forever denying us as human beings the security of justifying our beliefs, faiths, and ideologies by simple recourse to “objective circumstances” outside ourselves. (Neimeyer, 1995, p. 3)

Thus, all constructivist psychologies share the belief that none of the many ways of understanding that people have developed provide a God’s Eye (i.e., purely objective) view of the world. All constructed meanings reflect a point of view. However, constructivists often disagree among themselves about the implications of this position, particularly regarding the nature of reality, the origin of constructed meaning, and the best way to conduct psychological research.


Neimeyer, R. A. (1995). An invitation to constructivist psychotherapies. In R. A. Neimeyer & M. J. Mahoney (Eds.), Constructivism in psychotherapy (pp. 1-8). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Sexton, T. L. (1997). Constructivist thinking within the history of ideas: The challenge of a new paradigm. In T. L. Sexton & B. L. Griffin (Eds.), Constructivist thinking in counseling practice, research, and training (pp. 3-18). New York: Teachers College Press.