Chapter 2

Methodology

Introduction

Hart (1998) suggested that part of the purpose of a literature review is to validate the research topic, design and methodology. It was concluded in chapter 1 that a person’s intention in the moment and their awareness of their intention were not adequately evidenced in the literature, despite the many theories concerning development, whether child or adult. The purpose of this thesis is to explore an individual’s intention and awareness in the moment in order to create new knowledge that challenges stage development psychology, stage transition and metacognition. This thesis explores the thinking of participants in five studies, as illustrated in Figure 2.4:

Figure 2.1: Study Flow

It is important to map the intention behind the five studies within this thesis to illustrate the journey through the thinking and the data to understand how the outcomes from each study determine the hypotheses and objectives for the next, in contiguous fulfilment of the thesis’ overall aim.

Study 1 will test the intended methodology on 32 participants in order to determine if it is an appropriate method for the quantitative data to draw out the subjective experience of individuals (Kafle, 2011). Should this be the case, study 2 will expand the pilot with 177 postgraduate students with a specific aim of determining if an academic Thinking Style emerges from the combination of Cognitive Intentions. This will support the ideas of (un)conscious Cognitive Intention use, Thinking Styles and the Four Pillars of CDT.

Study 3 will act as the control group to replicate the findings of study 2 should its objectives be met. From a constructivist perspective, were Thinking Styles to emerge from the data in the larger dataset, there will also be support for the Thinking Quotient measurement tool and levels of self-awareness as indicators of one’s Dynamic Intelligence.

Study 4 will investigate these levels of self-awareness further by introducing a number of participants to an awareness questionnaire based on 13 (thirteen) Cognitive Intention definitions. By offering definitions and gauging the participants’ awareness of their use of CI’s as shortcuts, it will be demonstrated to what extent an individual is conscious of their use of CI’s in the moment, and if they have relative choice in their construction.

Finally, study 5 will take the findings from studies 3 and 4 and use semi-structured interviews to discover if the use of Thinking Styles, CI’s and the Four Pillars of CDT transfer to the lived experiences of the interviewees. This study will tie the previous 4 quantitative studies together to demonstrate an extra dimension to Constructed Development Theory by generating support from a qualitative point of view, thus making the thesis and theory more robust.

Before addressing the chosen methodology, other research perspectives are discussed, providing evidence to support the research paradigm implemented in this thesis.

Awareness of awareness is not a new phenomenon. According to Wilberg (2006), it is ‘Advaita Vedanta’ in Hinduism that focuses on the ‘principle of awareness’ as the primary route to all forms of reality. It is the sole possible theory of everything. It stems from Advaita schools of Hindu philosophy which states the importance of Awareness (Chit) over Being (Sat). However, without becoming a Hindu scholar, it could be asked: awareness of what and for what? For example: meditation is awareness but has no operational context.

Halford, Wilson, and Phillips (1998d) proposed that the complexity of relations processed simultaneously is a measure of one’s processing capacity. Halford et al. (1998) proposed that the more we process in the moment, the greater the complexity load, and that processing capacity has a soft limit (Wilson & Halford, 1998). This means that there are gradations of performance capacity, which should demonstrate a reduction in speed and accuracy as a person’s capacity is reached. It would be useful to recognize within the test parameters that when one is overloaded, their thinking does not stop.

Adult educators in Higher Education have used a system of competency-based management education (CBME) since the 1980s to measure such competencies as knowledge, skills, and abilities that are essential for the organisational environment (Paglis, 2013). This has contributed to a student’s horizontal development, which is to say, not their vertical development, as it is only about acquiring new skills or knowledge within pre-existing stages of cognitive complexity (Brown, 2012; Petrie, 2011). In an increasingly complex world, this will be insufficient to develop future leaders (Petrie, 2011).

The inherent difficulties in investigating the relationship between complexity and non-developmental personality dimensions (such as ‘Neuroticism’, Costa & McCrae, 2008) were recognised by Westenberg and Block as early as 1993. While technical challenges are those that can be solved with existing expertise (Kegan, 2009), addressing adaptive challenges requires greater cognition as they are problem situations that lie outside the person’s current way of operating (Heifetz, et al., 2009). What has yet to be described is how a person becomes aware of, chooses the most appropriate response (for them) and responds to a situation in the moment. Lateral development represents ‘what we know’, in terms of skills and knowledge. Vertical development represents ‘how we know’, as we deepen our awareness and cognitive capacity (Brown, 2012). There have been decades of research in constructive development that has demonstrated the importance of this distinction within an academic setting (Cook-Greuter, 2004; Rooke & Torbert, 2005; Spence, Hess, McDonald & Sheehan, 2009). Rooke and Torbert (2005) state that those who develop vertically are more aware of how they interpret their surroundings and how they react when challenged because they are aware of an increase in their cognitive complexity (Petrie, 2011). However, it is not certain how one develops their awareness of their developmental level and the requisite shift in awareness that promotes growth. It was therefore the aim of the five experiments presented in this thesis to discover this in-the-moment-awareness prior to any developmental shift, as an introduction of a new method of measuring growth using Meta-Programmes, thus opening the door to a new way of determining an individual’s capacity and capability not seen in the literature.

As this thesis contains four quantitative and one qualitative study, Mason (2010) argues that using a mixed methods approach is useful because it places value on theoretical logic, and as this research enquired about a person’s social construction as well as lived (constructed) reality, along with a quantitatively experienced measure, a mixed methods approach was practical. Mixing methods serves to explain and interpret, offering a theoretical perspective but more importantly, critically addressing the research questions on different levels. In so doing, the approach answers the research question strategically, allowing theoretically driven comparisons to be made. Mason continues:

a ‘qualitatively driven’ approach to mixing methods offers enormous potential for generating new ways of understanding the complexities and contexts of social experience, and for enhancing our capacities for social explanation and generalization (Mason, 2006, p. 10).

Another value of using the mixed methods approach is it can overcome the weaknesses inherent in using only one method, by using others to confirm, cross-validate and corroborate findings. Thus, mixed methods can provide some routes to validation and a more robust picture (Fielding and Fielding, 1986).

Research Philosophy

Post-positivism and constructivism are two of the major theoretical perspectives in social science research (Neale, Allen & Coombes 2005), of which this study is comprised. Measuring the objective reality that occurs and developing numeric measures of observations is paramount for positivists. From a quantitative perspective, this research design is a postpositivist approach as human behaviour is not an absolute, and thus one cannot be positive about our claims of knowledge (Phillips and Burbules, 2000). Post-positivists approach human behaviour from a deterministic perspective in that an outcome has a cause. This research is post-positivist because this is the most useful approach to engage an online questionnaire to ‘allow the data to emerge’ (Bryant, 2003; Charmaz, 2003). However, Positivism is critiqued because studying human interaction is considered to be radically different from studying chemicals in a laboratory. Additionally, many questions are raised about the nature of reality, for example, can we objectively know if there is a shared reality (Cohen & Manion, 1994)? The ability of the researcher to remove themselves from the process is questioned by Flick (2014), especially qualitative research where the researcher’s influence is more interactional and constructional (Breuer, Mruck & Roth, 2002).

Hermeneutic phenomenology is focused on the subjective experience of individuals and groups, and interpretation is all we have (Kafle, 2011). Any attempt to describe something is also an interpretative process. The focus of hermeneutic phenomenology is towards illuminating unconscious details within experience that may be habituated or taken for granted by the actor, with the aim of creating meaning and understanding (Wilson & Hutchinson, 1991). This was the primary aim of the study: a deeper understanding of the meaning of the deconstructed experience of the participants, but instead of achieving this through descriptive language, (Smith, 1997), it was achieved by deconstructing the individual’s meaning behind their Meta-Programme use.

The terms constructivism and social constructionism tend to be interchangeable and subsumed under the generic term ‘constructivism’ (Charmaz, 2006). Constructivism proposes that individuals use cognitive processes to mentally construct their experiences of the world whereas social constructionism has a socialised focus (Young & Colin, 2004). It is less concerned with the cognitive processes that create knowledge.

This study was therefore Constructivist in that the participants create their own meaning in the way they map the world in which they operate, which is contingent upon human interactions and transmitted in a social context (Crotty, 1998). The social context was academia in studies 1 and 2, and large organisations in study 3. Individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences. The Identity Compass profile tool allowed for an interpretation of the awareness of the participants’ views (Daniels, 2010), and this unique construction of their world view is more typically linked to qualitative research (Mertens 2009). Thus, the process of qualitative research is essentially inductive: the researcher generates meaning from the data collected.

The constructionist approach is aligned with qualitative research and stems from Berger & Luckmann’s (1967) The Social Construction of Reality. Social constructionists believe that we seek understanding of the world around us, and we develop subjective meaning of our experiences. Social constructionism makes no ontological claims as it confines itself to the social construction of knowledge, thus making only epistemological claims (Berger & Luckman, 1991). By extension, this study demonstrated that the Meta-Programmes were individually anchored and socially constructed without any claims to their ontological status. Ontologically speaking, the reality that is deconstructed by the Meta-Programmes can be external to the individual, or produced by their consciousness (Cohen et al., 2000), and thus a representation of type.

Positivistic Paradigms

As discovered in the literature review, much of the literature on stage development in adult thinking comprises a positivistic paradigm, which endeavours to condense the study of complex thinking to a hierarchical ladder that can be measured in verifiable and quantifiable stages. This can be seen in Table 2.5.

The philosophical underpinnings of positivism are best represented by quantitative research (Smith, 2008). The hypotheses being examined here were the relationships between two Meta-Programmes, an individual’s awareness of this relationship and a measurement scale derived from it. This returned numerical values, which were more robust as they were governed by mathematical laws (Smith, 2008). However, it has been argued that the subjective experiences of individuals are omitted by quantitative research and as this study aimed to deconstruct self-awareness, how an individual experiences and constructs their world is equally important (Harung, Heaton & Alexander, 1995; Habermas, 1984). Although it has been argued that interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences cannot be adequately explained through quantitative study (Hawkins 2015; Bosma & Kunnen 2001), one aim of this research was a benchmark scale of awareness that aimed to quantify subjective experience and awareness.

Ospina (2004) gave a number of reasons to undertake qualitative research in what could be deemed a quantitative area, as evidenced in the literature review, where he argued that to explore a phenomenon that has not been studied before in this manner, and to add detail and nuances that documents existing knowledge (such as stage development psychology) where qualitative research can fill the gaps left by quantitative study.

Table 2.1: Stage Development Grid

Ospina’s (2004, as cited by Parry et al., 2014: p136) final point is most relevant to this study:

To understand any phenomenon in its complexity or one that has been dismissed by mainstream research due to the difficulties to study it, or that has been discarded as irrelevant, or that has been studied as if only one point of view about it was real.

To this point, the literature review has highlighted the fact that there has been very little study in the area of stage development or metacognition from the perspective of in-the-moment awareness and measurement of this awareness to induce a choice of response. The aim of this thesis is thus to deconstruct the thinking of participants in a quantitative manner and investigate those numbers with a qualitative study to tie the findings together.

Research Design

Research design is defined by Berkeley, (2004) as:

Deciding how the strategy and methods will be implemented in the context of a specific inquiry, indicating more precisely where, when and how data will be obtained and the method to be used to analyse and interpret those data.

More specifically, Stangor (1998) refers to research design as the specific method researchers use to collect, analyse, and interpret data, which is largely dependent on the objectives of said research (Burns & Bush 2006). The first study was exploratory in nature and thus different to an experimental study. Cooper and Schindler (2001) suggest that exploratory studies tend to be looser in structure and aim to discover new ideas. The purpose of the exploratory study was to test the methodological approach for viability. The review of the literature in chapter 1 suggested the need for an exploratory study initially, followed by more structured experimental studies later. Since study 1 was exploratory in nature, and studies 2, 3 and 4 were quantitative, the process of allowing the theory to emerge from the output data further supported a final qualitative method of inquiry (study 5). Given that qualitative methods use individual experience within a context, as well as subjective interpretation, generalisability is not sought or possible (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1999).

Following in the footsteps of Daniels (2010) and Kegan (1994), it was fitting in the initial stages to discover how the thinking of post-graduate students at a UK university mapped against an appropriate tool. The tool used by Daniels was the Identity Compass profile tool (IC), which deconstructed her participants’ thinking into 50 (fifty) Meta-Programmes (MP). These MP’s allowed her to understand her participant’s thinking and behaving in context.

It could be argued that although the IC returns quantitative data, the process of determining an individual’s perception via the questionnaire is exploring a participant’s construction, and thus also lends itself to a qualitative approach.

Qualitative research is especially helpful when it provides us with someone’s perceptions of a situation that permits us to understand his or her behavior” (Krathwohl, 1998, p. 230).

Qualitative data highlights an individual’s experiences and thus connects their perceptions to the social world (van Manen, 1977). The Identity Compass profile tool is a measure of these perceptions in the social context of academia in the first two studies.

For this reason, the Identity Compass was chosen for the exploratory study above all other psychometric tests. This gave a quantitative return on the measure of each Meta-Programme, based on the self-report question-set in the profile tool, against which each participant was measured. Quantitative questionnaires are objectively measurable against other variables, which makes them useful in the current study (Saunders et al, 2007), as are most psychometric tools. By way of comparison to the Identity Compass as the choice tool for this study, there follows a review of psychometric tests available on the market.

Psychometric Tests

When Galton (1869) posited individual differences existed based on genetics, he disrupted the philosophical thinking of his day. He proposed humans had ingrained traits that were almost impossible to change. Psychologists were keen to leap onto this new idea, and proposed a variety of tests and methods to measure these traits.

The first modern personality test was used in 1919 and was the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet. It was designed to help the United States Army screen out recruits who might be susceptible to shell shock. There have been so many tests over the years that to list them all here would be a pointless endeavour. Most are replications of other tests and measure very little difference in their output. See Appendix 3 for an informative list. For example, Johnson’s (2014) 4-Item IPIP scale measures constructs similar to those in the 30 NEO-PI-R Facet scale (Maples et al., 2014). This is called psychometric isomorphism, which is important as it is a logical prerequisite for homology. Therefore, when one posits theoretically similar constructs, they are invoking isomorphism (Tay, Woo & Vermunt, 2014). This is especially true of the trait-based systems. Constructed Development Theory, on the other hand, has an element of analogy as it does not share trait-based foundations with existing systems. Instead, it has intention-based shortcuts in cognition, which were investigated in this study. As Constructed Development Theory is hypothesised, equivalent measurements are prerequisites to its evaluation, regardless of the complexity of the test between or within groups (Vandenberg & Lance, 2000).

Although there is consensus on the structural organisation of personality, there is less agreement regarding the mechanisms responsible, and thus the interpretation of these dimensions of personality is arguably disparate (Ryan, Ployhart, & Friedel, 1998). Some researchers consider personality dimensions more a description of a variety of personality characteristics (Ashton & Lee, 2001; Lee, 2012). On the other hand, such researchers as McCrae & Costa (2008) have come to consider the dimensions of personality as causes of the personality characteristics they incorporate. The problem with these circular arguments can lead to epistemological inconsistencies. For example, the dimension “Extraversion” is assessed in personality questionnaires with questions such as: “I enjoy going to parties”. This is then theoretically conceived as the cause of going to parties, and subsequently used to predict such behaviours as going to parties. This has obvious limitations on the research into, and the results of personality profiling as it conflates the explicandum (Perugini, Costantini, Hughes, & De Houwer, 2016).

Thus, a psychometric test consists of written or practical tests which measure various aspects of human thinking and behaving, usually within an organisational culture (Dent & Curd, 2004). The short list that follows is an introduction to the idea of personality and psychometric tests from the perspective of why they were not chosen for this study.

Eysenck’s Personality Theory: Eysenck (1952, 1967, 1982) developed a very influential model of personality. He used personality questionnaires and performed factor analyses on the results to identify three dimensions of personality: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. He then reduced the behaviours down to a few factors, grouped together as dimensions. Eysenck, (1947) discovered that behaviour could be represented by two dimensions: Introversion / Extroversion (E) and Neuroticism / Stability (N). In 1966 he added a third dimension: Psychoticism. In Sense and Nonsense in Psychology, Eysenck posed the question of whether personality could ever be measured. He noted:

the answer depends on what we mean by personality, what we mean by measurement, and, indeed, one might even maintain that it depends on the meaning of the term ‘can’” (Eysenck, 1958, p. 175).

Eysenck’s ‘superfactors’ of Extraversion and Neuroticism are found to be almost identical to the same dimensions in the Big Five, and Eysenck’s Psychoticism ‘superfactor’ corresponds to a combination of low Agreeableness and low Conscientiousness (Clark & Watson, 1999; Costa & McCrae, 1995; Goldberg & Rosolack, 1994). It does, however, have several concerns regarding efficacy: its handling of the complexity of processing; its attribution of performance effects to variation in cortical arousal, and its neglect of the adaptive significance of traits (Matthews, 2016). Finally, several of the theory’s core postulations are countered by the modernity within cognitive science, thus it is no longer the paradigm for personality that Eysenck (1981) asserted (Matthews, 2016).  

MBTI: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is listed here because it is the fore-most profile system in use today. It was originally developed by Briggs-Myers and Briggs in the 1940’s after reading Jung’s book on psychological type, and was later used in educational testing for research purposes in 1957, from whence it grew to become the test of choice for the Consulting Psychologists Press (1975). The primary feature of the theory is that each person’s personality fits neatly into one of 16 types. This is based on four features of personality: Extroversion vs Introversion; Sensing vs Intuition; Thinking vs Feeling; Judgment vs Perception. This adherence to type suggests that a person can only have one preference, although it might be possible to develop the complimentary style with practise (Pittenger, 2005). An example question would be: When you meet new people, do you: A. talk as much as you listen? B. listen more than you talk?

Despite being on its second iteration with a differentiation between Step I and Step II assessments, (MBTI Online, 2019), the validity of the MBTI is rigorously questioned by academics (Stromberg & Caswell, 2015), and a factor analysis of 1,291 college students in America found six factors, which translated to 83% of the differences between the students could not be accounted for by the MBTI (Sipps, Alexander, and Friedt (1985).

16PF: Cattell (1943) used Allport and Odbert’s original list of traits to identify a smaller number, by categorising clusters, and then applying an umbrella term for each cluster. This reduced the list to 171. Cattell asked one hundred people to rate people they knew based on these 171 traits. He then used a factor analysis to derive 12 factors. He eventually added four more. From these 16 factors, Cattell and colleagues developed a psychometric tool to assess them specifically, known as the 16-factor personality questionnaire (Cattell, Eber and Tatsouka 1970). Cattell employed a factor analysis to investigate personality structure at a higher level, which allowed him to produce the second order of global factors, namely the ‘Big five’ and were rediscovered by Goldberg (1990). This is argued to be a purely descriptive model of personality (and thus lacking utility) which was rejected by Cattell (1995). It has been argued that the traits are at such a high level as to not predict or explain behaviour as Cattell’s primary level traits (Russell and Karol, 1994).

Big Five: The Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a 44-item questionnaire developed by Benet-Martinez and John in 1998 to measure the Big Five dimensions of personality. Each dimension has up to ten factors with a small number being reverse-scored. The items are rated on a 5-point Likert scale where 1=strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. The BFI has an internal consistency in numerous researches ranging from .77 to .81.

A number of issues have arisen over time in the argument for where facets appear on each instrument. For example, Costa and McCrae put the ‘warmth’ facet within Extraversion, whereas John & Srivastava, (1999) say that warmth is more closely related to Agreeableness. Particular disagreement is found in the understanding of the Openness factor. Goldberg emphasises intellectual and creative cognition, calling it Intellect or Imagination; McCrae (1996) criticises this view as too narrow a definition.

Five Factor Model: Costa & McCrae, (1992) assesses the Big Five dimensions of emotional stability, introversion, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness through 55 adjectives (e.g., nervous, reserved, cultivated, compassionate, tidy) rated along a 6-point scale ranging from –3 (does not describe me at all) to +3 (describes me perfectly). The Five Factor model also has its detractors, beginning with Mischel’s (1968) argument from his book, Personality and Assessment, that people’s behaviour is so varied and inconsistent that the five factors are too superficial and stereotypical, and thus have little or no relationship with actual behaviour (Mischel and Peake, 1982), to Block’s (1995) argument that the dimensions lack precision and thus do not provide insight into personality. The Big five are to psychology what ‘plant’ and ‘animals’ are to biology (John & Srivastava, 1999), plus the problematic issues of acquiescence and response distortion (Barrick & Mount, 1996; Holden, 2008).

TEIQue: The Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire v.1.50 (Petrides & Furnham, 2003) consists of 153 items rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and encompasses 15 subscales organized under four factors: Well-Being, Self-Control, Emotionality, and Sociability. The psychometric development of the instrument is described in Petrides (2001). Trait EI essentially concerns people’s perceptions of their emotions (in context) and rejects the notion that emotions can be artificially objectified in order to be made agreeable as if they are true, along the lines of IQ. Instead, is it along the lines of emotional self-efficacy (Petrides, 2016).

Bartram 8: many studies have examined the individual requirements of job performance, whilst emphasising personality and intelligence (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hunter & Hunter, 1984; Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Salgado, 1997, 1998). However, according to Bartram and SHL Group (2005), an issue is that various aspects of job performance are rarely distinguished. In other words, personality traits and intelligence might only affect a small number of facets of work-based performance. Bartram et al, (2005) suggested a generic taxonomy of competencies be created to differentiate those activities that constitute a well-performed role in an organisation. This would allow a more detailed exploration of characteristics related to those competencies.

In support of this idea, research has shown that specific personality traits correlate with some, but not all, facets of job performance (e.g., Hogan & Holland, 2003; Robertson, Baron, Gibbons, MacIver, & Nyfield, 2000; Robertson & Kinder, 1993). For roles such as leadership, associations between personality traits and behavioural outputs vary across contexts (Judge, & Ilies, 2002; Judge, et al., 2002). It is unsurprising that if not all traits correlate with job performance, then the test is lacking in what it is purporting to measure.

Hogan Personality Inventory: The HPI is the industry standard for measuring personality as it relates to job performance (Hogan & J. Hogan, 2007). It is based, as all the others are, on the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality with 30 years of criterion-validity and continued refinement. It is a 20-minute test with ambiguous questions that minimise a respondent’s ability to respond to the assessment in a socially-desirable manner. The Oregon Research Institute conducted objective reviews for the HPI (Goldberg, 2008).

Gordon’s Survey of Interpersonal Values (PreVisor) looks at the over-arching construct perspective, rather than the facets that devise the construct. It uses 90 statements to determine an individual’s suitability for a role based on the six sub-scales of Support, Conformity, Recognition, Independence, and Benevolence and Leadership. This takes a global perspective and ignores the facets that contribute to each of the scales mentioned. The inherent problem with this approach is that should an applicant score badly on one of the sub-scales (Conformity) without the tool explaining which facet was lacking, and should that facet be important to the role for which they are being interviewed, the assessor cannot determine this weakness in the moment.

To offer a breadth of understanding, here is a further list of tests that comprise various aspects of thinking and emoting. Social desirability is measured by the Marlowe–Crowne Social Desirability Scale (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960) referring to a tendency to present oneself in an overly positive manner; The eponymous Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983) is a questionnaire consisting of 20 items rated along 4-point scales. The Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961) evaluates depression using 13 items consisting of four statements each to describe how the participant felt last week. Affective positive and negative states can be measured by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). It consists of 20 adjectives rated along 5-point scales of which 10 measure positive affectivity (e.g., inspired), and 10 measure negative affectivity (e.g., guilty).

The short form of the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ; Sarason, Levine, Basham, & Sarason, 1983) evaluates perceived social support. The SSQ provides two scores: perceived quantity of social support and perceived quality of social support. The Emotion Refinement Inventory (ERI) is based on Frijda’s (1988) theory of emotions and which rates any emotional episode on an importance scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (the strongest you can imagine). Finally, action tendencies can be evaluated using Frijda, Kuipers, and ter Schure’s (1989) ERI questionnaire. Respondents are required to rate the intensity to which they wished to accomplish 11 actions (e.g., to swear, to disappear, to cry) on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (the most intense tendency you could experience). From a psychometric isomorphism perspective, Kozlowski and Klein (2000) suggest:

‘‘Isomorphism means that the amount of elemental content is essentially the same for all individuals in the collective’’ (p. 62).

Although tests for this form of homology have been established by Chen et al. (2005), this could potentially be viewed as a negative, and contributes in this case to the rationale for the use of a completely different type of profile tool. Reinforcing this view, Morgeson and Hofmann (1999) endorsed a realistic perspective to understanding constructs corresponding across levels as they are embedded in conceptually comparable principles, simply taken as true. Comparing groups based on dimensions that were originally used to describe individuals is only valid if those dimensions are present at the group level. In other words, when groups are hypothesised to differ, or remain similar, on cognitive dimensions such as the use of Meta-Programmes, the dimensional structure of their thinking at the collective level is anticipated to reflect the individual level (Hofmann & Jones, 2005; McCrae & Terracciano, 2008; Steel & Ones, 2002). Comparing the strength of the relationships of MP’s across levels will be more valid when there is greater psychometric isomorphism. This is important when contextual analysis is undertaken and measurements across levels are compared (Enders & Tofighi, 2007; Hofmann & Gavin, 1998; Zyphur et al., 2008).

From a Methodological perspective, a potential issue with the existing profile tools, even taking into account psychometric isomorphism, is the way in which the questions are presented. The language and structure of the question can be differently-interpreted by differing participants, which suggests that where a question is ambiguous due to different contextual constraints, the answer given will be equally meaningless. Three examples are:

The potential high-level responses for each question are:

Intention, Awareness, Choice, Response

To critique psychometric testing is to expose the limitations of Trait theory. Trait theory is primarily focused on the group level of analysis whereas personality is obviously an individual-level phenomenon (Robinson, 2013). As such, any attempt to garner individual information from group data serves to flatten human behaviour into a “static predetermined set of traits” (Emre, 2018). Whilst traits have been a useful describer of individual differences, there still needs to be a definition of trait origin, operations and how they produce differences in behaviours (Jayawickreme, Zachry, & Fleeson, 2019).

The primary issue with Trait-theory research is that it is mainly conducted using self-report questionnaires. This means that it can only ever include aspects of personality that are within awareness and the participant is willing to share. This leads to the next issue in that the questions offer no real choice of response. In order to make sense of the question, the client must first accept the premise the question is forcing on them, and then choose between a range of “Agree” to “Disagree” on a Likert scale. If the scale is particularly ineffective, there will be an odd number with a middle choice, 1 to 5, with 3 being the middle choice.

To reiterate the point, if a participant were to ask himself the question in response 1, his only ‘choice’ on the Likert scale is to disagree wholeheartedly with a badly-worded statement. For this, he must tick the radial button under “Disagree”. This, however, does not give the psychologist asking the questions the full cognitive capacity of the participant as it fails to determine their meaning-making in the moment, and thus their intention behind any such behaviour.

This occurs in every question set within Trait-based profile tools and can be seen in Appendix 3, where a list of profiles and questions is given. An overwhelming body of research shows that the majority of current measures of personality assess these same five dimensions (OCEAN) with varying degrees of adequacy and efficacy (Hogan and Bond, 2009; p581).

Another issue with psychometric tests as a group, it could be argued is that the meaning-making behind such trait words as “Openness” or “Extraversion” (including their component facets, such as Warmth or Gregariousness) changes as one ages. Although traditionally, traits were thought of as stable over time by occupational psychologists, and that it is convenient to conceptualise personality as a stable property of the individual in order to predict behaviour and attitude, (Woods, 2013) more recent research has demonstrated these changes in various recent studies (Woods, 2019). However, for those complexity and stage development psychologists, traits have always been seen as temporary. This links to Laske’s (2008) cognitive complexity theory. Although organisational behaviour is predictable using the various facets of the Big Five there is evidence that trait-based personality profiles are poor predictors of future behaviour (Woods & Anderson, 2016), and they do not address the issue of vertical development. Because they are based on statistics rather than theory, they provide no explanation of personality development. In support of Laske, Bowler et al. (2009) suggested that an individual’s cognitive complexity might have an impact on the factor structure of their personality (via OCEAN, for example). The study phases of this thesis sought to test this perspective by demonstrating different dimensions of Meta-Programmes at different levels of awareness, which also supported findings by Austin et al., (2002), and Toomela, (2003), who investigated the relationship between cognitive capacity and the measurable factor structures of personality.

Network Analysis and Topology

Network analysis offers a different perspective on personality that allows questions to emerge that might not have been intended without adopting said perspective (Costantini & Perugini, 2016). This approach allows the topology to be questioned where existing profiles confuse explicandum. From a network perspective on personality, a single major dimension should be deducible from the combination of the various facets at the personality level.

Further to this, identifying a facet’s unique characteristics is important for determining their different roles in personality (Costantini, et al., 2015; Costantini, Richetin et al., 2015).  Network analysis also allows for the investigation of patterns of various constructs by identifying their relationships in context (Costantini & Perugini, 2016). The inherent problems that translate to all questionnaires of this type are discussed next. Looking at one factor of the FFM: Conscientiousness, it is described as:

“…socially prescribed impulse control that facilitates task- and goal-directed behavior, such as thinking before acting, delaying gratification, following norms and rules, and planning, organizing and prioritizing tasks” (John & Srivastava, 1999, p. 121).

Conscientiousness is hypothesised as: “having both proactive and inhibitive aspects” (Costa, McCrae, & Dye, 1991, p. 889), and these two aspects of the trait emerge in most taxonomies. Conscientious individuals, compared with less-conscientious individuals tend to live longer (Kern & Friedman, 2008) and healthier lives (Bogg & Roberts, 2004; Friedman & Kern, 2014; Roberts, Walton, & Bogg, 2005), perform better in academia (Poropat, 2009), to succeed more at work (Barrick & Mount, 1991), and typically express more positive outcomes in their lives (Ozer & Benet-Martínez, 2006).

The principle outlined here is the duality of the factor, and the polar aspects of its facets. These are parallel to the meaning-making behind Meta-Programmes discussed and lends support to the use of Meta-Programmes as a viable alternative method of measure for personality. What this study aimed to demonstrate was that Intention, Awareness, Choice, and Response were missing from the existing personality profile questionnaires. It is evident that the questions offered do not determine an individual’s meaning-making, which also means their intention behind the use of “Conscientiousness” cannot be uncovered. Therefore, there is no insightful reason as to why it is used to the degree that it is used by the individual, and as such, is relatively meaningless. Intention, Awareness, Choice, and Response are integral to an individual’s self-awareness in the moment, which it was hypothesised here, act as a precursor to their personality, and are thus of greater importance than is evidenced in the existing profile tools. With personality not being fixed over time (Hall, 2005), nor traits being necessarily stable over time (Woods, et al., 2013) a more comprehensive profile tool is necessary to determine facets of thinking and behaving that combine to create a new topological network that can determine useful information about how much of the individual’s thinking and behaving are as a result of choice in the moment. Whether it is the MBTI, 16PF, OCEAN or TEIQue, none of them offers a meaning-making choice in their responses. No measure exists for the assessment of the facets of OCEAN. Further, there is disagreement within the literature as to what these facets actually represent (Bonn, 2005). This warranted further investigation, as it would appear to be a substantial element missing from personality profile tools. This study aims to fill this gap.

Research Output

Should the research demonstrate the above contributions then it will also produce a marketable product in the form of a profile validation tool that measures an individual’s awareness in the moment, the result of which is an individual’s capacity to respond in the moment. This output will be a quantitative measure of an individual’s capacity and capability as a benchmark for cognitive development. This would have applications in industry, academia and other markets where the growth of complex thinking is important and useful.

Research Contribution

This thesis will provide two contributions: first, to the field of stage development psychology, and second, to the field of metacognition from an adult perspective. The first is based on the hypothesis that a conceptual measure of self-awareness in the moment exists separate from and different to the existing concepts of awareness within a metacognitive framework. If it can be shown that self-awareness is a measure of complexity, then an individual’s capacity to consider their own self-awareness can be aligned to their level of development and thus link the fields of metacognition and stage development.

The second contribution will be the creation of a quantitative scale that provides a scalable measure of self-awareness, which will demonstrate a range and flexibility of an individual’s capability and capacity to respond in the moment. Both have the potential to create a paradigm shift in psychology from the perspective of constructivism and constructionism, and to impact those fields that touch on both philosophies.

Data Collection

Primary data refers to original data which is obtained first-hand by a researcher or researchers, specifically for the purposes of answering the research question (Burns & Bush 2006; Hackley 2003).  In this thesis, the primary data is determined by five separate but linked studies whereby participants undertake an online questionnaire to discover how they utilise the fifty Meta-Programmes discussed in the literature as a deconstruction of their thinking in the moment, ending with a qualitative interview study that ties the four quantitative studies together.

Ethics, Rigour, and Trustworthiness

Within psychology, qualitative research is abundant, yet its ability to demonstrate rigour and dependability is constantly being questioned (Mays & Pope, 2000; Malterud 2001). It can be argued that findings from within interview studies are open to researcher bias as they are based on perceptions and personal meaning-making (Mays & Pope 2000; Barbour, 2001). Hence, to ensure the findings were credible the researcher must be able to demonstrate how rigour and trustworthiness were upheld (Barbour, 2001).

Blumberg, et al (2005) describes ethics as the appropriateness of the researcher’s behaviour in relation to the rights of the participants of the research project. Lenth, (2001) recognises that it is unethical to collect information without the participants’ expressed willingness and informed consent. Kvale, (2007) also highlighted informed consent and confidentiality and added the potential consequences of a questionnaire or interview. Therefore, all participants of the current study were given a Participant Information Sheet and asked to sign a consent form as per Coventry University’s ethics process, prior to any study and assured that any disclosed information would be strictly confidential. See Appendix 4.  Participants were informed that the questionnaires or interviews could be terminated at any point if necessary, without any consequence to them or their education. The British Psychological Society also has ethical guidelines on social responsibility, valid consent and informing of participants of the factors within the study, such as the aims of the study, confidentiality, methods of collection, compliance with the Data Protection Act (2018) and the right to withdraw from the study at any time with no adverse consequences, in accordance with its Code of Ethics and Conduct (2009). Having passed through Coventry University’s rigorous Ethics process before data collection, it was safe to assume that the BPS standards had also been met.

It is incumbent upon the researcher to be aware of the potential impact their study has on society as a whole, as well as the participants. It was important the researcher upholds ethics and therefore acts accordingly. Participation was on a voluntary basis for all five studies and the participants were able to withdraw from the study at any time. While conducting this study, informed consent was gained from all participants (see Appendix 4 for the consent forms). Participants were also advised that should they feel uncomfortable, they were under no obligation to answer any questions. Participants were given an example of the type of information required of them, the reasons behind the studies and how the information they provided would be utilised.

There is a tendency to give too little weight to the sample size. People often judge the probability of samples by how representative they appear to be of the population (Kahneman & Tversky, 2000), as they incorrectly believe that a sample of a given size is more valuable if the population is smaller, as though the proportion of the population sampled was relevant. In reality, everything must be in context to how the participants relate to the larger population from which they are representative. Sample source is, after all, more important than sample size (Survey Gizmo, 2017).

A reliable and repeatable content analysis was the most useful way of interpreting interview scripts with a view to authentically reflecting what the interviewees were attempting to communicate. Prior to the data collection, the ethical issues concerned with interviewing were considered. Kvale, (2007) highlighted three potential considerations: informed consent, the consequences of the interview and its confidentiality. These aligned with the university’s ethical process and as such, each participant (interviewee) signed a consent form for the interview, as well as a consent form for the interview to be recorded on an iPhone (see Appendix 4). Interviewees were informed by the consent form that the interview could be terminated at any time should they wish to withdraw, without consequence.

Qualitative research has been questioned regarding its capacity to maintain authenticity and trustworthiness (Mays & Pope, 2000). As outlined in this chapter, Positivists argue that findings are open to researcher bias as the interviews contain both interviewee and the researcher (Barbour, 2001). To ensure credibility was upheld, all interviewee’s transcripts were transcribed by a professional specialist company. Then, a small number were sent to the interviewees to ensure they were representative of the interviewee’s words. This is known as ‘member checking’ (Tobin & Begley, 2004). This was considered the most appropriate method to ensure accuracy of transcription and not a biased opinion by the researcher (Klenke, 2008; Creswell, 2007).