Chapter 7

Study 5

Semi-Structured Interviews


Based on the previous four quantitative studies, not only has the data supported the hypotheses emerging from the literature review and methodology, they also allowed new hypotheses to evolve from the findings. These hypotheses warranted further study to demonstrate their validity from the participants’ perspective:

  • A participant’s awareness of their Thinking Style
  • A participant’s lack of awareness of Cognitive Intention use
  • The principles of Constructed Development as a framework within which participants think and act
  • Constructed Development is measurable by an individual’s Dynamic Intelligence and Dynamic Responsiveness via the TQ

To paraphrase Kant (1781/1965) from the Critique of Pure Reason, observation without concepts is blind, and concepts without observation are empty. A semi-structured interview was designed to glimpse into the participants’ lived experience of the above hypotheses in order to qualitatively investigate the data.

This study aimed to investigate the conceptual framework (CDT) espoused in the previous four studies and to discover if the lived experiences of the interviewees supported the confirmatory data in studies 3 and 4. From a Dynamic Intelligence perspective, in order to grow an individual’s thinking, it was necessary to disrupt their habituated cognitive patterns by engaging in polar thinking (Dunn, Griggs, Olson, Beasley & Gorman, 2010). In other words, where the individual would habitually think in an ‘Options’ pattern, as seen in Factor 1 of Table 5.24 in chapter 5, in order to develop their Thinking Style and offer greater choice in future activities (Intention, Awareness, Choice & Response) it was necessary to direct them to more ‘Procedural’ thinking. The current study explored this premise. The literature on self-awareness from chapter 6 suggested that individuals must engage in self-reflective thought in order to have a heightened self-awareness (Eigel & Kuhnert, 2016). It was also pointed out in study 4 that this was a circular paradox as the more-capable thinker will have a more profound relationship with their self-awareness, and thus discover deeper facets of their self-awareness than a less self-aware thinker. This premise was investigated in the current study as it was demonstrated in study 4 that this was not strictly accurate: individuals can be self-aware with no self-reflection by simply being aware of habituated Thinking Styles, which had no impact on their capacity to actually change any behaviours as a result.

The Research Aim

The research aim in the current study was to further substantiate the theoretical underpinnings of Constructed Development Theory and the contribution this study makes to psychology as a whole. The emergent hypothesis that was tested in study 4 (chapter 6) was: Individuals are not aware of their use of Cognitive Intentions in context, and thus not self-aware. The research aim of the current study was thus a qualitative extension of the quantitative data derived from study 4 which demonstrated that individuals are not aware of their thinking in the moment, (Touw, Mejier, and Wubbels, 2015). The literature reinforced this perspective to some degree (Hayes, 2015; Kallio, Virta, and Kallio, 2018). Eurich (2018) also reinforced this finding in her research, which then reinforced the findings of Nelson, Kruglanski and Jost’s (1998) meta-analysis of metacognitive literature, as mentioned previously. Peacocke (2007) also demonstrated this apparent inability to be self-aware.


The current study was designed to discuss the results from study 4 where an individual’s self-reported self-awareness TQ score was compared to their Identity Compass profile score. According to Okoli and Pawlowski (2004), a follow-up interview might yield additional information, therefore, a qualitative semi-structured interview methodology was used to provide first-person experience of the data interpretation generated in studies 3 and 4 as this connected the perceptions of the interviewees with the social world (van Manen, 1977). Rodwell (1998) highlighted that although it was not possible to hold both positivist and interpretive assumptions about inquiry, it was possible to conduct qualitative and quantitative research, whilst still holding to the epistemological positions of each perspective. The issue of the researcher being a neutral observer versus someone who co-constructs meaning with the interviewee was addressed, given that the participants responded to a specific questionnaire about meaning-making in the previous study using Cognitive Intentions, designed by the researcher.

The use of qualitative research methods to collect and analyse data has increased in popularity since the turn of the century as they give more room to participants to answer in terms of what is important to them (Strauss & Corbin, 2006). The most common method is the interview (Mason, 2002), including audio recordings, video and photographic data (Dicks, Mason, Coffey, & Atkinson, 2005; Mason & Dicks, 2001; Pink, 2007; Rich & Patashnick, 2002; Silver, 2011; Woods & Dempster, 2011). Mason (2002) identified three variations of qualitative interviews: in-depth, semi-structured and unstructured. These operate from the perspective that the interview should: “ensure that the relevant contexts are brought into focus so that situated knowledge can be produced” (Mason, 2002). It has also been claimed by Mason (2002) and Charmaz (2013) that many researchers utilise interviews as a primary data collection method inappropriately. However, the semi-structured interview is best suited for obtaining more descriptive insights (Bogdan and Biklen, 2003). By exploring the perceptions of individual interviewees, it was possible to obtain multiple in-depth perspectives on the use of Cognitive Intentions and their awareness of them, within a more naturally occurring discourse as the focus was on the thinking of those being studied (Merriam, 1998). Qualitative data in the form of interviews is often called “rich” data as they offer complex relationships within, and the management of the data is nuanced and challenging (Gilbert, Jackson and Gregorio, 2014, p222).

As the current study was looking at the way the individual created and gave meaning to endogenous, socially-derived experiences using a new theory of constructed development, a qualitative approach was employed (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998, p.8). The study was interested in the how and why of this construction (ontology) from within the group being studied, and their level of awareness of this construction (their epistemic stance), hence the constructivist/constructionist approach (Charmaz, 2003). The previous four studies employed a quantitative approach where representations of the participants’ worldview were symbolised numerically (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1999). The current study also investigated the context, as it was considered essential to the process of discovery (Heppner, et al., 1999, p.246).

Kvale (1996) points to seven stages of conducting in-depth interviews: thematising, designing, interviewing, transcribing, analysing, verifying, and reporting; of which face-to-face interviews are the most common. In order to identify variables within the theory being explored in the previous questionnaires, an interview technique was deemed appropriate (Cohen and Manion, 2000). This was intended to understand the lived experiences of the participants (Seidman, 2013). A semi-structured interview was used in the current study as this best-fitted with the study’s own philosophical position (Roulston, 2010). Unstructured interviews can generate enormous amounts of data with little relevance to the study (Kvale, 2007). It was necessary to remain as close to the questions as possible whilst uncovering the depth of the participant’s experiences (Gibson, 2004) hence semi-structured interviews were chosen. This would allow a negotiation of interpretations, and an exploration of the construction of meaning (Charmaz, 2013) which was an epistemological requirement of this fifth study.

The interviews were purposely semi-structured to allow for probing of participants’ opinions and perceptions, to examine feelings, thoughts, opinions and experiences (O’Reilly, 2017). This was important when exploring subjective meanings that participants ascribe to the given concepts (Cognitive Intentions). This was particularly useful when in conjunction with an assessment instrument, such as the Identity Compass used throughout this research (Pfaffenberger, 2007).

The transcribed interview output was analysed using a thematic analysis according to Braun & Clarke’s (2006) methodology. Thematic analysis is a poorly demarcated yet extensively used qualitative method (Boyatzis, 1998) within psychology. A thematic analysis should be seen as a foundational method for qualitative analysis as it is considered a generic skill within research (Holloway and Todres, 2003). In this sense, it could be considered not only a method of analysis but also a tool to be utilised across different methods. A thematic analysis is a flexible and useful research tool, capable of providing a rich and complex account of the data, which can be independent of theory and epistemology (Braun & Clark, 2006). This makes it compatible with the constructionist paradigms within the current study.

Constructivism sees the world as being internally created via constructs. As the Cognitive Intentions described in the previous 4 studies could be considered endogenous constructs (internal models), it was appropriate here to investigate their use in the interview process. Social Constructionism emerged from a sociological attempt to come to terms with the nature of a shared reality, where we build our internal models in a pseudo-shared way with others in our society (Berger and Luckman, 1967). From an education perspective, Piaget described Constructivism as the internal process a student uses to construct their unique system of knowing, whereas Papert (1991) expanded on this to describe Constructionism in terms of helping a student produce constructions that others can critique. Consequently, in the academic arena, Constructivism is more cognitive and Constructionism more physical. The methodological approach to the current study attempted to elicit the interviewee’s mental constructions of their self (constructivism) and world (constructionism) using Cognitive Intentions.

In order to encourage participants to clarify some responses, probing questions were utilised (Rubin & Rubin, 1995) and to explore core experience based on the cognitive shortcuts (Seidman, 2006).

Research Design

Stangor (1998) offered a succinct definition of research design as the specific method researchers use to collect, analyse, and interpret data. The objectives of the research usually dictate the design (Burns & Bush, 2006). As it is almost impossible to interview hundreds of participants for a study, the appropriate research method for a small number of interviewees was qualitative (Greenblatt et al., 2004). The specific research objectives of this study were:

  • To explore the lived experience of each participant from the perspective of Dynamic Intelligence. Primary data was gathered in study 4 and their Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response was hypothesised. These interviews will aim to identify similarities and differences between the two scores of the self-report questionnaire and the Identity Compass profile.
  • The study aimed to begin to understand how participants make meaning out of the Cognitive Intention uses explored in the interviews. Interview data is situated, and thus contributes to the construction of the self and the world ‘co-constructed’ through the interviews.
  • This study also aimed to examine, through detailed analysis of the transcribed data gathered through interview, the level of self-awareness of the participants, and to compare to study 4’s self-report TQ scores.

It was demonstrated in studies 3 and 4 that individuals are not aware of their habituated Thinking Styles, and the current study aimed to investigate this assumption with direct experiential evidence from the interviewees.


All 55 participants of study 4 were solicited to participate in the current study, with ten volunteering, of whom three were male and 7 were female. The predominance of the volunteers being female was interesting in that it follows a general trend in females being more open to this particular kind of enquiry (APA, 2006) and more engaged than males (Staton-Tindall et al., 2007). Further to this, Laske (2015) suggests that only a person above a certain stage of his developmental model would firstly, be aware they need to grow, and secondly, be capable of seeking out said growth. Every effort was made to ensure the population had no known bias. Due to the nature of the group from where some participants were recruited, there was a propensity to be familiar with Cognitive Intentions, which was evident in the output. Their suitability to participate was restricted to those participants who had previously successfully completed the self-report questionnaire and the Identity Compass comparison profile (chapter 6, study 4). Willingness to participate as well as availability were also factors. Participants in the current study spanned a range of TQ levels, and thus a range of self-awareness as depicted by the self-report score. See Table 7.30.

The names are fabrications to aid reading the results. There was no ethnicity data other than two participants being Scottish, the rest English.

Table 7.1: Participant Data

ParticipantTQ ScoreSelf-Report ScoreDifferenceAgeSex
Abigail 12.732.630.1067Female
Bernie 23.273.30-0.0335Female
Charlie 32.702.600.1040Female
Alan 43.603.400.2042Male
Brian 53.593.250.3446Male
Deborah 62.602.530.0746Female
Evie 73.033.13-0.1041Female
Frankie 83.032.770.2646Female
Gloria 93.253.31-0.0652Female
Callum 102.832.90-0.0734Male

Their ages ranged from 34 to 67, however this was not considered a factor in either the recruitment and selection, nor the output from a differentiation perspective. Laske (2015) has suggested that those under the age of 40 (forty) lack the requisite experience that would propel them to his Stage 4 (self-authoring). From a Constructed Development perspective, the age of the participant was not a factor in their level of self-awareness, as studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that self-awareness is measurable at any age, from students upwards. This will be addressed in the Discussion based on the findings.


All interview questions were derived from the results of the two previous questionnaires, with a view to understanding how and why the participant scored the self-report questionnaire (study 4) the way they did, and their opinions on the comparison to the Identity Compass output. See Appendix 9 for a full list of questions. The structure of the interview was led by the questions (below) and the results of the self-report questionnaire. For example, where one interviewee had scored 50% for their self-report score, and 50% for their Identity Compass score, they were asked specifically how they knew they utilised that Cognitive Intention (e.g. Internal) precisely.

The questions were written whilst considering the recommendations of Kvale, (2007) who suggested that researchers’ questions are kept clear and concise using a variety of question types. He also emphasised the importance of silence to allow participants the time to reflect. Seidman (2006) and Polkinghorne (2005) recommended beginning interviews with mission-defining, contextual questions. Although these were all standard recommendations, the manner in which the participants were questioned relied upon them knowing their scores to the self-report questionnaire and the results of their Identity Compass. The researcher emailed the participant their scores, so each had their data in hand during the telephone interview. With this information, the participant was able to answer the questions, with the actual results for both the self-report and the IC output in hand. The questions devised for this study are below.

The first empty space in the first two questions allowed for the insertion of the relevant Cognitive Intention, e.g.: [Abstract]. The space adjacent to ‘Time’ was to insert the time within the interview that the researcher asked the question for ease of recall in the writing-up process. The interviewer had some latitude to probe and explore supplementary questions in response to what were deemed significant replies (Bryman, 2004). Kvale (2007) also encouraged the use of indirect questions, which the interviewer utilised. Both Laske (2008) and Kvale (2007) advocate listening as the key sense for developing understanding and themes in order to follow up intelligently.

Seidman (2006) emphasised the intention that no phenomenological study would be complete without asking: “What else?”. This study made use of this concept by asking each interviewee:  Do you have any questions for me?


A hermeneutic research perspective was adopted, which is defined as theoretical by Crotty (1998) and as a methodology by Lincoln and Guba (1985). This was used as it was important to understand the whole as a function of its constituent parts, and to understand the constituent parts as a function of the whole. This is called the hermeneutic circle (Reason and Rowen, 1981). The ‘whole’ being hypothesised as the participant’s Thinking Style, and the constituent parts being the Cognitive Intentions. Hermeneutic phenomenology is focused on the subjective experience of individuals in order to discover how they experience their world via their own stories (Kafle, 2011).  Phenomenology is effective when studying a small number of interviewees (n=10) to identify the core of their experiences in relation to the research question (Creswell, 2003). It is also useful to look for the patterns that meaning-making produces as we build new knowledge (Moustakas, 1994).

All participants were interviewed for approximately 30 minutes. As each was a telephone interview, the audio was recorded using a smartphone (iPhone 8 Plus) with the written consent of each participant (see Appendix 4). Kvale (2007) recommends recording the interview to allow the researcher to focus on the content and maintain the dialogue, whilst its essence was being captured automatically. By doing so, the researcher captures the interviewee’s representation of the conversation and their experience, thus enhancing rigour within qualitative research (Tobin & Begley, 2004). As each interview was unique, due to the dynamic of the researcher/interviewee interaction, the quality of the responses obtained from each might vary significantly (Kumar, 2005). Some notes were taken by the researcher in order to aid transcription and accuracy, however, it was purposely limited as per the question set above to allow the researcher to focus on their answers.

To continue participant anonymity, each was assigned a nom de plume as seen in Table 7.30. All interviews were transcribed by an independent professional company. This ensured a minimum standard of transcription where no point would be omitted due to potential bias by the researcher. Each was then proof-read by the researcher and analysed.

Analysing and Synthesising the Data

As per Bertaux, (1981), the first few interviews uncovered a wealth of perspectives that overlapped and also opposed each other. By the tenth interview, patterns were emerging in the language and the thinking of the interviewees. Guest, Bunce, and Johnson, (2006) discovered that saturation can be reached with as few as 12 interviews, with meta-themes appearing within 6. While the idea of saturation is conceptually useful, it offers little practical guidance for estimating sample sizes necessary for conducting quality qualitative research and the definition has become blurred, making the term problematic (Guest et al. 2006; Mason 2010; Janice & Morse, 1995).

All ten transcripts were loaded into Nvivo and themes were analysed based on the assumptions of the questionnaire output. These assumptions were tested on two transcripts, and a coding framework consisting of themes and sub-themes was developed. All ten transcripts were then subjected to the same theme analysis. Where a theme did not fit with the existing coding frame, a new theme was created, or an existing one adapted. This was especially true of the themes titled ‘Cognitive Intentions’. Also, negative case analyses were used to check that developing themes accurately represented the data (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007).

Once the qualitative data were collected, transcribed and read through, the transcripts were coded which, according to Creswell (2007) involved deconstructing the texts into 5 to 7 chunks and reconstructing them in a more meaningful way. A more deductive approach to coding was necessary in the current study to convert the interview responses into a quantifiable form in order to test the hypotheses carried over from studies 3 and 4. This involved open coding where the chunks of text (words, phrases and so on) were assigned a shorthand code that constituted what this researcher understood to be the meaning behind the comment. Constant comparison techniques were used to ensure the coding was grounded in the data.

Hermeneutic-dialectics is the process by which meaning is ascertained and then compared and contrasted in situations, which according to Guba and Lincoln, (2001) is at the heart of constructivist enquiry. The hermeneutic-dialectic methodology aimed to produce as sophisticated a construction as possible (Guba, 1990).

Classifying, Coding and Condensing

According to Saldaña (2013): “a code in qualitative enquiry is usually a short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data”. [PAGE NUMNER]

It was necessary to use coding to develop categories where common clusters of meaning-making facilitated the analysis of the connections (Miles, et al., 2014). The meaning was not necessarily contained within the words, but by virtue of the choice made to utilise that word in context (Bliss, Monk, and Ogborn, 1983). Coding also acts as the link between the data and the idea or hypothesis, which was specific in the current study (Miles, et al., 2014).

There are a number of ways to code text, depending on the result needed to be achieved. The current study focused on descriptive coding, in vivo coding and pattern coding. In pattern coding, the language used is coded for similarities, differences, frequencies and causation (Hatch, 2002). The number of codes utilised in a thematic analysis differs between researchers. According to Charmaz (2006), more codes reduces the chance for bias, whereas Friese (2012) recommends 120-300 codes in total; others such as Lichtman (2010) suggests 20-100; Creswell (2013) starts with 5-6 provisional codes.

The themes established in the interviews were included due to their connection to the self-awareness questions of study 4 (chapter 6) (Auerbach and Silverstein, 2003).


Five overarching themes were developed from the data, and twenty sub-themes as derived from the questions in study 4 (chapter 6; see Table 7.31). The results of the semi-structured interviews using the questions listed above supported the research question: how self-aware are participants of their Thinking Style? and the objectives due to the fact they were designed to qualitatively reflect the quantitative findings of the previous four studies.

Table 7.2: Emergent Themes from the interviews

 Experiential Awareness 
 Feedback Awareness 
 Lack of Awareness 
 Risk Awareness 
 Therapy Aware 
Evidence of TheoryDirection of Intention 
 Estimation of Self-Awareness 
 Specific Question for Awareness
Level ThinkingLevel 2 Thinking 
 Level 3 Thinking 
 Values-Based Response 
Cognitive IntentionsAbstract / Concrete 
 Global / Details 
 Individualist / Team Player 
 Internal / External 
 Options / Procedures 
 Sameness / Difference 
 Towards / Away From 

The questions mirrored the suggestion in the data that the participants were not aware of their construction of self, using Cognitive Intentions. The interviews were designed to determine if this lack of self-awareness was specific to the use of Cognitive Intentions as constructions of heuristics, or if other factors emerged from the thinking styles of the interviewees.

‘Awareness’ was used as an over-arching theme that linked to the other themes to highlight where the interviewee demonstrated awareness of their thinking using a particular Cognitive Intention. For example, where one knew they used an ‘Internal’ heuristic, this was coded as ‘Internal’ and ‘Awareness’. The same principle applied when an interviewee demonstrated a lack of awareness. Their vignette was coded as ‘Internal’ and ‘Lack of Awareness’. This allowed for a distinction between those who used ‘Internal’ with and without an Intention. Where an interviewee had an awareness of a thinking style by virtue of previous therapy, this was not aligned with the ‘Awareness’ theme, but instead, a new theme was coded and called ‘Therapy Aware’, to offer a distinction.


Experiential Awareness

Ignoring the meta-themes of Awareness and Lack of Awareness, the most prominent theme that emerged from the interview data suggested that experiential knowledge was key to an interviewee’s level of self-awareness. Tacit knowledge of over-worked patterns and habituated thinking styles showed that the main factor in self-awareness was not an awareness of how the participant thought, but of having experienced the activity previously, and aligned it unconsciously with the relevant Cognitive Intentions. In this example, Deborah demonstrated that in a given situation, she looked for ‘Sameness’ and also an element of prior experience in order to make sense of the situation:

I think for all of these things I look at the example in the question, the scenario it gives you, and I think, have I been in that scenario?

Alan matched past behaviours to his thinking style in order to gain an awareness of how he would react in the moment:

How do I know? Pattern of behaviour from the past, to be honest. If I reflect on my past behaviours…

Deborah worked with Cognitive Intentions in her daily work, albeit known by a different name (meta-programmes as per the literature review) and was aware of how she thought in accordance with the CI’s. When asked how she knew what she knew about her CI use, and the combination of them, Deborah’s response was directly applicable to the Language and Behaviour profile system that utilises CI’s in a more simplistic way:

I explain the LAB criteria a lot. There is [sic] all the Lab criteria, we use about five of them, and I spend a lot of time trying to give people examples.

The LAB Profile was created by Bailey (1979). This was a potential bias on her part, however, some of the participants were selected from an online group that specialised in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and thus some elements of Cognitive Intention familiarity was inevitable. Abigail, when asked how she knew she was ‘Detail’-oriented replied with an experiential example:

I know from managing other people. I know some people cannot see Detail, and some cannot see the big picture.

When asked about her Thinking Quotient score and how it was aligned to the Identity Compass output so closely, her response regarding this matched level of self-awareness was to emphasise previous work on herself:

I think I’ve done a lot of work on myself. Long before I did the NLP training. But before that I’d done consciousness classes and raising awareness for women and meditation. All things that raise your self-awareness.

Frankie demonstrated an experiential awareness over time when asked how she knew she adopted Sameness and Procedures as shortcuts in her thinking at work. She recognised it was useful (to her) to perform the same procedural task in a report-writing context:

            I have observed myself doing that over the years.

The experiential awareness theme was not limited to behaviour. Individual Cognitive Intentions were also evidenced in this way. Evie recognised her ‘External’ bias was derived from her work environment and her need for feedback:    

Because the type of work I do is I work on my own and I know that I need to get feedback from people when I have delivered a piece of work.

Gloria recognised her use of ‘Global’ as a driver for her thinking construction:

Yes, it is, but it’s also a big canvass, it’s the way I work, and pieces that go to bigger projects and… There is some detail in it, but actually, it’s [mainly global]…

When probed further about her use of ‘Global’, the open questioning led on to her use of ‘Options’ and ‘Procedures’, as she was extremely ‘Options’-oriented. She again gave an experiential awareness response:

I’ve failed at a lot of things like that and also… Yes. And so, I really wasn’t very good at school, wasn’t very good at exams.

Gloria then aligned this failure at school with a failure in her business based on her lack of capability to change from an ‘Options’ heuristic to a ‘Procedures’ heuristic:

…but actually, when it comes to implementation and consistency and things like that, that you get measured for, that would often be the area that I’d get my downfall,

Although this was not necessarily the case, it was deemed not the researcher’s place to influence her Cognitive Intention use at this stage, as the interviews were for data gathering, not remedial interventions. This point was further exacerbated when Gloria was asked about her use of ‘Internal’ and ‘External’, which were about her locus of evaluation. Gloria scored ‘External’ at 15%, with the Identity Compass scoring it at 70%, which was balanced with ‘Internal’ at 75%. This demonstrated a distinct lack of awareness for ‘External’. When asked about this discrepancy, Gloria responded with an experiential awareness:

I don’t know. That is that… Internal, I suppose, is it experience more than anything? Life experience as well in terms of I’m doing a good job? Because I’ve been in this business for such a long time, I know I’ve been in different roles in it. But I feel very confident around this business, around what good looks like. I don’t know, that…

From an ‘Abstract’ and ‘Concrete’ perspective, Gloria explained her use of ‘Abstract’ by linking it to her experience in her current role, again in a negative frame. When asked how she knew she was more ‘Abstract’ in her thinking, she replied:

Oh because… Well, I know my thinking is chaotic at times. I’m full of loads of bloody ideas, and some of them quite off the wall… Particularly in business I have really pissed people off in the past massively because it’s like… You know, I get told, oh, you’ve got chaotic thinking. These ideas are a bit whacky and that kind of thing.

However, she clarified her point with a calmer rationale:

And actually to me it’s like, well, they’re not. It’s just this is around trying to not always do things the same. It’s around, we need to have some different thinking here.

This last vignette demonstrated Gloria’s need for ‘Difference’ which was potentially the more ‘chaotic’ part of her contextual thinking. Her score for ‘Difference’ was high when compared to ‘Sameness’ which demonstrated a need for constant change. This need was influencing her working environment to the point she could not change her thinking ad behaving. This was evidenced in her reinforcement of this experiential awareness when she stated:

I’ve been called a change junkie or a change agent. My last boss said that. And sometimes I like change for change sake because it’s disruptive. Yes.

Deborah gave examples of the methods she used in a work context to evidence her Thinking Style. When asked how she knew she was ‘External’ and ‘Procedural’, she gave a description of her process:

In that case it’s usually because I have spent far more time than most people cross-checking my facts. I’ve checked all of that. So I’ve absolutely checked them… Core research is subjective at the best of times, but if 50 people out of 51 have said it, it’s probably right. And I have looked at … all the respondent differences and I know that they’re right and I’ve put it in a way that I think is clear… But I’ve usually checked it and checked it and checked it and read it out loud a couple of times and I’m usually relatively confident in it when I send it.

Finally, Brian emphasised the need for greater self-belief in a work context by virtue of his experiential awareness. His perspective that leaders who are successful have a lot of self-belief manifested in outward behaviours, which was where their personal thinking and behaving was incongruent unless they could, in a work context, extol the virtues of a greater self-awareness:

…because I’ve become more self-aware, that I need to be actually, once I understand what my abilities are, then I can be confident about my abilities. See, I go along and I don’t realise what my abilities are.

The current theme of Experiential Awareness also tied in with an element of Therapy Awareness and Feedback Awareness. Therapy Awareness will be discussed as the next theme.

Therapy Aware

This theme referred to a common occurrence in the interviews where a participant demonstrated a particular awareness of their Thinking Style based on the fact that they had had prior therapy of any kind. Their belief was that they were more aware than average because of their therapy interventions:

Callum: I’ve had these things before like CBT and counselling and that, kind of, thing. And ACT as well, and I’m very aware I’m, I’m trying to trade in these kinds of things of, you know, choosing reactions rather than just having the reactions and not having the control over it.

However, Callum recognised that in order to progress, one must work at the therapy interventions:

And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s a long journey and it takes a lot of practice, but I find that … where I’m just very, very busy, or when there’s a lot of mental attention that has to go elsewhere, I don’t have as much to spend on being self-aware in the moment.

When asked if he could stop doing what he was doing in order to focus on his self-awareness, he responded with: “I don’t think I could”. However, this could be described as a meta-awareness and will be explained in the next theme. This ‘therapy awareness’ was reinforced by Gloria, who stated:

I’ve started to be, only in my recent years through stress management, be more aware of it. I had some counselling last year because I am my own worst enemy as well…

This therapy experience led to the belief that the individual was more aware than the average person, which can be seen in Table 7.30 where Callum scored higher in his self-report score than his Identity Compass score, counter to the norm. He also said:

            I definitely feel that I know myself fairly well.

However, it will be demonstrated later that Callum was often surprised by various outcomes and thus not as aware as he thought he was. Interestingly, his level of awareness did extend to being aware of his limitations, except he was unable to make any cognitively constructed changes to influence his manifest behaviours. These are discussed throughout this chapter.

Lack of Awareness

The main findings of study 4 were that individuals had a lack of awareness of how their thinking is deconstructed using Cognitive Intentions. Further to this, all participants had a lack of awarenessof their level of awareness (meta-awareness). This was meta-to the question set and demonstrated that by not being aware of their level of awareness, they were technically unaware. Laske (2008) referred to this as a person’s epistemic stance: how they know what they know about their thinking. In terms of Constructed Development, this meta-awareness forms the foundation for their Thinking Quotient score. This implied that interviewees had a measurable level of awareness and unawareness. Examples of how this meta-awareness manifested are discussed next. Frankie emphasised this perspective several times in her interview, but none more so clearly as when she said:

What I am saying is that I don’t think that I am that self-aware. Or I’m not as self-aware as I’d like to be!

Logically, how could she know she was not as self-aware as she would like to be without being aware of her self-awareness in the moment? What had to be true for her epistemological position?

Abigail thought she interacted with teams well in her role. However, the outcome of the Identity Compass profile demonstrated she was an ‘Individualist’, preferring to work alone. This lack of awareness stemmed from her use of ‘Internal’ and ‘Own’. She had a self-belief that she was a team player. Regardless of whether she preferred to work in teams, she believed she did it well, thus demonstrating an ‘Internal’ perspective and lack of awareness of her CI use:

I like to think of myself as a really good team player, but what I actually am is a total Individualist. This is quite funny.

This belief propelled her behaviour in as much as an unconscious bias towards team work could, however, as stated, the belief stems from a different habituated Cognitive Intention.

            I thought I was a good team player…

What Abigail had done over time was to create a coping strategy (heuristic) for team playing due to her discomfort at being in a team and having such a strong Individualist personality.

Let me give you an example. I usually get into hospital a bit early and go through the forms. If the counsellors haven’t filled them in correctly, I usually do it for them. Then, when I get home, I usually email them to say they’re forgetting to fill in the forms, or something.

Because I just feel like a nagger, I try and email and say, how’s your week going and wrap it up a bit. And when I go to team meetings, they all say to me, I love getting your emails. I’m going to make more mistakes so I get more emails.

On a deeper level, in her role, she demonstrated a lack of awareness of her need to push her agenda on to her clients, regardless of their individual needs:

…when I’m working with clients, I want to empower them and I go to a lot of trouble that they feel it’s their session, not mine…. because I’m passionate about people feeling empowered. Because I want them to buy into it. I want to be clear, if we haven’t got a plan, how can we know we’re getting there? I want them to think this is my plan.

Looking at the quote objectively, there was an element of fakery and control in Abigail’s behaviour habituated over time through experience. This lack of awareness at this level of role operation was potentially damaging for her clients as it forced all clients to use Abigail’s preferred Cognitive Intentions of ‘Procedures’, ‘Sameness’ (she treated everyone the same) and to the same process, ‘Internal’, ‘Own’ (my ideas are coming through, not theirs) and ‘Activity’. The final one was about doing and getting the job done. However, without recognising that the ‘job’ was different for everyone, Abigail negated a personal approach and thus ignored the Cognitive Intention use of each client. An ‘Options’ client would feel uncomfortable with the process and potentially default on it relatively quickly.

From a feedback awareness perspective, once Abigail’s Thinking Style had been uncovered, she was aware enough to then recognise her need for personal interventions:

So I think I’m probably fairly self-aware, but then I feel like we were talking about getting narked by people doing stupid stuff… it is a total waste of energy. And I’m not going to do anything with it… I could do something with that.

Bernie did not recognise herself in one aspect of the Identity Compass profile and her personal belief about how she constructed her thinking was almost diametrically opposed to the profile output:

[the] Concrete bit, because none of that resonates with me whatsoever. So, I wouldn’t necessarily feel that I need facts and figures to get these right.

However, when it was pointed out that her IC score for ‘Concrete’ was 95% and her own score was 15%, her response was to say that she thought she was really poor at doing ‘Concrete’-type thinking. The fact that she then over-compensated for this in the questionnaire demonstrated a distinct lack of awareness of this particular Cognitive Intention. She purposely skewed her results in favour of a bias she knew she did not use based on a belief she was not good at using it. As mentioned above, for Bernie, her level of ‘External’ validation superseded her perspective of self, and this score was derived from other people’s perception of her capacity to utilise ‘Concrete’. The implications here were that an ‘External’ individual will behave in an organisational role differently to an individual with a more ‘Internal’ perspective, and thus affect behaviour as well as thinking. This change in behaviour will be investigated in the Discussion section.

A lack of awareness can also have an effect in a negative way. Brian was far more balanced in his approach to thinking about his thinking, however, had such strong personal beliefs about his perceived lack of capacity that he articulated a much less-balanced approach.

Yes. I think that’s the problem, because I’m so risk-averse, that it takes me a long to [make a decision]…

However, his Identity Compass score for ‘Towards’ and ‘Away From’ showed balance, suggesting he was capable of choice in his risk awareness. Brian’s perspective actually stemmed from his ‘External’ Cognitive Intention use, that propelled him to believe what he was told about himself:           

Yes, okay, risk-aware. But, I have been told that I am, because of my negativity, that makes me more risk-aware. So, I’m looking for risk, I actually look at problems.

In reality, he was looking to mitigate risk, not look for risk. With regards to his scores for ‘Sameness’ and ‘Difference’, his self-report scores were almost matched to his IC output. However, when questioned on this, he expressed a balanced perspective, which was his lack of awareness of his balance:

It’s like anything, you get that feeling of excitement. Something new. But, sometimes I don’t want to do new things, because…

Brian’s articulation of his thinking was balanced: sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. However, his thinking about his thinking adopted a more negative frame and propelled him to consider his manifest behaviours as negative.

Other ways in which an interviewee was considered unaware was in their self-report score for the individual Cognitive Intentions. The most unaware scores are in Table 7.32 where it can be seen that an individual was off their IC score by a wide margin. As was seen in the previous study (chapter 6) the difference between the Identity Compass output and the self-report output was marginal, yet not insignificant.

Finally, from Table 7.32, the principle that emerged was the TQ score was predictably greater than the self-report score, as was discussed in study 4. For the current study, this gap in their TQ score was considered a measure of their self-awareness and, whether balanced or disparate, could be observed in the way they spoke about their thinking, which was a point made by Cook-Greuter (2010) in the literature review. There was, however, no discernible correlation between those who scored highly on the TQ and those who did not, and their self-report TQ score.

Table 7.3: Example IC & IC-SR Comparison

ProfileInternalInternal SRTQTQ SR


Evidence of disequilibrium in the form of Cognitive Intention interventions was demonstrated by a number of interviewees. This supported the hypothesis that emerged from the quantitative data in chapter 5 that growth is only possible by disrupting existing Thinking Styles (Dunn, et al., 2010). The quantitative data supporting this hypothesis can be seen in Figure 7.16 which demonstrates the dimension 1-3 opposition.

Figure 7.1: Disequilibrium in the form of Cognitive Intention pairs

The principle here is that a therapist is using disequilibrium in the form of Cognitive Intention pairs to help their client with their issues, without consciously calling them CI’s or necessarily aware that this is their process. A number of interviewees articulated this in their interview, and without going into any therapy detail, their comments and an explanation are listed below.

Brian: …I have to be reassured by other people [External]… to make sure I’m doing it right [Procedures]… I need to trust my own opinion, my own point of view [move to Internal].

Brian:  What I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to look, before I help other people [Caring for Others], I want, I need to help myself first [Caring for Self].

Abigail: So, I need to be standing back [Observer] and thinking, is this my stuff or not [Own]?

            Abigail: I caught myself doing Individualist, Internal…

Finally, the theme of intervention awareness merged with a generic feedback awareness, which will be discussed next.

Feedback Awareness

This theme was derived from the immediate effects of the interviewer relating the information about the interviewee’s Cognitive Intention use and proved to be useful in the moment. Charlie was forthcoming with her thoughts on her feedback awareness in the moment and how she could take it forward to generate choice in her responses:

That’s my point. Because this is what this is all about. We know you’re external and we know you are caring for others more so than yourself. And now you’re made aware of it, what behavioural changes have you made? And I’m hearing that you’ve made behavioural changes. AL Yes. DA The next step is to do that in the moment, to catch yourself. AL I see what you mean, so that it becomes more in the muscle. DA Yes, so that you can choose in the moment.

Yes, rather than choose almost retrospectively and go, oh, I noticed that…

Yes. And I think that’s what happened in the meeting. It must just have been couple of weeks ago where I thought, I suppose the thing is I would then stop doing it at all, but what I’m doing is I’m noticing it and I’m referring to it as over-affiliating and I’m stopping it. But in some ways the next step is just not to be doing it at all.

When asked how she would ensure this awareness was taken forward, her response was to demonstrate immediate awareness: I think probably a bit of pausing in the moment.

Callum had had a prior meeting with the researcher where it was pointed out that his perspective was a ‘Details’ perspective, not ‘Global’ as he had thought. This was borne out in the Identity Compass profile, and the realisation was articulated by him thus:  

It is details, yes. And, you know, it’s as well, actually I did think about it a little more after we’d had that conversation and I did… I am details, but the global thing is, sort of, different…  I thought, initially I think I just said I was global, because, because I’m very generalist [in his role], but I realised that’s not quite the same thing.

He extended his thinking in the intervening time between meetings and concluded that he was more ‘Detail’-oriented than he had initially thought. This was due to an innocuous comment in a previous meeting that propelled Callum to take part in study 4 to determine his self-awareness, and study 5 to explore it:

So, I think that’s probably what I was more thinking about, but I did, I did agree, so between us having that conversation and me taking this, I did rethink about it and I did agree that I was probably more details.

Charlie again, was specific about the benefits she saw:

I think only because of the new awareness because of the profile. I don’t think I had the awareness of the extent I was doing it before, but I now have and it’s quite fascinating when I caught it.

but what I’m doing is I’m noticing it and I’m referring to it as over-affiliating and I’m stopping it. But in some ways the next step is just not to be doing it at all.

This last realisation led Charlie to recognise the benefits from a Dynamic Intelligence perspective in the form of her Dynamic Responsiveness, which supported the objective from study 3 that the greater one’s awareness in the moment, the greater their capacity to respond at choice:

            Yes. I suppose actually giving myself a chance to respond rather than react.

Finally, Alan had a similar breakthrough in his awareness after a previous feedback session 18 months prior to the current study’s profile. Initially, he had not been happy with the feedback. He did not agree with it at the time as his score on the Thinking Quotient scale had been lower than he had hoped or anticipated. This in and of itself was indicative of his lack of awareness, and thus validated his low score at the time (3.1); however, his second profile came out a substantial amount higher (3.6) due to a focus on personal growth and development in the intervening time. During the current study’s interview, he expressed this growth as a reflection on his feedback:

It’s interesting because I have to say I have internally and intellectually been a little bit at odds with some of your opinions towards this. But actually, as we talk and I understand better and I see how some of this stuff relates, it’s starting to make a lot more sense to me. I’m far more on board with it.

The profile output was validated by a number of interviewees who, having gone through the feedback with the researcher, recognised their character, their thinking and their behaving in the data. Deborah said:

But at a general, a macro level I definitely recognise the sorts of things I would say about myself… Through the answering the questions, no, but talking to you about the questions, very much so…

This vignette also supported the notion that discussion about the profile output in a qualitative way was far more valuable as a reinforcer of the lived experience of the participants than data alone can offer (Kvale, 1983, p.174). From a thematic analysis perspective, (Braun & Clarke, 2006), these articulations allowed for a generalisation of the abstract theory of Constructed Development from the ten interviewees on to the wider population as we saw the patterns replicated between participants despite none of them knowing the others. This was also an analytical method for validation of the construct favoured by Creswell (1998).

One of the reasons for an interviewee’s objection to making changes in how they think stemmed from their level of risk awareness. Risk awareness was categorised (in Maus, 2019) as the difference between a participant’s score for Towards and Away From. An individual pre-occupied with goals (‘Towards’) and achievement (‘Achievement’) and effectiveness tended to be blind to the nature of how they acquired this heuristic (Cook-Greuter, 2013). Almost every interviewee demonstrated an awareness of this particular heuristic to some degree. Some more than others:

Charlie: I think I tend to know I’m risk averse in that I would ensure for everything

Brian: Yes, that’s one of my biggest downfalls, I overly risk averse.

Brian:  Yes. I think that’s the problem, because I’m so risk-averse, that it takes me a long to [decide]

Brian:  Yes. Because it takes too long to make decisions, that’s my point. Because of my risk assessment of everything, I take too long to make split-second decisions.

Deborah: And most examples I look for in my life I am risk averse and I don’t like change. I don’t like new things very much.

From a qualitative perspective, there were other evidences within the interviews that supported the objectives that emerged from the data. They were interesting in their own right as it was relatively straight forward to support the hypothesis from the quantitative output of the Identity Compass profiles, however, to hear it from the mouths of the interviewees opened up the concept of Constructed Development to potential refutation, or further support. This evidence will be discussed next.

In Support of the Theory

Repeated Construction of Self


Frankie demonstrated a very important aspect to her self-construction when she said:

            I have observed myself doing that over the years…

What she meant was: I construct my thinking in this way repeatedly over time in order to maintain consistency in my self-identity. She supported this position when discussing her need to interject in meetings where the chairperson is predominantly ‘Procedural’ (the opposite of her ‘Options’ pattern) and she recognised that her need to question everything was habitual. When asked if she were capable of not interjecting to question the chairperson’s thinking, she responded with:

…I think it’s such an intrinsic part of my character that… I do it because I realise I have to do it. It causes me an enormous amount of stress [if not]

This brief pattern will be investigated in the Discussion chapter regarding how an individual constructs their Thinking Style in the moment in the manner in which they have always constructed their thinking in order to maintain consistency in their self-awareness and thus avoid cognitive dissonance regarding who and how they are. This was essentially a lack of awareness of how one construct’s their thinking in the moment, and was thus an habituated pattern out of awareness. This was addressed by Chater (2018) and Feldman-Barrett (2017) in their respective works.

Direction of Intention

When an interviewee had an awareness of their Cognitive Intention use, albeit it to a lesser or greater extent than their Identity Compass score, there was also the direction of this intention to consider. For example, where one knew they were more Internal than External, this mirrored their Identity Compass score for this CI pair, (e.g. 75/65) making the direction of this particular intention towards Internal. The current study aimed to discover if or how the interviewee knew they had this particular bias.

            Callum knew he was Detail-oriented, so when probed about how he knew this, he immediately linked it to past experience, as per the previous theme:

It comes from, just thinking back to when I was doing my undergraduate degree, and going back to my Masters degree, it would always be the kind of details that I was really good at. So, if it was an exam question that was going into detail about a very specific topic, I’d be really good at it…

Not only did he know he was good at Detail, he knew it as a function of being bad at ‘Global’:

but if it was an exam question that said can you compare and contrast this number of different things at a more, kind of, global level, I would always find that a bit harder.

When applied in context, his response to knowing how he does ‘Detail’ was to ground it in experience. Callum’s direction of intention thus linked to the previous theme:

But it’s me knowing that eventually I’m going to have to produce something that talks about transformative learning and be assessed on it, I’d want to know the details and I won’t be satisfied until I do.

When asked about ‘Abstract’ and ‘Concrete’, Callum also knew to a greater degree that his thinking was ‘Concrete’ (see Appendix 2 for definitions of CI’s). His IC score was 95% and self-report score was also 95%. Callum’s response to the question of how he knew this was to compare ‘Abstract’ to his answer for ‘Details’ and link it to his experience in his current role:

Again, it’s a similar, sort of, these kinds of things I’ve mentioned, you know, detail oriented and evidence based all, kind of, stitched together into what you described there as a scientist mindset. It’s basically who I am, and I’ve had to recognise that and mill that to get as far as I have in the studies I’ve done.

This was an identity statement (‘I am…’) which could be interpreted as indicative of how deeply the unconscious use of Cognitive Intentions goes when constructing one’s ‘self’ in the world. However, when probed about his use of ‘Towards’ and ‘Away From’, despite attaining the correct direction of intention, Callum was asked if it were possible to use ‘Towards’ rather than ‘Away From’ purposely: can you choose to do Away From in the moment? to which he responded:

You know, I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can because I’m thinking about, if I imagine a time when I’m being very towards and very goal orientated, it’s been because I’ve had a lot of, maybe support there or I’m in a particularly, sort of, confident period. And when I’m using the more away from, it will be the inverse of that, I might be in a particularly, sort of, strong self-doubt period, and often I can’t control that.

Again, this formed part of Callum’s identity where he stated his identity was in doubt and he lacked the control to alter his perception.

            Charlie reinforced this perspective with ‘Abstract’ when asked how she knew that her direction of intention was more towards ‘Abstract’ than ‘Concrete’. She replied with an Experiential Awareness:

I have always, I suppose I find it difficult to imagine things, so to look at things… Particularly in a work context I automatically almost just go to facts. Facts and figures. Which is partly my job.

With a further probing question, Charlie recognised that by virtue of the specific demands of her role, she knew she had to be more ‘Concrete’ in her Thinking Style. Facts, figures, who, where, when and how were all facets of her role complexity, and it influenced her Thinking Style immensely.

From a ‘Towards’ / ‘Away From’ perspective, Charlie knew she was more ‘Away From’ which meant she was risk averse. She attributed this awareness to having undertaken some Neuro-Linguistic Programming training (NLP) and went on to explain how she knew this direction of intention:

I think I tend to know I’m risk averse in that I would ensure for everything. I have a central heating boiler plan because I hate the idea of getting an unexpected bill.

When it was explained that a common marketing principle also uses an ‘Away From’ pattern to capture the Thinking Style of the potential customer, such as “away from illness”, Charlie knew this:

Yes, and I would definitely pick up on that. I’d go, oh, that’s a risk, so therefore I will… it is getting away from ill-health more than being towards wellbeing.

When questioned on her awareness as a factor of her NLP training, Charlie knew she had issues with being overly External. When asked if she could change this direction of intention in the moment due to being ultra-aware, she responded with:

I can, yes, but I think only because of the new awareness because of the profile. I don’t think I had the awareness of the extent I was doing it before, but I now have and it’s quite fascinating when I caught it.

This tied in with the Feedback Awareness theme as discussed previously.

Evie relied on feedback forms as part of her business to gauge how well she was performing. This was an ‘External’ locus of evaluation and one which Evie was comfortable with as a Cognitive Intention:

So I hand out a survey at the end of the workshops, there’s only a few questions, people fill it out. But I know that that is hugely important to me to get that feedback.

When asked if she understood that she was essentially allowing other people to gauge how good she was, she replied:

            That’s exactly right. Exactly right. I need other people to tell me.

When asked if she were capable of gauging her own sense of achievement, and purposely choosing to be ‘Internal’ in her locus of evaluation, her response was interesting:

That’s one of those questions that go to the pit of my stomach because there’s a fear associated with that for me, that if I knew… Plus there’s a kind of level of arrogance associated with that I think for me.

This, again, could be construed as an identity statement. Evie perceived an Internal locus of evaluation as arrogance and would not want to be seen displaying this, especially in a work context. ‘To be seen’ is also an External frame.

Alan knew he was more ‘Internal’ than ‘External’ and also knew he was at choice, which married to the “Evidence of Theory” theme. When probed as to how he knew this, and how he achieved the same direction of intention as the profile scores, his response was a higher-level understanding of the facets of his own thinking:

It would be a complex mix of factors, if I’m honest. It would depend on my perception of the other person’s authority, a perception of how much I should be trying to influence the situation versus accept it, on a spectrum. You evaluate it in the moment. It’s like, how much should I be trying to push this? How much do I care? Versus how much am I here actually just to provide an opinion that people can take or not at all versus push my ideas.

This was clear evidence that this individual either had training on Cognitive Intentions, had experience of NLP and thus had exposure to CI’s, or was simply very aware of his own Thinking Style. When probed deeper as to his epistemology, his response was ‘Internal’, ‘Observer’, ‘Own’ and at choice:

Yes, I am. One thing I think that maybe has changed, I am better at observing myself these days… And actually, one of the methods that I use of observation is I’m more aware of what’s going on in my body. I sense and feel a lot more and are able to pick up those signals and use those in…

When questioned about his awareness of his use of ‘Global’ and ‘Details’, from the understanding that he was much more ‘Global’, Alan’s response was to focus on the size of the information coming in:

My natural inclination is to chunk down. I want to start a big picture and then fill in the details. That’s my natural inclination. And that works in any projects that I work on. I want to understand what the broad brush is and then I’ll go in and then I’ll fill in the details. That’s certainly a preference for me.

This also formed part of his Experiential Awareness as his occupation was as a project manager.

Conversely, Gloria preferred to demonstrate how she knew she was more ‘Global’ than ‘Details’ by focusing on what she did not like about her work environment. This is an important distinction as it allows for the same outcome (Global thinking) except with a different direction of intention. Particular attention is brought on the distinction between an interviewee being Towards Global as opposed to Away From Details. When asked how she knew she achieved the direction of intention towards Global thinking, as per the Identity Compass profile, her response was:

Yes. I get absolutely frustrated in trying to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, and for any project work or anything I usually zone out and literally deselect myself in that stage of the project. And actually, if we get too embroiled in the detail of implementation I will be constrained as well [inaudible] my idea because I’m just bored of it by that point. It’s like, oh my God, I’m still talking about this, I would have done it by now.

The Cognitive Intention that drove the above vignette was ‘Activity’ where the participant demonstrated a desire to get on and do something (I would have done it by now). It was not asked if she were aware of this driver.

Other interviewees reinforced this perspective when asked how they knew what they knew about their direction of intention in their thinking. Bernie knew she was goal-oriented (Towards) and evidenced it by grounding it in the opposite Cognitive Intention by saying:

It doesn’t make sense to me, as to how you could go towards achieving something if you’re going to be risk averse to everything, and worried about it not working.

When asked if she could make an immediate change in her Cognitive Intention use based on perceived risk, Bernie replied with:

Yes… I guess because I have to. I guess that’s the nature of the role that I’ve done… If it was part of a bigger project perhaps, and I’d have to then suddenly change everything because of it coming up, and we’d done a lot of work on it, that would be frustrating. But I wouldn’t not do it. I think it’s the right thing to do, to get to the end goal.

This was then linked to her value system that emphasised the need for utility:

I guess, where I would struggle is if I can’t see what are the benefits… because I could see no benefit to what we were being asked to do, and the way we were being asked to do things… If you can explain to me why this is helping us to be better with the business, I will 100% get behind it. But right now, I don’t see it, I don’t get it, and therefore it’s really tough to get behind. So, I guess that would be an example where actually, for the first time in my career, I probably felt that I wasn’t… What was it called, Towards? Forwards? Not really looking forwards.

A question that arises from the above statements was one of meta-awareness. Does knowing one cannot choose a particular Cognitive Intention counter to their habituated bias constitute a meta-awareness? An individual has an awareness of the bias, and then an awareness of their lack of choice. The outcome (Dynamic Responsiveness) remained the same; however, knowing it was superfluous if the end behaviour cannot be changed at choice. This lent itself to supporting a positive response to the research question that emerged from the literature review: does Dynamic Intelligence exist as a conceptual measure of self-awareness in the moment? The participant’s inability to choose ‘Away From’ as a Cognitive Intention (bias) and their understanding that they were incapable of choosing ‘Away From’ was a measure of their Dynamic Intelligence. It demonstrated that although they were aware of their Thinking Style, they were not able to choose to respond differently, which was the premise of the concept and the phenomenon measured by the Thinking Quotient scale. The premise is illustrated in Figure 7.17. This implied that an individual at TQ2.5 was capable of noticing their limiting biases, however, was unable to change them. This was a significant result.

Conversely, someone at TQ4.0+ will notice and be able to change their bias in the moment. A way to achieve this change in direction of intention would be the use of interventions. These will be discussed next.

Figure 7.2: The Four Pillars Flow (Simplistic)

Charlie demonstrated how her evaluation of her situation always occurred retrospectively, which aligned with the Zone of Dynamic Development introduce in the previous chapter.

Figure 7.3: The Zone of Dynamic Development

The interviewer explained the concept of Dynamic Intelligence using the DI Awareness Model (see Figure 7.19) introduced in chapter 6, which indicates that the closer to the ‘Now’ one is when retrospectively noticing either Thinking Styles or one’s Responses, the higher their Thinking Quotient score. However, the more able one is to predict the outcome of an encounter, the more facets of their thinking they are relating in the moment, and thus have a higher Dynamic Intelligence, resulting in an even-higher TQ score.

Figure 7.4: Dynamic Intelligence Awareness Model

Abigail demonstrated her lack of Choice in her Responsiveness by acknowledging she had the awareness that she was employing a futile behaviour (a Details heuristic) but lacked the capacity to change it despite this awareness. When asked how she knew she was performing this limited behaviour, she responded with an experiential awareness:

I know I’m doing it because I get narked [annoyed]… But I don’t feel able to go back to them and say, if you just changed the margins…

When confronted with the developmental question of: can you change this response in the moment? she replied:

Erm, no!

However, with further probing about her thinking and behaving, her response was to grasp the consequences and understand the need for a Cognitive Intention-based intervention:

            So, I need to be standing back and thinking, is this my stuff or not?

Deborah verified she accepted the profile for what it was: a reflection of her thinking in the moment:

So what do I take from this? What do I do as a result of this? What did this mean about who I am and how I deal? Just a lot of stuff to think about. I could definitely recognise myself in it.

Gloria rounds up the efficacy of the feedback process within the interview after hearing how her Thinking Style had unconsciously influenced her occupational roles, organisational movement and career progression by stating:

            That’s my career choices you just summed [up] if you look at my CV.

The reason she felt this was evidence of her career in general was due to the interview process emphasising her Cognitive Intention use being accurate for her Thinking Style that demonstrated greater ‘Towards’ thinking as well as greater ‘Difference’. When combined, she could demonstrate boredom in some cases. This conformed to the work of Csikszentmihalyi (1990) who coined the phrase, bore-out:

If I think about… I have got bored and left and in one situation I was overwhelmed, I took on too much. It was too big and I burned out and then left.

Finally, Deborah summed up the whole process succinctly by acknowledging that as one progressed through the Dynamic Intelligence process to construct their awareness differently, growth was made possible by understanding everything is constructed:

You start to notice the nuances. It’s almost like a virtuous circle. I mean, the more self-aware you become, the more self-aware you can become.

Stage-Based Thinking

As was demonstrated in studies 1 and 2 (chapters 3 and 4), the alignment of the Thinking Quotient scale with Kegan’s (1994) Levels of Adult Development was evidenced in the responses given by the participants in the current study. In other words, where the TQ scale reported a participant’s score as ‘3’ in line with Kegan’s “Socialised Mind” stage 3 thinker, the following comments by the participants demonstrated this stage in their choice (or habituated pattern) of language.

Here is a brief exposé of these stage-based patterns by various interviewees that demonstrated individuals were capable of thinking at different levels of development within one interview frame:

Level 2

Abigail: It’s nice but if it comes down to the crunch, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

Abigail: I know I’m doing it because I get narked.

Gloria: I am quite sort of black and white on certain things.

Callum: …preparing something is quite often making sure that nothing is wrong

Level 3

Abigail: because I’m passionate about people feeling empowered…

Bernie: actually, everyone says I’m not good at this stuff.

Charlie: because I’m external and, quite external and I’ve been told repeatedly that I need to stay…

Brian: And I have to be reassured by other people, to make sure that I’m doing it correct.

Callum: I will quite often need the guidance of people to tell me that I am on the right track…

Deborah: Thinking about all the examples of ‘Externalness’, and actually I do lack confidence in quite a lot of things. I do something, but I’m not sure. … Maybe I’ll just let someone else look at it.

Evie: That’s exactly right. Exactly right. I need other people to tell me.

Level 4

Bernie: I guess, where I would struggle is if I can’t see what are the benefits [values-based judgement]

Charlie: Quite honestly, I’m not really motivated by either the carrot or the stick.

Alan: It would be a complex mix of factors, if I’m honest. It would depend on my perception of the other person’s authority, a perception of how much I should be trying to influence the situation versus accept it, on a spectrum. You evaluate it in the moment.

Brian: Yes, depends on who’s telling me, if I accept the information.

Deborah: Apart from things like where does this take our brand, where does this take our company…

Gloria: …hang on a minute, how is this actually providing any meaning or purpose to where we’re trying to get to in terms of vision?

As mentioned in the literature review, Siegler & Crowly, (1991) theorised that there is extreme variability at all times at all levels of thinking. Although they were referring to children, the above quotes demonstrate that at any one moment, an adult is capable of thinking along the spectrum from 2 to 4 (of Kegan’s scale), and yet be unable to live at the higher level permanently. This aligned with the findings of Fischer & Bidell (2006) who pointed out that individuals operate over a range of levels depending on context, domain, emotional state and more (p.163). However, as was also demonstrated in the current study, under conditions of stress, high fatigue or interference, a person will regress in their developmental thinking, thus limiting their capacity to perform (Reams, 2014). With this evidence, it is hypothesised that if an individual were capable of visiting TQ4, albeit temporarily, then it would be possible with the use of Cognitive Intention interventions to progress their thinking vertically more permanently. This will be addressed in the Discussion chapter (8).


The majority of interviewees in the current study had sophisticated perspectives on their self-awareness. It was mentioned in chapter 6 that self-awareness was limited in the study population; however, the current study’s findings alter this perspective somewhat.

 What was interesting was even though one might have known they had a particular Thinking Style, as per Scheer’s (2003) perspective on adult cognitive structures being relatively stable, their capability and capacity to act on this knowledge was limited. Only after various forms of feedback were they then able to address any inconsistencies in their thinking, whether that was from a therapy perspective or developmental perspective.

As a result, an important theme to emerge was one of meta-awareness. The principle advocated here corroborates the quantitative findings in study 3 that demonstrated in the factor analysis (Table 5.24) those Cognitive Intentions in factor 1 were opposed by those in factor 3, which were described as supporting Piaget’s (1987) ‘disequilibrium’ theory, Ashforth, et al. (2008)’s ‘Identicide’ phenomenon and Laske’s (2008) stage 5 representation of disequilibrium as a factor of growth. For Brian (interviewee 5), the move from ‘External’ to ‘Internal’ thinking was an intervention that disrupted his habituated heuristic and forced him to consider ‘Internal’ in opposition. This rethinking equated to cognitive change according to Piaget (1970); accommodation, and a greater self-awareness in Dynamic Intelligence terms due to the resultant increase in the participant’s Intention, Awareness, Choice and capacity to Respond in the moment. These form the four pillars of Dynamic Intelligence, as per the research question, mentioned in chapter 6.

As was referenced in the previous study, Harney (2018) pointed out that just because something becomes an object of awareness does not mean it is automatically integrated. The current study goes some way to demonstrating this observation.

Metacognitive Perspective

This section links the current study to the ideas within the literature review in order to reify the results and recognise the output as significant from a metacognitive perspective. Nelson, Kruglanski and Jost (1998) demonstrated in their review of metacognition that the various sources of information made available when one tries to assess their self-knowledge (and knowledge of others) only really provided the ‘raw materials’ which then require interpretation in light of other implicit theories. This strongly contradicted the notion that we are in control of our thinking and behaving. The current study supported this hypothesis in that the majority of interviewees, although found to have sophisticated awareness of their Thinking Style, had very little control over their capacity to respond in the moment. The ‘raw materials’ mentioned by Nelson, et al., (1994) could be considered the Cognitive Intentions described in the current thesis. This would then conform to the notion that what we think we know is a result of a complex construction process (Lories, et al., 1998) of, in this case, Cognitive Intentions. This capacity to construct our thinking will be discussed further in the Discussion chapter (8). A similar principle was examined by Elliott & McGregor (2001 PAGE XXX) who found that students’ thinking was carried out on an intuitive level: “…students do not instinctively operate in a metacognitive manner”. This was also true of the adults interviewed in the current study, with the evidence being their awareness was generally increased by the feedback process. Their meta-awareness was still lacking.

According to Sternberg, metacomponents are responsible for “figuring out how to do a particular task or set of tasks, and then making sure that the task or set of tasks are done correctly” (Sternberg, 1986b, p. 24). These executive processes involved planning, evaluating and monitoring problem-solving activities. It was mentioned in the literature review that what was not clear was how a student knows how to evaluate their task in relation to the context and themselves. The current study identified differences in how thinking was constructed in different contexts, and as such, Sternberg was not aware of Cognitive Intentions (specifically as heuristics) and thus could not take them into account when constructing his theory. From the findings of the current study, it was apparent that a number of interviewees had different Thinking Styles in different contexts. Interviewee 2 (Bernie) developed a metacognitive strategy to compensate for her lack of ‘Detail’ in her thinking. However, this was only true for her in her work context. Interviewee 1 (Abigail) would often say no to activities that produced more work for her in a work context, but had no problem doing things for friends outside of work. Finally, interviewee 10 (Callum) knew that his patterns were context specific: “…in your current position what other thinking styles do you use, which is not necessarily going to be the same as if I was doing something else…”.

‘Knowledge of cognition’ states what we know about our cognition (Brown, 1987; Jacobs & Paris, 1987) and includes declarative knowledge, which includes knowledge about ourselves as learners. Most adult learners know the limitations of their memory and can plan an appropriate action based on this understanding. However, the current study has demonstrated that it was not so much a ‘plan’ as an habituated thinking shortcut, embedded over time. This linked to procedural knowledge which is knowledge about strategies and procedures. Again, this was demonstrated here to be an embedded process habituated over time as the best form of action intention.

To form coherent thinking strategies requires self-reflection, and analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a student’s learning style, encourages and reinforces independent study (Loehlin, et al., 2014). From Figure 5.8 it can be demonstrated that differing levels of the TQ scale offered different levels of self-reflection. Loehlin et al., (2014) did not consider cognitive complexity or self-awareness in their studies, but had they included them as facets of their methodology, their results might also have been different.

This principle extends to other disciplines, such as personality, profiling, general intelligence and stage development. Stage development will be discussed next. Personality and profiling will be discussed in chapter 8.

Given the contextual nature of the interviews in the current study, and the manner in which the thinking of each interviewee was deconstructed using Cognitive Intentions, it was conceivable that CI’s could be considered a facet of metacognition according to the definition by Kostons and van der Werf, (2015) and Thurstone, (1938) who stated that metacognitive knowledge was when the learner acknowledges awareness of learning or perceives his or her style of learning. The current study demonstrated how an interviewee was aware of their strategies for learning and behaving, but not able to change said strategies, even after receiving standard therapy. This aligned with the ideas of Brown (1987) and Flavell (1979).

As mentioned in the previous study, Cleary, et al., (2012) commented that with awareness comes a higher level of thinking where the individual recognises their awareness and seeks to repeat the action in question in order to synthesise the thought process. It was argued here that the current study demonstrated this metacognitive perspective was not necessarily true for adults.

Finally, the literature pointed to the learning strategies of students. However, the adults in the current study have demonstrated the same principles espoused by Nelson and Narens, (1990) regarding metacognitive regulation and their realisation that a strategy used in a work context was not working, thus the adult learner chose another strategy. Except in the interviews discussed here, the adults demonstrated they were capable of knowing their strategies, but not capable of changing them. Thus, it is suggested here that this is a form of metacognitive regulation, albeit with a lack of choice in one’s capacity to respond in the moment.

This was extended to the principles of Constructed Development based on the phenomenon of measuring one’s awareness of this metacognitive knowledge in relation to the Cognitive Intention usage by the Thinking Quotient scale.

Stage-Based Perspective

As mentioned in the literature review, the concept of stages is somewhat contentious. Also mentioned was that research on the fluidity of movement between stages can focus on either transformation or transition. However, there is no reason to use stages as the de facto measure. It would be equally valid to ask about developmental phases, levels, cycles, layers, seasons and so on (Levinson, 1986). Thus, by using Cognitive Intention combinations, it was demonstrated in the current study that it was possible to move an individual’s thinking vertically by offering greater choice in their response. In other words, the most important contribution of the Constructed Development framework is that it is offering a ‘thing’ that can be changed (CI) which produces ‘transition’ and eventually ‘transformation’.

With this in mind, the current study goes some way to supporting the Thinking Quotient scale derived from the level of awareness of Cognitive Intention use in studies 1, 2 and 3, with study 3 validating the approach via quantitative means. The current study showed that the TQ scale was indicative of an individual’s level of awareness, and as such, offered a means of increasing this awareness in the moment by the manipulation of the CI’s within one’s thinking. It was stated in the literature review that this thesis was interested in the transition between these stages of development as the explanations of Loevinger & Blasi (1976) as well as Commons (1984) or Kegan (1982) did not actually specify what has changed in order to demonstrate growth. This then was simply an offer of the ‘what’ of transition. Were an individual capable of changing their use of ‘Internal’ or ‘External’ in relation to the other, then their level of awareness of both increased, which could only lead to a different way of being in the world due to a new, more balanced perspective where once they were limited. This new construction of self allowed for a new construction of meaning and thus a new map of the world (Korzybski, 1958), conforming to Crotty’s (1998) perspective on Constructionism, contingent upon human interactions and transmitted in a social context such as academia. Further to this, it is argued that each CI acts as a ‘shell’ in microdevelopment terms. They are the tangible ‘bridge’: the ‘object’ that moves for adult thinking, in terms of Granott & Parziale’s (2002) perspective.

Lourenço (2016) suggested it is necessary to have stages in order to have the heuristics for mapping development on a continuum. To paraphrase Voltaire (1768), if stages did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. The preceding four studies have shown that it is possible to have growth in one’s thinking as a direct result of awareness-raising, without the need for stages, despite the labelling of the combination of Cognitive Intentions as a scale.

The nativist approach attributes development to maturation of innate abilities (Gesell, et al., 1940). Although seen specifically in language development (Chomsky, 1965; Fodor, 1975), the themes discovered in the current study supported this approach (experiential awareness theme). Other researchers align an individual’s actual experiences as the driver for development (Gottlieb, 1991; Scarr, 1993), which was also a theme in the current study.

Cognitive complexity, as mentioned in the literature review, was represented in adult stage development by its defining features (Crockett, 1965): cognitively complex individuals have a breadth of schemata that allowed them to see a spectrum of possibilities between two fixed perspectives, thus they can pull from a greater resource list when interpreting situations. They were also more able to make deeper inferences and develop alternatives to existing strategies when predicting outcomes (Burleson and Caplan, 1998). The current study has demonstrated that using the combination of fifty Cognitive Intentions in the construction of cognitive themes offered an almost infinite number of schemata on the spectrum of possibilities, thus aligning the theory of Constructed Development with cognitive complexity more explicitly.

Loevinger’s ego development model, for example, stated that personality structures can evolve (Dweck, 2011) and that this was affected by social dimensions, such as environment, in line with Vygotsky. Environment was key to understanding how a person constructs themselves in the moment, determines their unconscious intention and responds accordingly as individuals are capable of constructing themselves differently depending on the context (Cook-Greuter, 2010). To sum up the Constructed Development perspective on environment, it would appear from the findings that it was the greatest intervention.

With the above in mind, the evidence from the current study suggested that although this appeared to be a facet of metacognition and constructivism, the simple fact that a guide to an individual’s construction was offered by way of the fifty Cognitive Intentions suggested it was not strictly metacognition, but a merging of the fields of metacognition and stage development, thereby creating a new psychological endeavour, referred to throughout as Constructed Development. This new field has the capacity to inform not only stage development, but also thinking and personality.

Taking into account the section in this thesis on essentialism, where it outlined the issues with naming a “thing” and acting as if it were real (in psychological terms), it was important to understand how a participant deconstructed their thinking based on the hypothesised framework of Constructed Development Theory. The data in study 3 supported the principles, however, it was important to ensure it was also supported in the lived experiences of the participants. In other words, where the researcher had renamed Meta-Programmes to Cognitive Intentions and devised a benchmarking tool to validate the idea of Thinking Styles (the TQ), it was imperative in the current study to determine that participants actually utilised those CI’s in their (un)conscious thoughts, in order to support their measurement with the TQ and the overall theory. The findings of the current study more than adequately supported the use of Cognitive Intentions by interviewees, Thinking Styles and Constructed Development as a measure of self-awareness in the moment.

Finally, as mentioned in the literature review, in his book, Science and Sanity (1958), Korzybski tells how one constructs one’s reality based not on what is real, but on our map of our perceived reality, and this model is executed largely unconsciously. The findings of the current study offered qualitative support for this theory in the responses of the interviewees, and further support in the use of Cognitive Intentions being used to map their intention unconsciously. This was further reinforced by the use of different combinations of Cognitive Intentions for each individual to construct a different map of the world. Thus, reality is not based on stages, but on the combination and construction of cognitive shortcuts! This will be discussed further in the next chapter.

Establishing Trustworthiness

Reliability refers to the extent to which research questions can be reproduced. In social research, Denscombe (2002) emphasised that two main questions need to be addressed when trying to determine reliability: Is the data valid, and are the methods reliable? From a constructivist perspective, and to align the current study with similar reliability as the previous four quantitative studies, the researcher ensured credibility by triangulating the data. This was achieved by validating themes that emerged with more than one source, such as all transcribed interviews (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). By doing it this way, it ensured more accurate and authentic outcomes (Silverman, 2006).

To increase conformability (objectivity), the researcher endeavoured to control for bias by constantly obtaining multiple viewpoints regarding the same emergent themes (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), as well as evidencing negative instances of the phenomena, and checking and rechecking data (Marshall & Rossman, 1989).  As Nowell, Norris, White and Moules (2017) explained, the credibility of the research process is questionable if the thematic analysis is not sufficiently rigorous. In contemporary social science, the term validity refers to whether a method examines what it intends to examine (Zikmund, 2000). The term construct validity (Cronbach, 1971) concerns the social construction of knowledge, or to the measurement of theoretical constructs, such as “intelligence and authoritarianism, by different measures; it involves correlations with other measures of the construct and logical analysis of their relationships” (Kvale, 2002, p. 22).

Strengths and Limitations of the study

The current study captured an in-depth understanding of how individuals constructed themselves using Cognitive Intentions, the levels of awareness one might have of this construction, and the potential for interventions based on the CI’s. This adds a considerable contribution to the research on self-awareness by the addition of a new scale (Thinking Quotient) for measurement of self-awareness, as well as the new interpretation of what was previously called ‘Meta-Programmes’. The methodology allowed interviewees to develop their opinions (Kitzinger, 1995) which was felt to be important to both the researcher and the interviewee. Qualitative research also places a degree of interpretative trust in the researcher, thus care was taken to minimise any potential for bias.

The number of interviewees falls within the range of sample size for a qualitative study. However, it is possible there might be a degree of under-sampling which implies there are other lived experiences that the current study did not identify.

A final limitation in the current study was interesting as it illustrated the principles being investigated in the thesis: the self-awareness of the interviewer (his Dynamic Intelligence). If the researcher were not sufficiently high on the TQ scale to notice the patterns of the interviewees, he would miss potentially important information offered by an interviewee. This might lead to misinterpretation and the incorrect message in the transcripts. Conversely, should he be too high, he might not be able to relate to the interviewee and be too unattainable in his approach.


The current study has provided support for the substantiation of the theory that Cognitive Intentions are heuristics in our thinking and are used with minimal awareness until such a time as they are made explicitly aware.

Very little prior research has investigated how individuals deconstruct their thinking using Cognitive Intentions, and those that have, did not use the hypothesised Constructed Development framework (Intention, Awareness, Choice & Response) as a guide to understanding how individuals think in context, whether they are aware of their intention, and if they can choose to respond differently in the moment. This should therefore be considered a major contribution to the field of stage development psychology, as well as offer a platform for substantial research on personality theory as a function of Constructed Development.

The current study demonstrated a meta-awareness in as much as each interviewee verified the findings of the factor analysis in study 3 (chapter 5) by evidencing that each was aware of their habituated Thinking Style, aware they could not change it, and some were even aware that they were aware of this lack of capability. The ramifications of this trilemma will be discussed in the main Discussion in chapter 8. However, suffice to say it has the potential to impact the entire field of psychological talking therapies by offering a new CDT foundation for psychological awareness and growth not currently used in context by traditional therapists.