Does constructed development exist as a conceptual measure of self-awareness in the moment?

  • Darren Stevens

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In general, individuals are not aware of how they construct their thinking and the unconscious intentions behind this construction that leads to a cognitive and behavioural response in the moment. Essentially, they lack the metacognitive capacity to think about their thinking from a developmental perspective. Joiner and Josephs (2007) stated that self-awareness and intention were the mechanisms that made growth between developmental stages possible. This dissertation provides an original contribution to knowledge regarding the use of cognitive heuristics to facilitate cognitive growth, not previously seen in the literature. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the extant literature on stage development psychology, metacognition, thinking and intelligence to determine if any gaps exist from the perspective of intention, awareness, choice and response which together lead to an habituated thinking style. A further aim that emerged was to discover if a new measure of self-awareness was possible using thinking shortcuts defined in the literature review as metacognitive strategies. These were then tested across 5 separate but inter-dependent studies. The Methodology chapter highlighted certain aspects of existing profile tools that omit the underlying intention and awareness of the facets being described. Study 1 investigated the potential to use a specific methodology, including the use of Meta-Programmes via the Identity Compass profile tool to deconstruct post-graduate students’ thinking in context. Study 2 used this methodology to investigate the thinking of 177 post¬graduate students to discover if there were patterns of Meta-Programmes that were common to all participants, which would then identify particular ‘Thinking Styles’. Further to this, to determine if a benchmark tool could be created to normalise the Identity Compass profile output. Also in study 2, Meta-Programmes were reframed as Cognitive Intentions by virtue of the additional inherent factors of Intention and Awareness. Study 3 utilised a large dataset initially as a control group to either reinforce or repudiate the artefactual findings of studies 1 and 2. The findings of study 3 were significant and supported the concepts of Thinking Styles based on different combinations of Cognitive Intentions. It also supported the creation of a benchmark tool called the Thinking Quotient, and the use of the term ‘Dynamic Intelligence’, a combination of Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response, as the process on which Constructed Development Theory (CDT) is based. Study 4 investigated these theoretical four pillars of CDT via a self-report questionnaire that compared the self-report scores to the Identity Compass scores of the same 13 Cognitive Intentions to determine if awareness was present. The results showed individuals were developmentally limited. Finally, study 5 aimed to validate the four quantitative studies with a qualitative study to ascertain the lived experiences of the ten interviewees from a Constructed Development perspective. The themes that emerged from the interviews demonstrated that the interviewees both consciously and unconsciously utilised Thinking Styles as a function of their self-awareness from a Constructed Development Theory perspective.

In summary, this thesis concludes its key findings with a major new contribution to psychology: metacognition for adults. This comprises of Constructed Development Theory; the process of Dynamic Intelligence that determines one’s Thinking Style; the use of the Thinking Quotient tool as a new measure of self-awareness; the move away from stage development to a more holistic approach to cognitive growth; the bridging of constructivism and constructionism; the alignment of unconscious heuristic use to Piaget’s disequilibrium principle (1978); and finally, the use of CDT as a therapy intervention.

Overall, the findings of this thesis demonstrate that a gap exists in adult developmental psychology that can be filled by Constructed Development Theory by understanding the four pillars of CDT: Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorAndre Soares (Supervisor) & Laura Taylor (Supervisor)


  • cognition
  • cognitive
  • complexity
  • dynamic
  • intelligence
  • intention
  • awareness
  • stage development
  • metacognition
  • choice
  • response

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