Let’s begin with the claims made in the thesis for Constructed Development Theory. They appear to be big claims, however, each is evidenced and validated in the research and reflected in the Discussion section of the thesis. Click THIS link for the full thesis. Consider the impact on psychology as a whole as you read the list below.

  1. CDT is the bridge between constructionism and constructivism.
  2. CDT is the bridge between domain general and domain specific thinking.
  3. CDT is the “empty bridge” of stage transition.
  4. CDT can move us away from stages on to onions.
  5. CDT makes Stage transition possible via IACR.
  6. CDT is Adult Metacognition.
  7. CDT maps the facets of Piaget’s disequilibrium principle.
  8. CDT could be considered Metacognition for Adults.
  9. CDT is the first measure of metacognition via the TQ.
  10. CDT reinforces that thinking IS the task (Commons).
  11. CDT illustrates that ‘competence’ might exist by a different name: DI.
  12. CDT separates vertical growth from stage development via the Onion.
  13. CDT is the underlying reason for modularity (Fodor, 1983 & Carruthers, 2006).
  14. CDT is the foundation for any measure of self-awareness, which is DI.
  15. CDT, as a psychological field of study allows one to be a: Constructed Developmental Psychologist!

Further to these contributions, CDT can be abbreviated as such:

  • CDT reveals hidden infrastructure (algorithms)
  • CDT reveals hidden patterns of thinking (styles)
  • CDT enhances understanding of relationship between unconscious biases and responses to environment
  • CDT highlights limitations to learning and thinking and responding
  • CDT highlights interventions for improvement
  • CDT highlights interventions for personal development
  • CDT highlights interventions for development of praxis


Introducing Constructed Development Theory

Constructed Development Theory takes its name from its central premise: that self-awareness and cognitive growth are concepts that are constructed by the brain. The aim of the theory is to develop perspicacity. The flow of the theory is thus:

The Theory of Constructed Development focuses on how human beings utilise shortcuts in their thinking in order to construct their Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response in the moment. The greater their awareness of their intention based on the use of fifty Cognitive Intentions, the greater their capacity to respond in the moment.

Dynamic Intelligence is the process by which we construct our thinking in the moment in order to determine the path from (unconscious) Intention to Awareness, then Choice and finally Response. The greater our awareness of our intention, the more choice we create in our responses in the moment, thus, the greater our Dynamic Intelligence.

The Thinking Quotient is the tool created to measure our awareness of the relationship between the fifty Cognitive Intentions that are the building blocks of our Dynamic Intelligence. The score derived from this measure is one’s level of Dynamic Intelligence. This scale is the benchmark for one’s Constructed Development.



Thesis Abstract

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 might 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 (DATE); 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.


The basic propositions of Constructed Development Theory are the following:

  1. People actively construct ways of understanding and making sense of themselves and their world.
  2. There are identifiable patterns of intention-construction that people share in common with one another; these are traditionally referred to as stages, orders of consciousness, ways of knowing, levels of development, organising principles, Thinking Styles, or orders of development.
  3. In CD terms, orders of development unfold in a non-specific sequence, with each successive order transcending the previous order, but not necessarily sequentially.
  4. A higher-TQ person has a different Thinking Style to the lower-TQ person and is capable of combining their Cognitive Intentions to replicate the lower TQ style.
  5. Conversely, the lower-TQ thinker is not capable of balancing their Cognitive Intentions in such a way as to think at a higher order without guidance from a higher-order thinker who can see their imbalance.
  6. In general, people do not regress; once a grade on the TQ scale has been constructed, the lower orders lose their organising function, but remain as a perspective that can be reflected upon.
  7. Because subsequent orders are more balanced in their CI awareness, they support a more comprehensive understanding than earlier orders; later orders are not better in any absolute sense.
  8. Developmental movement from one order to the next is driven by growth in the current way of identifying and constructing awareness; this can happen when a person faces increased complexity in the environment that requires a more dynamically intelligent way of understanding themselves and the world.
  9. An individual’s order of development influences what they notice or can become aware of, and therefore, what they can describe, reflect on, and change. This process is their Dynamic Intelligence.

– Derived from Cook-Greuter (2004) in Palus, Magellan & Steadman (2016)

Where Does CDT Fit In?

Philosophical Participation

Libertarian Free Will

From a CDT perspective, the free will element only arises through choice. At the lower levels of the Thinking Quotient, there is no free will, only habituated thinking and behaving. At the higher levels, the awareness of one’s construction is the catalyst for will. This is a more nondeterministic perspective. However, this only applies in cognition, not in bodily movement.

Non-causal libertarians typically believe that free actions are constituted by basic mental actions, such as decisions or choice. CDT says the same thing but only after one is made aware of the unconscious choice. Therefore we are responsible for our thinking and behaving only at the point of awareness, which then becomes non-causal. Will is only free at the point of awareness, is my perspective.


The compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism isn’t something I think of as an issue. Being an antitheist, I see the belief in any superstition as low level thinking, and to align superstition with morality is also low level. How compatibilism emerged as a thesis is dubious as determinism prevents humans from having the freedom to do what they choose to do, which would contradict my point above.

Having done some work on morality, I would say that causal determinism precludes moral responsibility as Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response matter more in the moment. However, what you mean by ‘moral’ and what others mean by ‘moral’ renders the argument almost moot. Also remember that CDT talks of cognitive heuristics, not the gross action of choosing to vote between two political parties.


My personal viewpoint is that of a materialist monist. The mind is nothing without the physical brain. Not very New Age, but I have never heard a valid argument to counter this. Epiphenomenalism says mental events have no effects in the physical world, which is too abstract for CDT. I contest that an awareness of one’s unconscious (to conscious) Intention is to effect one’s physical world.

This is the issue: a Cognitive Intention is a heuristic created and supported over time that leads to a particular way of thinking, which would physically be a well-trodden neural pathway in the brain. With Awareness, this habituation can be selected for or against, which again, is not epiphenomenal.

Chalmers and Nagel

Nagel’s perspective on red cars (for example) is wrong. We all agree the car is red, and he states that we cannot know if your red is my red. However, red is a frequency, and your brain is constructed the same way as my brain, so your eyes see the exact same red (frequency of light) that I do. Our phenomenal experience of it is the same according to the physics.

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. How you construct your experience is the same overarching principle of how I construct mine. However, our constructions will be the difference, not the constructing. The constructing is measurable in CDT.

Main Contributions of CDT

CI's and Thinking Styles

Dynamic Intelligence is the process by which one measures their Constructed Development.

This required the understanding of certain heuristics humans use unconsciously in their construction of themselves, their environment and more. These heuristics are called Cognitive Intentions, and it is the combination of these CI’s that form an individual’s unique Thinking Style. It is often an unconscious Thinking Style as we seldom think about our construction of self.

By virtue of the exposure of one’s construction of self, the awareness that one also constructs their environment allowed CDT to become the conduit between Constructivism and Constructionism, thus cementing it in psychology and contributing to theory in a major way.

The Thinking Quotient

Once the construction of self has been established and a relative level of awareness is apparent, it was necessary to find a way to measure this awareness.

The concept of Cognitive Intention awareness is simple enough, so the definitions of the various stages of self awareness were put together in a grid. Click here. As you read the grid, where would you place your construction of self?

The Developmental Onion

The Developmental Onion takes CDT beyond the realm of stage development and illustrates how cognitive and emotional growth are possible without the need for stage-based development.

This is a major contribution to theory as it demonstrates how it is possible to increase one’s awareness of self, self-construction and choice in the moment in order to impact our world view.

Once it is understand that everything is constructed, there is no regression in awareness. The Developmental Onion illustrates this with each ring. Once a more balanced perspective is attained, then we need not relearn the Cognitive Intention: we simply need to revisit it.

Adult Metacognition

Getting adults to think about their thinking from a constructivist perspective has been around for a while. However, getting them to consider HOW they construct their thinking and thus their sense of self from a heuristic perspective is new to this research.

Children are given strategies to cope with incoming information. This led Vygotsky to his Zone of Proximal Development. CDT takes this principle and propels it to the adult arena and calls our awareness of our construction of self, the Zone of Dynamic Development based on the Onion above.

By virtue of this separation from existing stage development literature, Dr Darren Stevens created the foundations for the new field of Adult Metacognition.

Constructed Development Psychologist

Having established CDT as a bona fide theory in psychology, capable of standing up to scrutiny and to stand alone as a measurable concept, the final contribution to knowledge this research offers is the potential for an individual to become a Constructed Developmental Psychologist.

In Summary

The impact of Constructed Development Theory on both theory and practice can be summed up with the following list:

  • The creation and explication of Cognitive Intentions as heuristics
  • The creation of Thinking Styles as habituated behavioural outcomes
  • Adult Metacognition as a means to understanding adult thinking
  • Zone of Dynamic Development
  • The Development Onion
  • The Thinking Quotient
  • The Dynamic Intelligence Awareness Model
  • The Four Pillars of Constructed Development
  • The Constructed Development Grid
  • Emotional Intelligence is a facet of Dynamic Intelligence when IACR are considered
  • The process for differentiating between a client’s coaching or therapy needs
  • DI can be determined by more than just CI awareness thus cementing CDT in external research going forward

And the Value Add:

  • CDT reveals hidden infrastructure (algorithms)
  • CDT reveals hidden patterns of thinking (styles)
  • CDT enhances understanding of relationship between unconscious biases and responses to environment
  • CDT highlights limitations to learning and thinking and responding
  • CDT highlights interventions for improvement
  • CDT highlights interventions for personal development
  • CDT highlights interventions for development of praxis