Sitting in a psychology class on my Masters degree in Behavioural Psychology a few years ago, I asked the lecturer if it were possible that there is a theory of psychology out there that is the fundamental underpinning of all the other theories, and it simply hasn’t been found yet. She said no, it’s not possible. So I said it must be, and I’m going to prove it!
I considered elements of existing theory, such as constructivism and constructionism, intelligence, metacognition, stage development and stage transition and asked the question: what is going on behind the scenes? What are we not seeing that is equally important? There must be something that unites them, as any researcher in the psychology arena would tell you that researchers are blinkered by their own frames. They tend to create research and research questions based entirely in their own field. This is called “essentialism” and leads to, for example, stage development psychologists finding stages that represent development. But what if it’s not about stages?
So I asked the question again: what are we not seeing here? and the following image popped into my head.
The image above is a metaphorical representation of the principles of my ideas. It is based on the Indian folklore tale of the six blind men asked to describe an elephant, and each gives a different description depending on which part of the elephant they are feeling. What it represents here is the metaphorical construction of psychology as a whole, being described by the sum of its parts depending on which area the psychologist is expert in.
What I noticed in all the thousands of research papers I read in the many areas of psychology was that hardly any of them talked about how deliberate the individual’s thinking was. Nor was much of the thinking and behaving at choice. And finally, not many people had the capacity or flexibility to change their response in the moment based on the in-coming information.
Cognitive and social-emotional complexity (Kegan, 1994; Laske, 2008) went some way to describing levels of complex thinking, which correlates with one’s capacity to think and act at choice (at the higher levels), but I wanted to know if there was a shorter way of understanding someone’s capacity without the 3 hour interview and transcription process.
So, let’s cut to the chase. You don’t want to read my entire thesis. What I found was people utilise cognitive heuristics (shortcuts) when they think and construct their Thinking Style. But they don’t necessarily know they use them, and they don’t know they can change them. The more aware one was of their construction of their thinking using these heuristics seemed to be quite important, as it meant they were more flexible in their thinking and responding, so I investigated this for a couple of years.
As it turns out, I could measure how aware someone is of their relationship with the fifty Cognitive Intentions (the name I gave to the heuristics) that combine to create our Thinking Style. The tool I used to measure is called the Thinking Quotient™️. If someone were massively External then that meant they thought and behaved a certain way (with degrees of latitude, obviously). If they were massively Internal, this manifested in very different thinking and behaving. The 48 other Cognitive Intentions had similar effects. A factor analysis on 8,200 profiles that determined one’s use of CI’s demonstrated that different combinations of CI’s produced different Thinking Styles, and how aware we were of the relationship between them effectively mapped our level of self-awareness. The more aware you are of your CI intention in the moment, the more capable you are of responding at choice.
It was that simple! And thus Constructed Development Theory was born!
So, back to my very first question: what unites all of psychology?
I think I’ve found it, which is no mean boast. But if we consider how we construct our thinking, ourselves, our environment, our culture and so on, we impact psychological areas such as constructivism, constructionism, personality theory, trait theory, social identity, social construction, stage development, stage transition and more! Therefore I think CDT is the conduit between constructivism and constructionism, and the bridge between domain-general and domain-specific thinking.
By way of example, we could ask about trait theory: What impact would Constructed Development Theory have on the facets of OCEAN? As traits are habituated behavioural responses, and trait measures make no reference to their psychological roots, or the cognitive process that generates them, the subsequent hypothesis would be that any trait-based psychometric is representative of only the Response pillar of CDT (IACR) and should the other three pillars be introduced to the facets of OCEAN, then the output of any FFM profile system would have greater meaning due to the interjection of a measure for Intention, Awareness and Choice within the system. These are currently missing from all trait-based profile tools. This principle is a major contribution to trait-based systems.
Words such as ‘Extraversion’ become almost meaningless once you recognise the person doesn’t know how not to do it. It’s just an habituated pattern until the underlying intention is pointed out and reconstructed. With this in mind, Emotional Intelligence becomes a facet of Dynamic Intelligence as it is the awareness of the intention behind the emotion that propels someone through emotion into cognition in order to become a higher level thinker.
Another big claim, I know!
I’ll leave you with this final thought: your personality isn’t your personality: it is an unconscious habituated construction that you perpetuate every day in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and maintain a semblance of consistency! How aware we are of ourselves as constructs, and how at-choice we are at changing our response in the moment based on this awareness is our Dynamic Intelligence. So, who would you like to be today? You can construct yourself any way you choose. The important thing is: it has to be a conscious choice!