Constructed Development
Theory - An Idea

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Introducing Constructed Development Theory

by Dr Darren Stevens

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. CDT is the lingua franca of psychology, as illustrated in the diagrams below.

The flow of Constructed Development Theory looks like this:

CDT 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 these fifty Cognitive Intentions (shortcuts), the greater their capacity to respond in the moment.


CDT has a myriad of applications, from Coaching to Pedagogy.

The basic propositions of Constructed Development Theory are:

  • People actively construct ways of understanding and making sense of themselves and their world.
  • 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.
  • In CDT terms, orders of development unfold in a non-specific sequence, with each successive order transcending the previous order, but not necessarily sequentially.
  • A higher-AQ person has a different Thinking Style to the lower-AQ person and is capable of combining their Cognitive Intentions to replicate the lower AQ style.
  • Conversely, the lower-AQ 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 (More Complex Other - MCO) who can see their imbalance.
  • In general, people do not regress; once a plateau on the AQ scale has been constructed, the lower orders lose their organising function, but remain as a perspective that can be reflected upon.
  • Because subsequent orders are more balanced in their Cognitive Intention awareness, they support a more comprehensive understanding than earlier orders; later orders are not better in any absolute sense.
  • Developmental movement from one order to the next (AQ6 to AQ7) is driven by growth in the current way of identifying and constructing CI 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.
  • An individual’s AQ 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.

Dynamic Inteligence

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 choices we create in our Responses in the moment, thus, the greater our Dynamic Intelligence. For example: if you can choose to accept someone's opinion of you, this is a qualitatively better place to be, cognitively speaking, than being overly-External and accepting their perspective without critically examining it.

The Awareness Quotient

The Awareness Quotient is the tool created to measure our Awareness of the relationship between the fifty Cognitive Intentions (shortcuts) 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 our Constructed Development. And you can now become qualified to use it as a coaching and mentoring aide.

Is CDT Verifiable?

In order to be considered a verified theory, CDT must conform to a set of agreed criteria. These criteria are:

  • Consistent (internally & externally)
  • Parsimonious (sparing in proposed entities, explanations)
  • Useful (describes & explains observed phenomena)
  • Empirically Testable & Falsifiable
  • Based upon Controlled, Repeated Experiments
  • Correctable & Dynamic (changes are made with new data)
  • Progressive (achieves all that previous theories have and more)
  • Tentative (admits that it might not be correct, does not assert certainty)

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What other claims can be made for CDT?

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And this is how we answer them...

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Here is a short visual journey through the theory. If you have any questions, or want to learn more on one of our awesome workshops, do get in touch with the IAD.

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How is this research significant?

From a data set of over 8,200 profiles, Dr Stevens determined:

  • - CDT - the focus on shortcuts to our self-construction
  • - Adult Metacognition – thinking about our habituated thinking via CI's
  • - CDT is the first measure of meta-cognition via the AQ.
  • - The Four Pillars of Constructed Development – how CDT is deconstructed
  • - Dynamic Intelligence – the process by which CDT is constructed by you
  • - Zone of Dynamic Development – the adult version of Vygotsky’s ZPD
  • - The Development Onion – moving CDT away from a stage-based system
  • - CDT separates vertical growth from stage development via the Onion.
  • - Cognitive Intentions linked to Piagetian schemata – not done before
  • - Cognitive Thinking Styles – and our unconscious habituated use of them
  • - The Awareness Quotient - Measurement tool for self-awareness
  • - The Dynamic Intelligence Awareness Model – the process for DI awareness
  • - Constructed Development Grid – where one places themselves developmentally
  • - Emotional Intelligence is a facet of DI when IACR is implied
  • - CDT is the foundation for any measure of self-awareness, which is DI.
  • - CDT illustrates that ‘competence’ might exist by a different name: DI
  • - CDT is the Conduit between domain-general and domain-specific thinking
  • - CDT, as a psychological field of study allows one to become 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
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