Tuesday, February 25, 2020
How to Measure Wise Decision Making
Wisdom is inherently hard to pin down and even harder to justify as a practical consideration for complex decision making. But three things have emerged in recent years to put wisdom centre stage. Firstly, we are facing unprecedented threats to our very survival as a species and the standard political, economic and social decision-making frameworks are proving to be ineffective. Secondly, two decades of research into wisdom has revealed credible ways to understand, measure, and enhance wise reasoning in decision making. And thirdly, the rise of evidence-based coaching and mentoring over the last 20 years has legitimized the role of coaching and mentoring as the primary intervention for developing wise reasoning. Now, more than ever we need to deliberately coach for the development of wisdom in our leaders, before it is perhaps too late.
The problems with measuring wisdom through self-report scales arise from the inherent limits to introspection and the processes of impression management. As Professor Ute Kunzman from the Life-Span Developmental Psychology Unit of Leipzig University points out, “a wise person likely underestimates his or her wisdom-related traits and competencies and someone who reports the belief that her or she is wise is likely to be not wise”.
The assessment of wisdom-related knowledge via the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm has been the empirical standard amongst researchers in wisdom for over two decades. Experienced rater evaluations of subjects articulating their responses to a dilemma against the five criteria of the paradigm exhibits satisfactory inter-rater reliability, consistent external validity, and meaningful associations with personality characteristics.
While the multi-method approach to the assessment of wisdom may be the preferred method of investigating wisdom more comprehensively and via sources other than the individuals being assessed, it can be cumbersome and costly. Professor of Psychology at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada, Jeffrey Dean Webster argues for the utility of self-report measures on the basis that they are:
1. Focused, standardised, and quantitative.
2. Relatively inexpensive and easy to administer, code, and analyse.
3. Can be used in virtually unlimited sample sizes, which contributes to external validity.
Self-report measures capture an array of properties of personal wisdom drawn from multiple of sources. However, validity questions need to be addressed, such as: whether a component of a questionnaire is an integral feature of wisdom or a correlate; if the measures capture a unique feature of the construct of wisdom or are actually measuring some other personal attribute; that the scale measures more than just the Big Five personality traits.
The Stein Institute for Research on Ageing at the University of California San Diego have recently developed a psychometrically robust self-assessment of six components, the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE). Taken together, they represent the best approximation of system 3 decision-making. In other words, an individual scoring highly across all components might be expected to do well in wisdom-related performance tasks such as those used in the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm.
Coincidentally, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Austria, Judith Glück and colleagues from the original Berlin Wisdom group have come up with their own self-assessment of wisdom, the Brief Wisdom Screening Scale (BWSS). This is a validation of four scales from the literature, plus the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm. While there is some overlap with the more recent SD-WISE scale, these additional wisdom elements add greater depth to system 3 decision-making:
1. Self-Transcendence - The innate desire to discover meaning in human life. It is associated with experiencing a decreased reliance on social definitions of self, a greater sense of connectedness with past and future generations and considering oneself an integral part of the universe.
2. Mindfulness - The skill of bringing your attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. It is sustained, focused attention on meaningful tasks and activities. This element is necessary to balance mental activity with mental control. Paradoxically, finding mental stillness can enhance productivity and creativity.
3. Compassion - Going out of your way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pain of another and of yourself. It is recognizing others’ distress and having a desire to alleviate it, although it is also associated with fairness, justice, and interdependence. Cultivating compassion through training contributes to greater altruistic behaviour and the development of neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of others. And compassion can be measured.
My proposed self-assessment scale of system 3 decision making, the Third System of Thinking Profile (T3 Profile), includes some validated items from the SD-WISE, the BWSS, and additional items from my own research and practice. An initial scale of 36 items was formed from each of the 9 elements of wisdom (above), randomized, with positive and negative directions, scored on a 5-point rating scale.
Verified data from 114 data sets was originally tested for multivariate normality, revealing all items on the questionnaire to be normally distributed with only one outlier. The first model was hypothesized to comprise 9 latent constructs, with each construct thought to be measured by four different latent variables. The factor analysis was conducted by observing the variance-covariance matrix with full information maximum likelihood (ML) estimation on SPSS Amos program version.
Investigation of factor loadings, structure coefficients and latent covariation and correlation led to a 7-factor solution as the best model for assessing fit. However, the results of a follow up confirmatory factor analysis with more data sets suggested 6 latent constructs which could be explained by just 18 items with sufficient discriminant power. These 6 factors were labeled:
1. Focus – items relating to task attention.
2. Life experience – items from self-transcendence and openness to new experience.
3. Decisiveness – items about readiness to make decisions and readiness to give advice.
4. Compassion – items from self-compassion and insight.
5. Emotional regulation – items about controlling emotions as well as peace of mind.
6. Tolerance for divergent values – items connected with accepting others’ morals and values, insight into the reasons for one’s actions, and openness to diverse viewpoints.
The current version of the T3 Profile is a self-rating survey of these 6 factors which might best be described as competencies of system 3 thinking. High rating across all 6 competencies is hypothesized to describe an individual who has an increased likelihood of using system 3 thinking effectively when faced with a dilemma. Medium or low rating for one or more of these competencies is hypothesized to mitigate an individual’s capacity to think and act effectively when faced with a dilemma.
Ask how to get your T3 Profile here, it's FREE!