CPP Career Group Analytics: High performance cognitive profiles across career groups

By Christoff Prinsloo and Maretha Prinsloo on December 23, 2019

© 腾龙 郭/ adobe.stock.com



This study involved a number of investigations regarding the stylistic and information processing preferences and capabilities of candidates from various career groups who showed high levels of performance on the CPP. Normalized-Standardized T-scores (NST-scores) were used here, with ranked scores used for the analysis of the styles, and the scores themselves used for information processing preferences.


Analytics Sample Information

Again, somewhat homogenous groups were selected in terms of age, educational level and educational field. From these samples, only the top 10% in terms of CPP performance were selected. The goal was to determine whether qualitative versus quantitative aspects of information processing prevail across career groups. Significant differences between top cognitive performers across groups may indicate that educational and work experience largely shape a person’s cognitive approach to problem solving. A lack of differentiation between groups may indicate that top cognitive performers on the CPP, across the career spectrum, capitalize on similar cognitive competencies. The group information is provided in Table 1.

Table 1: The career group samples selected


The results below reflect the top 10% in terms of cognitive capability on the CPP. The analyses were done in terms of both cognitive style as well as information processing competencies (IPCs) as measured by the CPP. Ranked Normalised-Standardised T-scores were used. An analysis of the cognitive style preferences of the top 10% of candidates, indicated almost no significant differences between the stylistic preferences and small differences in terms of information processing preferences of various career groups.


Cognitive Styles

Two examples of the many tree structure representations generated, depicting the stylistic preferences of Lawyers and Accountants (older), appear below in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Figure 1: Tree structure representation of the cognitive style preferences of the top 10% of Lawyers


Figure 2: Tree structure representation of the cognitive style preferences of the top 10% of Accountants (older)


The results of the tree structure analyses of the Cognitive Style and Complexity preferences of the top 10% CPP performers from the various career groups can be interpreted in the following way:

  • Almost all those in the top 10% (on CPP performance) achieved a current Tactical Strategy SST level of work orientation or higher, which means that in terms of the unit of information utilized, they preferred to work with tangible systems (Tactical Strategy level) and/or dynamic systems (Parallel Processing Level) and some even showed the capability to deal with chaos and emerging patterns (Pure Strategic level) at times. The unit of information that they preferred to work with thus indicates a tendency to deal with complex information as opposed to merely considering separate elements or linear causality.
  • Although there were some fluctuations between career groups in terms of the order of their Style preferences, the most prominent stylistic preference of the top 10% across career groups was the Integrative style. It constitutes a highly effective cognitive approach aimed at making meaning of new and discrepant information. The Integrative style involves the tendency to deal with complex, vague and dynamic information through the continuous synthesis of elements as they are encountered. Those showing an Integrative approach to information processing thus tend to explore new information according to hypotheses and metacognitively directed strategies.

Further interesting findings regarding the use of the Integrative style include:

  • An integrative approach to understanding one’s world is often characterized by an ideas-orientation; well-developed techniques to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information; as well as continuous ‘meaning making’ and thus a focus on the management of the task’s complexity.
  • Integrative thinkers tend to discard irrelevant information relatively early in the process of exploration and show a strong tendency to reinterpret and link new information to existing conceptualizations – almost as is described by Piaget’s concepts of assimilation, accommodation and equilibration.
  • The use of an Integrative style is typically and critically required in theoretical or academic research environments where discrepant information is synthesized into a meaningful and coherent whole or representation. Integration is thus a prerequisite for cognitive functioning at a Parallel Processing level of work complexity which requires model building given vague, interactive and dynamic aspects.
  • The Integrative style is characterized by a reliance on hypothesizing and the continuous verification or falsification of hypotheses to manage the task complexity. From findings in the literature it seems that only 15% of graduates actually falsify hypotheses in everyday problem solving. The rest merely tend to verify their hypotheses or jump to conclusions to avoid the uncertainty and discomfort of cognitive dissonance. Only a small percentage of graduates therefore develop an Integrative approach to problem solving.
  • The only two career groups that did not capitalize on an Integrative cognitive style as a first preference, are the Administrators and those from the Sales and Marketing category. The top 10% of candidates in terms of their CPP scores in these two career groups, applied a rigorous Logical approach to problem solving.
  • The second most commonly applied stylistic preference of the top 10% of CPP performers across most of the career groups, was that of a Logical reasoning style. Those showing a logical approach to problem solving tend to deal with analytical facts, but given their need for cognitive challenge, prefer to utilize these facts to build arguments. They thus tend to apply a rigorous, process-oriented approach and follow their arguments through to identify conclusions, implications and consequences – thereby contextualizing their conclusions. They are therefore seldom satisfied dealing with the facts only but tend to apply either convergent or divergent processes to build on the facts and take them a step further. During this process they continually look for logical evidence in a rigorous manner and are unlikely to revert to mere assumptions.
  • Although most of the top CPP performers of the various career groups showed a Logical style as a second preference and capability, the older Accountants showed a slight preference for the application of a Holistic as opposed to a Logical approach as second preference. This big picture tendency seems typical of older professionals across the board. On average, older Accountants (46+ years of age) do, however, also apply a Logical style as their third preference.
  • The third preference of the top 10% of CPP performers across career groups is that of the Holistic style. This can be described as a preference to look at the big picture without necessarily neglecting relevant details. In practice it differs from the Integrative approach in that an Integrative style capitalizes on discrepant, vague and complex information to build a new theory, model or concept, whereas the Holistic style is characterized by a generic or big picture approach and the identification of, and focus on, the core elements involved with the aim of their practical application, as is often the case in business. In addition, abstract and general language is frequently used and there is a slight resistance to descend into technicalities unless the application of a detailed element or consideration is likely to affect the big picture. The Holistic style is therefore both an ideas-driven and practical approach that can be implemented in practice due to its emphasis on core elements.
  • The fourth stylistic preference of the top 10% CPP performers across career groups is that of Learning. This approach is characterized by interest, energy, curiosity, attention, metacognitive awareness, flexibility and openness as well as the use of memory. Although the use of a Learning style is generally more common amongst younger rather than older people it therefore also seems to characterize those showing highly effective cognitive approaches regardless of their age or field of interest. This stylistic preference is becoming increasingly important within fast changing work environments where a person’s knowledge base and previous experience are not as important as their adaptability, metacognitive awareness and motivational drive to master new situations.
  • Surprisingly, the only career groups that did not show Learning as a fourth stylistic preference, were young Accountants (24 – 44 years of age) who showed a more Intuitive inclination (although the Intuitive and Learning styles do overlap); older Engineers who reverted to a highly Analytical Approach; and the top cognitively performing 10% Politicians who showed a Reflective style as a fourth preference – a cognitive style which none of the top level CPP performers in any of the other career fields showed.


Information Processing Competencies

Not only the cognitive styles of various career groups were analyzed but also the ranked NST-scores of the Information Processing Competencies (IPCs) of the top 10% CPP performers across all the career groups. Figures 3 and 4 indicate the results of Administrators and younger Accountants in this regard.

Figure 3: The information processing competencies most capitalized on by the top 10% of Administrators


Figure 4: The information processing competencies most capitalized on by the top 10% of Accountants (younger)


In terms of the ranked Information Processing Competencies (IPC’s) which characterized the top 10% of CPP performers across the various career groups, the following findings emerged:

  • Almost all the top CPP performers across groups except Politics, seemed to achieve the highest scores on IPCs indicating Learning (T44 and T15) and Metacognition (T37), thereby indicating their cognitive modifiability and flexibility as well as their metacognitive strategic awareness.
  • The top CPP performers across a number of career groups showed a marked Detail approach (T11, T17). Included are those in Medicine, Law, Finance (other), Administration, Politics as well as younger and older Engineers.
  • Of these, Lawyers, Medical doctors, Marketers, older Engineers and Politicians seem to capitalize equally on detailed (T11, T17) as well as Systemic / big picture (T18, T19) processes. In the case of young Engineers, their detailed approach (T43, T11) was combined with a Learning orientation (T44).
  • The top CPP performers in the Political career group, however, showed a strong tendency to meaningfully and holistically interpret information (T18, T19, T64).
  • Finance (other) which included Bankers, Economists and others in the financial field, was the only group characterized by the tendency to make Assumptions (T46), regardless of the fact that this entire sample formed part of the top 10% of CPP performers. It may indicate habitual carelessness and the tendency to apply a commonsense approach or to rely on their previous experience regardless of their cognitive capability.
  • Whereas the older Accountants showed a higher likelihood of relying on Systemic / Big picture (T18), Generic (T04) and Metacognitively strategic (T37) processing, the younger Accountants capitalized most on Learning (T44) and Memory strategies (T32).
  • Younger Accountants depended on their well-developed Quick Insight Learning orientation (T15).
  • The Actuarial career group applied attentive, Metacognitively directed (T37, T43), Rule-based (T10), Logical (T55) and Learning (T44) orientations.
  • Older Engineers did not rely as much on Learning as on Integrative (T19) and Metacognitively aware processing (T37).
  • Older Engineers and older Accountants, more so than their younger counterparts, also relied on Metacognitive alertness (T37) and on Integrative / Systemic (T18, T19) processes. This combination may indicate wisdom and intuition with regards to their fields of specialization.
  • Younger Engineers and younger Accountants both showed a stronger Learning orientation (T15, T44) than their older counterparts.
  • Of all the career groups, the young Accountants depended most on going about in an Economical way (T33) in dealing with unfamiliar information. They were also the one group that relied most on Memory Strategies (T32).

Again (in using ranked NST-scores) it can be concluded that the top 10% of CPP performers across career groups show striking similarities in terms of the cognitive processes capitalized upon.

The results of this study again verify the finding that effective thinkers utilize the full spectrum of thinking processes in a metacognitively directed and flexible manner and that the impact of cognitive competence (the quantitative aspect) to some extent overshadows the impact of specific career-related processing practices (the qualitative aspect) in determining cognitive preferences and habits.


Age, Educational Attainment, and SST Levels

In this additional tree structure study, groups were selected based on the following criteria: varying age, SST level, and Educational level aimed at effectively supporting cognitive functioning per career category. Normalized-Standardized T-scores (NST-scores) were again used here, with ranked scores used for the analysis of the styles, and the scores themselves used for information processing preferences.  The following findings emerged:

Table 2: The career group samples selected


Summarizing the results of this analysis:

  • As for the analyses of the groups outlined in Table 1, most of the high-level functioning individuals across the career groups of this sample again showed a preference for the application of an Integrative cognitive style which was closely followed up by Logical, Holistic and Learning approaches.
  • The Actuarial, Data processing as well as Marketing and Sales groups also capitalized on Structuring stylistic tendencies.
  • The Medical, HR, Data analysis and Research groups showed Intuitive and Quick insight style tendencies too – probably due to the many possibilities in interpreting the complex and vague information they deal with in their career fields.
  • The Actuarial group to some extent differed from all the other career groups in that they showed almost equally high scores on most of the processes measured by the CPP – indicative of both operational and strategic capability. None of the other groups did in fact show as a pronounced tendency to likewise deal with both detail and big picture information; to structure and categorize information on the one hand, while also taking a systemic or big picture perspective; to focus on facts as well as processes; to accommodate both tangible and intangible information, etc.
  • In this sample, Finance (non-accounting), Administration and Legal groups seemed to capitalize on Memory, or previous acquired knowledge and experience.

Although the results of the data from the various groups described in Tables 1 and 2 closely resemble one another, it seems that the selection of the samples is critical in identifying career specific processing tendencies.

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