New Validation Study of the Centering for Wisdom Assessment Published
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In a world desperately in need of wise leadership and decision-making that benefit all people and the common good—including our planet and natural environment—we hope that the CWA can make a small contribution to enhancing this virtue of contemplative practical wisdom.

(Bushlack and Bock, p. 21)

I’m very excited to announce that after more than five years of work, Dr. Tonia Bock (Psychology Professor, University of St. Thomas) and I have published the first validation study on the Centering for Wisdom Assessment (CWA) in the Journal of Psychology and Theology.   If you want to skip straight to the article, you can access it online at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0091647118764956. If you want to read more about the CWA in easy-to-understand language (without all the academic jargon), then please read on.

What is the Centering for Wisdom Assessment (CWA)?

The CWA is a psychological assessment tool consisting of 24 questions, each of which asks you to “rate how accurately the following statements describes your experience over the past 14 days.”  There are five possible answers for each statement, ranging from “Never or almost never” to “Always or nearly always.”

The Centering for Wisdom Assessment (CWA), is founded on the claim that every person is endowed with an innate center of wisdom—an interior space of freedom, creativity, and compassion from which wise choice and action emerge.  The basic idea behind the CWA is that although every person possesses this innate center of wisdom, we don’t always act out of that inner core of wisdom and goodness.  The more reactive a person is to various kinds of stimuli or cues that encountered throughout the day, the less capable of exercising our capacity for wise choice and action – whether that is at work, with your partner or spouse, children, or family member, or driving in the car by yourself.  I believe – and now have validation data to support this belief – that contemplative exercises such as mindfulness, meditation, or contemplative prayer can help us to respond with greater wisdom to the things in daily life that tend to set us off, that make us feel stressed, anxious, and fragmented, and therefore draw us away from our innate center of wisdom.
As I explained the concept of being “triggered” in a previous post about the CWA, “Think of our Pavlovian rush to the computer or smartphone when we hear the sound of an incoming text or email.”  Or think of that person or situation that really tends to set you off (yeah, we all have them so don’t pretend you don’t).  Any time we get “triggered” we’re out of touch with our center of wisdom.  Contemplative practices, on the other hand, tend to calmly bring us back in touch with our bodies in the present moment so that we can access that innate core of wisdom – with practice, we can learn to live consistently in a more centered (and wise) state.
The results of the CWA provide feedback to you (the test-taker) by indicating the degree of intensity that you typically experience in four categories of mind or consciousness: attachment, avoidance, pride, and shame.  After completing and scoring the CWA, you receive a average numerical value (between 1 and 5) for each sub-category (attachment, avoidance, pride, and shame) that is then mapped onto the follow kite diagram.  Individual results vary but look somewhat like a diamond when mapped onto the diagram below.
Centering for Wisdom Kite Graph
What do my results tell me?
In the simplest terms, a higher score indicates that you tend to become more “triggered” in that particular area of consciousness; a lower score indicates that you tend to remain more centered or less-reactive when exposed to triggers in that area of awareness.  For example, if you are very hard on yourself and perhaps you even criticize yourself internally on a frequent basis (as I do), and/or you have a hard time accepting negative or critical feedback from others (like I do), then you are likely to score higher in the Shame category.  If, however, you are very supportive toward yourself and you don’t mind receiving critical feedback from others, then you are likely to score lower in the Shame category.
In my experience, some people see their results and are not surprised – “yeah, I know I struggle with attachment to certain foods or behaviors, so it’s not surprising my Attachment score is high.”  On the other hand, some people are quite surprised by their results – “Am I really that caught up in judging others all the time?” (as indicated by higher scores in the Pride category). And that is where the real potential for growth lies!  As a tool for increased self-awareness, individualized CWA results can point out areas where we’re highly reactive, and we may actually be (unconsciously) undercutting our capacity for making wise choices in daily life.  This can happen in interpersonal relationships, or in work or career leadership situations where we need to be able to make well-informed judgments that support individual and communal success.
What’s so interesting about this validation study?  What does all this academic jargon and statistical analysis tell me?
The full article provides the theoretical background and lots of statistical data about the different kinds of validity that we tested (that’s all thanks to Dr. Bock).  In basic terms, “validity” is a way of quantifying how well an assessment actually measures what it is intended to measure.  So, a well-run validation study can provide evidence that the assessment is doing its job.  You might think of the tests we ran as a kind of snake-oil-test, making sure we’re not just making up our claims about what the CWA results are telling you about yourself.  (Simply Psychology has a pretty accessible overview of validity methods.)
Here are some of the highlights in simple terms (for those of you who want to geek-out on data, I’ve included some basic values and the page #’s where you can find the info in the article):
  • The CWA does seem to measure what it intends to measure – that is, how centered for wisdom a person tends to remain.
    • It has very good internal consistency, which basically means that it is likely that it is actually measuring centering for wisdom rather than some other, unrelated concept.  (Cronbach alpha = .86; p. 12).
  • The CWA scores were similar to scores of mindfulness and wisdom (p. 13).
    • We compared CWA scores to two other validated assessments that measure mindfulness (The Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory; R = -.55, p < .001) and wisdom (The Brief Wisdom Screening Scale, R = -.42, p < .001).
    • This provides evidence that the CWA is measuring something similar to other validated assessments created to measure mindfulness and wisdom.  It indicates that we’re on the right track.
  • Compared to mindfulness scores alone, a person’s CWA scores were more likely to predict the following (pp. 16-17):
    • capacity to experience a sense of hope
    • willingness to forgive
    • ability to exercise wisdom
    • decreased levels of stress
    • decreased indicators of anxiety and depression
  • Persons who have a regular, long-term commitment to a contemplative practice, when compared to the general population, tend to score lower in the CWA results, which suggests that contemplative practices can indeed enhance one’s capacity for practical wisdom (pp. 18-20)

 

As a humble theologian and ethicist in the humanities, trained to read and interpret texts, I never really knew how much of a story numbers could tell.  Turns out it’s pretty cool and fascinating stuff!

 

Can I take the CWA?

 

Yes – I’m so glad you asked!  I’m convinced of the practicality of the CWA and its potential to help people who want help cultivating wisdom – which is basically everyone.  You can take the CWA online and receive your results by clicking over centeringforwisdom.com/

 

Sounds cool – now what?

 

At the end of the article (p. 21) we suggest that the CWA could be very helpful for the following:

  • pedagogical settings in higher education
  • programs focused on moral or spiritual formation
  • spiritual direction
  • executive leaders required to make high-pressure decisions
  • leadership development or coaching

 

My goal is to develop workshops (in-person, online learning at Contemplative U, and/or webinars) to help others interpret their results and to provide practical suggestions for how to use your CWA results to deepen a contemplative practice that will enhance your capacity to remain centered for wisdom, no matter what life throws at you (and let’s face it, life likes to throw things…).

 

If you would like to receive updates about these resources as they develop, please enter your email above to join my email list (and get a free guided meditation while you’re at it)!  Or go check out what’s happening at the Contemplative U Facebook Page.

 

In a world desperately in need of wise leadership and decision-making that benefit all people and the common good—including our planet and natural environment—we hope that the CWA can make a small contribution to enhancing this virtue of contemplative practical wisdom.

(Bushlack and Bock, p. 21)

 

 

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