Providing psychological assessment feedback: The CPP

October 22, 2021 | By Maretha Prinsloo

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The goal

Within most cultures, a person’s perception of their intellectual prowess is often key to their self-confidence and efficacy. Feedback on cognitive assessment results should therefore be constructive in further calibrating a test candidate’s metacognitive awareness and developmental direction towards competence and mastery.

The practicalities

Those who complete the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP) should ideally receive individualized feedback from a CPP accredited professional. If this is not possible, the test candidate should at least receive a CPP developmental report. The practitioner who nominated the candidate to do a CPP can download any of several CPP reports that are available on the Cognadev delivery platform for this purpose.

The theoretical assumptions

TThe practitioner who provides the feedback must understand the theoretical foundation of the CPP which differs fundamentally from the Differential Psychology paradigm which is the foundation of IQ and ability assessment.

The underlying assumptions of IQ/ability tests of intellectual functioning include:

  • intelligence is primarily genetically or biologically based,
  • that it remains static throughout life,
  • the constructs focused on,
  • that it can be measured by means of convergent, logical-analytical problem solving in highly structured knowledge domains (using spatial, verbal, numerical contents), and
  • intellectual speed and power can be regarded as a single factor, to mentions but a few.

In the case of the CPP, which is largely based on the Information Processing paradigm, intellectual functioning is regarded as:

  • dynamic,
  • a person’s learning potential can be developed throughout their life,
  • cognitive functioning is affected by internal factors such as genetics, emotions, interests, motivation, and health as well as external factors such as an individual’s cultural context, exposure and learning opportunities,
  • intellectual speed and power are independent factors, and
  • ipsychological dynamics related to a sense of security, appreciation and meaningfulness are critical for optimal intellectual functioning.

More about the theoretical foundation of the CPP can be found in another of our blogs entitled: What is the Information Processing Model (IPM)? A more in-depth article is also available: Cognition: Theory, Measurement, Implications.

Attitude of the practitioner

As cogently put by Deepak Chopra:
“By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.”

The candidate

The practitioner’s role is that of co-explorer of the candidate’s profile and its implications within their work and life contexts. A collaborative as opposed to an instructive feedback approach is bound to be more effective in sparking the candidate’s interest and involvement. The practitioner should also show energy and interest in the person’s results and its potential application.

In addition, the practitioner should adopt a feedback approach which matches the candidate’s existing cognitive profile as evident from their CPP results. Seeing that some candidates show levels of capability that exceed that of the practitioner, professionalism, modesty, and open-mindedness on the part of the practitioner remain important.

A developmental opportunity

There is no need to go through the highly detailed and technical CPP report during the feedback or to explain all the theoretical models involved. What assessment candidates want to know are:

  • How do my thinking processes compare to those of others?
  • Which of my intellectual skills are well developed and how can I capitalize on those?
  • What will hinder performance in my work and life and how can I address it? And,
  • In what field can I truly excel (for which every person has a capacity)?

Where to start

It may be useful for the practitioner to first scan the person’s entire CPP report to find aspects that stand out or clues that may be useful in the feedback. After having seen about 20 – 30 CPP reports, this scanning process may only take the practitioner a few minutes.

For example, the scores reflected by the Information Processing Competencies (IPCs) bar graph, may differ substantially. This will provide useful clues about the person’s metacognitive orientation, interests, and intellectual values.

Various categories in the report can also be compared, for example, a relatively operational work-complexity profile may be combined with a high level of learning potential. Emerging from a consideration of the entire report, unique aspects of the profile may be particularly valuable in predicting potentially creative contributions of the candidate.

The practitioner should also be on the look-out for possibly invalid profiles (the criteria of which are specified in the CPP e-Learning course). While extreme performance-anxiety may render a person’s profile invalid, this seldom is the case as some degree of anxiety may even enhance the person’s motivation to concentrate on the task.

Further critical insights can be gained by comparing the person’s intellectual preferences and capabilities to the requirements of their work environment. Given the context, the application of somewhat inappropriate cognitive styles may significantly reduce a person’s effectiveness. In such cases, placement in a more suitable role may be required.

The candidate’s capability to work at certain levels of complexity may also be out of sync with what their work role requires. This could lead to frustration, anxiety and/or boredom. Any such clues can be addressed during feedback in a way that could be of value both to the candidate and their organization.


Cognitive results are sensitive and should be managed in a confidential and constructive way. Seeing that intellectual development remains a life-long possibility, the focus of feedback should be on a person’s unique profile; how to capitalize on their own strengths; how to address and develop weaknesses; as well as the optimal application of a particular skills set to make unique and valuable contributions.

Although the practitioner needs to understand the underlying theory of the CPP, the goal of the feedback is not to teach the assessment candidate a theory of cognition. The feedback should be practical, understandable, relevant to the candidate and aimed at enhancing the person’s everyday functioning, confidence, as well as further developmental and career progress.

The CPP report starts with the SST work complexity model. However, to start a session with feedback on the candidate’s SST results may cause the person to become defensive as it introduces an evaluative component.

It is therefore suggested that the feedback should start with the Cognitive styles – as linked to the person’s current job. Analyze the person’s work with them and look in an objective way at the effectiveness of their stylistic approach in that environment. Focus on previous successes and failures and the associated styles that were involved.

Next, broadly explain the Information Processing Competencies by referring to the IPC model and the importance of metacognition. It is not at all necessary to show the person their scores on the IPC graphs in their report as they may be disappointed with their results. Discuss their strengths and weaknesses and what those mean in terms of work-related contributions. Allow the candidate to do most of the talking by asking questions on work- related functioning.

Emphasize that the CPP profile does not indicate whether they are “intelligent or not” in psychometric IQ terms, but that the CPP explains their current cognitive functioning which largely reflects their degree of metacognitive awareness. The practitioner can even do a little exercise to demonstrate which metacognitive criteria normally guide the thinking processes of the specific candidate, and which criteria are neglected (as this is clear from the report). Such an emphasis on metacognition is significantly more useful than to praise the person for their current skills.

The easiest way in which to improve thinking processes is by assisting a candidate to internalize undeveloped metacognitive criteria or “voices”. Examples of such criteria are:

  • “is this relevant?”
  • “is this clear?”
  • “at what level of detail should I analyze this?”
  • “is this accurate?
  • “is this meaningful?”
  • “how can I best represent this?”
  • “does this solution match the requirements of the context?” etc.

It may be useful to provide the candidate with a few (not many) metacognitive criteria which are underdeveloped in their profile. The practitioner can even assist the candidate to analyze the underlying metacognitive criteria (or lack thereof) of previous mistakes in decision making – for example “I must work fast”, which resulted in impulsive decisions.

In terms of their Learning potential results, the candidate should be made aware that they can improve their cognitive functioning. This can best be achieved for content areas in which the person is interested and may regard as meaningful and purposeful. The latter cannot be over-emphasized.

Briefly discuss the Speed table in the report – without necessarily showing the person their scores. For those who show significant discrepancies between speed and insight, explain that cognitive speed and power are different factors altogether and that it is important not to rush through tasks as this may result in premature conclusions.

Then only can the SST model on work complexity be introduced. It is important to link the current and potential indications of the most suitable SST level(s) to the person’s current position. This part of the feedback needs to be very practical. The candidate needs to understand exactly the kind of work in which they would be most effective. The moment some candidates get the idea that certain work environments are “better” than others, they may respond by becoming disappointed, arrogant, or defensive. The importance of a match between the person’s complexity preferences and those required by work, or the concept of “flow”, should be explained to the candidate. The practitioner could also refer to the various SST work environments as rooms in a house; all of which are important and all of which add unique value to the whole system, the organization.

The discussion can close with acquiring feedback from the candidate regarding their personal cognitive strengths and development areas as well as work-related and self- development options.

It should again be emphasized not to resort to excessively complimenting the candidate in providing feedback. Comments of approval may also imply that certain other aspects are not good – which may trigger childhood insecurities. Feedback thus requires a simple, objective, and practical approach.

Any requests from the candidate not to share their results with the organization should be honoured, as the confidentiality of personal information remains important.