What is the Consciousness Quotient?

The Consciousness Quotient: introducing the conscious experience as a research variable in psychological assessment

by Ovidiu Brazdau
October 02, 2014

The ‘Consciousness Quotient’ construct was developed through 15 successive studies between 2003 and 2014. The CQ-i beta version was first released in 2008 and since then, a series of studies refined the concept and the measurement procedures.

The Consciousness Quotient (CQ) is a composite psychological construct based on a list of traits, skills and abilities that describe conscious experience. The CQ Inventory (CQ-i) evaluates the frequency of various behaviours and the usage of specific skills and abilities, providing a detailed description of conscious awareness experiences.

In my perspective, to be conscious means to have a degree of witnessing awareness and a degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment.

An important element of conscious experience is intentionality, being the mind-set that allows a person to deliberately choose what behaviour to enact and what attitude to select. ‘More conscious’ (a higher CQ) means a higher degree of witnessing awareness and being less automatic in thinking-feeling-sensing, together with a higher degree of choice when initiating a behaviour.

The witnessing perspective, which leads to the ability to observe the inside and outside worlds without engaging with them, is one of the key factors of the CQ construct. ‘Witnessing awareness’ is usually described as the ‘I am experience’, ‘the observer experience’, ‘just being’ (as opposed to ‘doing’), ‘awareness of awareness itself’ and ‘no-mind’. ‘Mindfulness’ is a related the construct, but in terms of modern mindfulness – as it is promoted in the West – being mindful does not go beyond being a cognitive observer.

The everyday CQ is “the level of consciousness (or the level of being conscious) that is experienced in the morning, one hour after waking up and after having had a refreshing sleep, without being exposed to any significant stimulus (coffee, TV, radio, music, talking, psychological stress). In other words, the consciousness quotient is the general level of being conscious/aware throughout a day, in regular life conditions”. This level of being conscious can change during life through the process of personal development.

The Consciousness Quotient Inventory (CQ-i)

The CQ-i is composed of seven dimensions, which comprise the Consciousness Quotient: physical, emotional, cognitive, social-relational, self, inner growth and spiritual. These seven dimensions are the main seven factors of the Consciousness Quotient Inventory. CQ-i explores these dimensions, using questions scored with a Likert scale with six degrees.

CQ-i can be used for evaluating personal development or in psychotherapy when evaluating the progress of a client. Other areas include leadership, employee satisfaction, digital interactions, the arts, medicine, military applications and the efficacy of religious techniques. CQ-i is free to use by researchers in educational fields and for individual online testing on the CQ Institute website.

Main Factor Structure of the Consciousness Quotient

1. The Physical CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of one’s body and of the actual elements of the environment (environmental awareness). This factor includes various traits, skills and abilities, such as interoceptive awareness, body posture, tone of voice, awareness of senses (e.g., smell, taste, touch), psychosomatic connections (how the body is influenced by emotions and thinking patterns), detecting automatic movements of the body (e.g., automatic eating behaviours), awareness of the bio-energy of the body, and a connection with one’s physical surroundings.

Focusing attention on the body will result in a better connection with both your inner reality and outer reality. You will thus be able to identify the problems of your body in relation to the outer world. Breathing, conscious cooking and observing body movements comprise a few exercises that would help you to increase your Physical CQ. Another important technique is to observe what changes occur in your body when you have emotions or when you think of specific topics.

2. The Emotional CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of one’s emotions and feelings, and their development and interactions. The Emotional CQ include traits, skills and abilities related to the emotional world, such as empathy, emotional validation, openness, vulnerability, recognition of people’s emotions, detecting the automatic patterns in emotional life, mirroring others, emotional acceptance, emotional intelligence, the ability to select among emotions and to sustain positive emotions, adapting emotional responses to various social contexts, and acceptance of any emotions that appear in you.

By raising the level of Emotional CQ through various personal growth techniques, you will be able to improve your personal and social life. You may find it useful to develop your emotional intelligence (e.g., eqi.org) and the capacity to welcome and accept all your emotions as they come.

3. The Cognitive CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of one’s own ideas and thoughts, of the cognitive flow in general. The Cognitive CQ is related to thinking, reflection, judgment, patterns of understanding, ways of meaning-making. It includes specific traits, skills and abilities, such as systems-thinking, intuition, awareness of cognitive filters, metacognition, self-reflection, detection of cognitive biases (e.g., jumping to conclusions, labeling, projection), accepting indecision, flexibility in thinking, critical thinking, present moment awareness, awareness of the limits of words (construct awareness), attention regulation, an ability to act with intention (choice), decision-making, mindfulness, acceptance of multiple perspectives, cognitive openness, creativity, the ability to have a panoramic view (overview) of a specific topic or situation, and the ability to manage the flow of thoughts.

Improving the Cognitive CQ could have positive effects for the management of your thoughts. Training your attention (e.g., through mindfulness) would help you to identify less with your stream of thinking and provide you with the abilities necessary to better organize your thoughts. Sustained self-reflection (metacognition – thinking about thinking) is another useful practice to increase the Cognitive CQ (some useful techniques are available on wisebrain.org).

4. The Social-Relational CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of the relations and connections with the people around us and the communities we are a part of. The Social-Relational CQ includes traits, skills and abilities related to parental relationships, close relationships, social interactions, perception of others’ communications styles, detecting social deception, cognitive empathy, social intuition, flexibility in social behaviours, outrospection (a means of getting to know oneself by developing relationships and empathetic thinking with others), awareness of in-out groups stereotypes, cognitive openness when discussing matters with others, detecting the hidden agendas of the people we listen to or talk to, and conversational skills.

An exercise that could increase the Social-Relational CQ is to divide your attention when speaking with people: keeping your attention focused both on the person you are talking to (and their message) and on yourself, on your own body posture, thinking and emotions.

5. The Self CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of one’s self and one’s own ego (identity). The Self CQ includes traits, skills and abilities related to identity, the self-system, one’s image of life, self-awareness, connections between emotions and thinking, an ability to see one’s self as objectively as possible, flexibility in ego-related thinking (e.g., the ability to make and appreciate jokes about the way we are), self-compassion, self-kindness, post-autonomous ego-development traits (goal in life, ego awareness), awareness of sub-personalities, multicultural self-awareness (e.g., recognizing how cultures you interact with influence your worldview), and autonomy.

You can increase your Self CQ by observing your sub-personalities – the various facets of your personalities (e.g., you as a child, you as a parent, you as a friend, you as a worker, etc.), how they act and interact with each other and with the environment, and what their specific emotions, patterns of thinking, fears and behaviour are.

6. The Inner Growth CQ refers to the capacity for awareness of the process of personal development, transformation and growth. The Inner Growth CQ includes traits, skills and abilities related to the evolution of personality, paradigm shifts, unlearning and learning (through pain or by open learning), openness, the language updating process, accepting criticism, abandoning old perspectives and embracing new ones, noticing resistance to change, learning after peak experiences, detecting the cognitive biases related to learning (e.g., confirmation bias), resilience, awareness of one’s level of development (e.g., using spiral dynamics theory), and an ability to sustain new patterns of thinking/feeling while old patterns slowly lose their grip (awareness of the process of neuroplasticity).

You can increase your Inner Growth CQ by learning to be more open and to accept life as it comes. Learning from criticism and embracing various perspectives for the same situation are key skills that would support your personal development.

7. The Spiritual CQ includes specific traits, skills and abilities related to human connectedness, meta-awareness, witnessing awareness (non-attachment) and acceptance of experience, present moment awareness, the connection of humans and nature (environment), mindfulness, and non-reactivity to inner experiences. Witnessing experience is a key factor to the Spiritual CQ: the ability to look at your own body, thoughts and feelings, and your own awareness as a neutral witness, from the outside. This is the experience of an ‘I’, of an observer, of watching one’s self doing things.

An important part of the Spiritual CQ explores post-autonomous ego development features, including serving others, compassion for the self, transpersonal experiences, Ego as object/construct, detecting the limits of words (language as object).

The Spiritual CQ factor was developed by including the participatory understanding of spirituality: the spirituality of persons is developed and revealed primarily in the spirituality of their relations with other persons (regarding spirituality primarily as the fruit of individual meditative attainment leads to the gross anomaly of a ‘spiritual’ person who is an interpersonal oppressor).

Improving the Spiritual CQ could lead to an increased ability to connect with the collectivities that you live in and to experience your life as a part of a larger life that includes all of us. There are many available methods that develop the Spiritual CQ. Some of the effective ways include mindfulness-related techniques and the practices promoted by non-dual communities (e.g., conscious.tv, batgap.com) and Eastern and traditional spiritual philosophies (e.g., Ubuntu, Native American), which develop the ability to non-identify with the self-centred ego and embrace a larger perspective.


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