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The Psychometric Assessment of Meaning-making: Reactions to Everyday Dilemmas (Red)




Salter, Robin

Type of Degree





According to Robert Kegan (1994), many people are essentially “in over their heads” in trying to meet the conceptual and emotional demands of everyday life. In the workplace, this phenomenon may be exacerbated if jobs are assigned that exceed an individual’s meaning-making capacity, mentors are poorly matched with protégés, or employees are sent through training programs before they are developmentally ready to assimilate the training experience. Therefore, a convenient measure assessing the developmental level of employees could be of benefit to organizations. The purpose of the present study was to test and validate a new measure, Reactions to Everyday Dilemmas (RED), which estimates an individual’s stage of “meaning-making” as defined by Kegan’s (1982, 1994) constructive-developmental theory of personality. According to Kegan, individuals progress through a series of hierarchically ordered stages during which their frameworks for interpreting experiences become increasingly complex. As people advance from one stage to the next, a more encompassing meaning-making framework influences how they react to complex situations at work, school, and in their personal lives. The present paper describes two studies to establish RED’s reliability and construct validity. RED was compared with scores from the Defining Issues Test (DIT) (Rest, 1975, 1979) to establish convergent validity, and the Life Orientation Test (LOT-R) (Scheier, Weintraub, & Carver, 1986; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994) to assess discriminant validity. Modest significant correlations were observed between several of RED’s stage scales and those of the DIT, even after controlling for the covariates of age and education. Two of RED’s scales also correlated with the LOT-R. The LOT-R unexpectedly correlated with age and educational level, and the relationship between RED and the LOT-R decreased substantially after controlling for these two variables. Suggestions for future revisions of the RED and research steps are discussed.