Worth 1000 words: Using pictures to identify systems thinkers

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Systems thinking is a methodology for analyzing and understanding the interactions between various elements of a system in order to achieve the best outcome. As systems become more complex, systems thinking is increasingly necessary. Hence, there is a growing need to identify systems thinkers. Drawing on the educational concept of alternative assessment for evaluating people with methods adapted to a particular situation, we propose using a pictorial test to evaluate systems thinking. Pictorial tests are accepted for psychological evaluations, and we explore their suitability for identifying systems thinkers. The proposed pictorial questionnaire was administered to different types of people in order to evaluate their systems thinking capabilities. The pictures selected for the questionnaire can be perceived as either consisting of separate parts or as a holistic process or system that encompasses all of the elements. During the evaluation process, participants were shown the pictures for a short time and asked to write a short sentence about what they saw. The answers were analyzed to identify whether or not the respondent is a systems thinker. The pictorial questionnaire was validated by comparing it with an accepted verbal questionnaire used to evaluate systems thinking. The proposed method for assessing systems thinking is an additional tool for obtaining a more accurate understanding of whether a person is a systems thinker.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101401
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Alternative assessment
  • Pictorial test
  • Systems thinker
  • Systems thinking characteristics


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