Defining insight: a challenge that matters

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Insight is a fundamental consideration in the maintenance and improvement of performance. What is required is a definition that can be used consistently along with an understanding of the dynamic nature of insight, and therefore its potential for improvement.


The work presented is a review of contemporary literature about insight, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and experience from the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) in the assessment of 300 doctors with performance problems.

Summary of results:

This work has led to the construction of a working definition of insight that incorporates reflection, emotional intelligence, self-awareness and motivation. The validity and utility of this definition was tested using data from NCAS's growing experience.


The assessment of insight in NCAS performance assessments has involved the use of information from a variety of sources, including psychometric profiling, multisource feedback and self-assessment. This has been corroborated with findings from clinical performance assessment and the outcomes of remediation plans.


A definition of insight is offered that is greater than just self-awareness, and that involves emotional intelligence and motivation. The use of this broad definition is of fundamental importance in the production of educational and development programmes at all levels.

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