Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 825–845 | Cite as

The Incremental Contribution of Complex Problem-Solving Skills to the Prediction of Job Level, Job Complexity, and Salary

  • Jakob MainertEmail author
  • Christoph Niepel
  • Kevin R. Murphy
  • Samuel Greiff
Original Paper


As work life becomes increasingly complex, higher order thinking skills, such as complex problem-solving skills (CPS), are becoming critical for occupational success. It has been shown that individuals gravitate toward jobs and occupations that are commensurate with their level of general mental ability (GMA). On the basis of the theory of occupational gravitation, CPS theory, and previous empirical findings on the role of CPS in educational contexts, we examined whether CPS would make an incremental contribution to occupational success after controlling for GMA and education. Administering computerized tests and self-reports in a multinational sample of 671 employees and analyzing the data with structural equation modeling, we found that CPS incrementally explained 7% and 3% of the variance in job complexity and salary, respectively, beyond both GMA and education. We found that CPS offered no incremental increase in predicting job level. CPS appears to be linked to job complexity and salary in a range of occupations, and this link cannot be explained as an artifact of GMA and education. Thus, CPS incrementally predicts success, potentially contributes to the theory of job gravitation, and adds to the understanding of complex cognition in the workplace.


Complex problem-solving General mental ability Occupational gravitation Job complexity 



This research was funded by a grant from the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (ATTRACT “ASK21”), and the European Union (290683; LLLight’in’Europe). We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Silvia Castellazzi, André Kretzschmar, Jonas Neubert, and Alexander Patt, who aided in collecting the data reported here.


Samuel Greiff is one of two authors of the commercially available COMPRO-test that is based on the multiple complex systems approach and that employs the same assessment principle as MicroDYN, and he receives royalty fees for COMPRO. The COMPRO test was not used in this study, but its similarities to MicroDYN are substantial. For any research and educational purpose, a free version of MicroDYN is available.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Luxembourg, Institute of Cognitive Science and AssessmentEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg
  2. 2.University of LimerickLimerickIreland

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