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Some Thoughts on the Relation Between Language Functioning and Psychological Differentiation

Weiner, Susan L.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Style, Field Dependence Independence, Language Skills, Linguistic Competence, Psycholinguistics


The relation between people's cognitive style and language functioning is addressed, specifically the degree to which cognitive differentiation, disembedding and social focus is reflected--or not reflected--in language. Pilot data from a sample of Brooklyn College subjects, matched in verbal IQ but representing extremes of field-independent and field-dependent cognitive styles, is analyzed. Current and past inconclusive research on the relation between psychological differentiation and 1) lexical functioning, 2) paralinguistic features of speech for planning, decision-making, and conversation, 3) syntax, sentence comprehension and complexity of output, and 4) structure of naturally-occurring conversation, are all discussed. Several hypotheses are discussed but no significant differences are found between field-dependent and field-independent subjects in any of the areas discussed. Two areas of possibly promising future research on language differences between psychologically differentiated and undifferentiated subjects are suggested: experimental manipulation of encoding and decoding tasks to test differences in processing of speech input and output, and analyses of conversation and referential communication to test the effects of social influence and social skills.

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