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Field Dependence and Interpersonal Behavior

Goodenough, Donald R.; Witkin, Herman A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute of Mental Health, Cognitive Style, Field Dependence Independence, Interaction, Interpersonal Competence, Personality


People with a field dependent or field independent cognitive style are different in their interpersonal behavior in ways predicted from the theory of psychological differentiation. Field dependent people make greater use of external social referents, but only when the situation is ambiguous and these referents provide information that helps remove the ambiguity; field independent people function with greater autonomy from others under such conditions. Field dependent people are more attentive to social cues than fieldindependent people. Field dependent people have an interpersonal orientation: they show strong interest in others, prefer to be physically close to people, are emotionally open and gravitate toward social situations. Field independent people have an impersonal orientation: they are not very interested in others, show both physical and psychological distancing from people and prefer nonsocial situations. Finally, field dependent and field independent people are different in an array of characteristics which make it likely that field dependent people will get along better with others. Altogether, field dependent people have a set of social skills that are less evident in fieldindepende people. On the other hand, field independent people have greater skill in cognitive analysis and structuring. This pattern suggests that, with regard to value judgments, the field dependence-independence dimension is bipolar; each of the contrasting cognitive styles has components adaptive to particular situations. (79pp.)

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