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Psychological Differentiation: Current Status

Goodenough, Donald R.; Oltman, Philip K.; Witkin, Herman A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute of Mental Health, Behavioral Science Research, Cognitive Style, Field Dependence Independence, Individual Differences, Literature Reviews, Self Concept


The status of the differentiation hypothesis, derived from differentiation theory, is examined in light of the evidence that has accumulated since the hypothesis was proposed a decade and a half ago. Assuming that greater or less differentiation is an organismic attribute, the hypothesis postulates that behaviors reflecting extent of differentiation are likely to be interrelated, making for self-consistency in individual functioning across domains. The newer evidence has on the whole confirmed the linkages among the behaviors examined in the earlier research that was done to test the differentiation hypothesis. The differentiation hypothesis has also proven useful in generating predictions about linkages to behaviors in new domains (cognitive restructuring, interpersonal competencies and cerebral lateralization); these predictions have been tested and generally confirmed. The differentiation construct appears able to account for phenomena that cannot be accommodated by other lower-order constructs, such as field dependence-independence. On all these grounds the differentiation construct continues to serve a useful function. Whereas the differentiation hypothesis has dealt only with the interrelatedness among components of a cluster of behaviors subsumed under differentiation, the newer evidence carries suggestions for a hierarchical ordering of these components and for the nature of causal connections among them. (45pp.) (with RB-77-16 replaces RB-76-39)

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