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The Matter of Style: Manifestations of Personality in Cognition, Learning, and Teaching

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Processing, Cognitive Style, Field Dependence-Independence, History of Psychology, Learning Processes, Personality Traits, Teaching Styles


(40pp.) The historical roots of cognitive styles are traced in differential psychology, psychoanalytic ego psychology, gestalt and cognitive-developmental psychology to illuminate the varied theoretical issues that energize (and fragment) style research. Optimal measurement of cognitive styles as information-processing regularities and as intraindividual contrasts of abilities or other attributes is discussed in terms of both typical performance and contrasted performance on measures of opposing ends of bipolar style dimensions, with special emphasis on the contrasted measurement of field independence versus field dependence. The role of styles as both performance variables and competence variables in learning and teaching is examined, as are various critiques of style research that appear to be excessively polarized in either supporting or undercutting styles as meaningful constructs. This polarization appears to reflect different stances not just with respect to scientific evidence but with respect to ideology. Concluding remarks broach the issue of how styles are organized, not just within an information-processing framework but within the structure of personality.

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