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Style in the Organization and Defense of Cognition

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Style, Defensiveness, Individual Differences, Psychology


Cognitive styles bear on the organization and control of attention, thought, feelings, and motives in cognitive processing. Highlighted here are two attentional cognitive styles of sharp-focus versus broad-focus scanning that apprehends incidental information. Defensive styles bear on the organization and control of intrusive affects in cognition; they represent consistent modes of accommodating anxiety and conflict so as to maintain reasonably adaptive cognitive functioning. Because the four major defensive styles associated with obsessive-compulsive, paranoid, hysterical, and impulsive neuroses are distinguished by differential modes of attentional scanning, the two attentional cognitive styles offer a heuristic means of organizing these defensive styles in behavioral expression.

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