Cognitive styles: Essence and origins

Cognitive styles: Essence and origins

BOOK REVIEWS 103 and confused. A more critical discussion of the quality of the research efforts would have been very helpful in evaluating the find...

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and confused. A more critical discussion of the quality of the research efforts would have been very helpful in evaluating the findings presented. Nevertheless, the book should serve its purpose for opening up an interesting area of study for the undergraduate. RUTH GALEN

HERMAN A. WITKIN and DONALD R. G~~DENOUGH: versities Press, New York (1981). 141 pp.


Styles: Essence

and Origins.



The late Herman A. Witkin is best for his work on the concepts of field dependence and independence, and this book may stand as a memorial to his work. It is extremely weH documented for such a short book (for just over 100 pages of text there are 23 pages of references, making over 5 references per page). The text is scholarly and provides a good introduction to the development of Witkin’s thinking, and the changes that have taken place in his conceptions. The weakest part of the book is the third part, which deals with origins of cognitive styles. There is a brief discussion of genetic factors, but these relate exclusively to the possibility that spatial-visualization and disembedding abilities are influenced by an X-linked recessive gene; there is no discussion of the much more likely polygenic hypothesis, and thereafter the various environmental factors which have been found to be correlated with field dependence and independence, such as child rearing practices, cultural influences, and others are treated as causal factors, though there is no evidence that we are not dealing simply with genetic factors. This is not an unusual fault in psychological publications, but it mars an otherwise excellent story. Another source of criticism is that fairly obvious relations, such as the several times documented correlation with extraversion, are hardly mentioned and not properly documented. This is regrettable because it would have introduced a quite different set of causal hypotheses into this field which has always been rather autarkic. On the whole, a good but rather restrictive introduction to a small but influential area of personality descrip tion. H.J.


JR :



A Primer Freeman,

San Francisco


(1981). xiii + 192 pp. E7.20 (board);

E2.95 (paper). It is not uncommon for bookshops that specialize in Education and Psychology to have entire sections devoted to primers, outlines and synopses of Piaget’s contribution to our understanding of cognitive development. And yet the publishers of this book have considered that there is a need for a further addition to the list of titles from which a new student to the subject can choose. In order to justify such an addition the book has either to present Piaget’s theories with a greater clarity and freshness than those of previous summarizers, or to develop the theories in the light of the considerable amount of research carried out by other workers. Unfortunately, it does neither. Most of the book is concerned with the transition from Preoperational to Concrete Operational thought which, although perhaps reflecting Piaget’s own main interest, leaves the description of the earlier (sensorimotor) and later (formal operations) stages indecently short. The absence of any critical appraisal is also a serious short-coming (for example, what we now know about the age at which, under the right circumstances, children can invoke principles of transitive inference or can adopt the perspective of others, or about the mutual development of language and thought). The book reads as if it could have been written 20 years ago, giving a rather ‘static’ impression of the massive contribution that Piaget has made to philosophy and to developmental psychology. PETER D.





The Psychology

of Competition.



New York (1980). xiv + 266 pp. E7.25.

Why does someone like Bjorn Borg win repeatedly at Wimbledon, and why do football teams finish the season in much the same position year after year? To what extent is sporting achievement due to such mental attributes as aggressiveness, confidence and determination? What are the psychological characteristics of successful athletes, and can such qualities be developed? Is involvement in competition of benefit to both winners and losers? This book is concerned with these important and fundamental issues. The author-a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland and an Olympic competitor in yacht racing-attempts to provide answers in terms of his own experiences and beliefs and that of other sportsmen. The text is interspersed with numerous sporting quotes and anecdotes and psychological interpretations are offered, not in terms of research evidence but unfortunately, in terms of vague psychoanalytic theorizing. As with T. W. Gallwey’s The Inner