independence: cognitive style or perceptual ability?––validating against thinking styles and academic achievement

independence: cognitive style or perceptual ability?––validating against thinking styles and academic achievement

Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311 www.elsevier.com/locate/paid Field-dependence/independence: cognitive style or perceptual a...

288KB Sizes 0 Downloads 103 Views

Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311 www.elsevier.com/locate/paid

Field-dependence/independence: cognitive style or perceptual ability?––validating against thinking styles and academic achievement Li-fang Zhang

*

Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Received 19 June 2003; received in revised form 11 November 2003; accepted 15 December 2003 Available online 31 January 2004

Abstract In individual differences psychology, one of the long-standing debated issues has been focusing on the nature of the field-dependence/independence construct as defined in WitkinÕs theory of psychological differentiation––the pioneer work in the study of intellectual styles. The present study examines the nature of the field-dependence/independence construct against academic achievement as well as against the thinking style construct as defined in SternbergÕs theory of mental self-government. Participants were 200 (154 female and 46 male) students enrolled in a large comprehensive university in Shanghai, the PeopleÕs Republic of China. Participants responded to the Group Embedded Figures Test and the Thinking Styles Inventory. StudentsÕ academic achievements were also examined in relation to their field-dependence/independence (FDI) and thinking style scores. Major findings are (1) the FDI and the thinking style constructs were unrelated; and (2) whereas particular thinking styles were related to the studentsÕ overall achievement in mathematics courses and courses in the Chinese language, the FDI scores were related only to studentsÕ achievement in geometry. It was concluded that the field-dependence/independence construct represents perceptual ability, but not a broad cognitive style. Ó 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Field-dependence/independence; Cognitive style; Perceptual ability; Thinking styles

*

Tel./fax: +852-2859-2522. E-mail address: [email protected] (L.-f. Zhang).

0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2003.12.015

1296

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1. Introduction No one could possibly provide a full account of the literature on intellectual styles (a broad term encompassing cognitive styles, learning styles, and thinking styles) without mentioning WitkinÕs (1965) theory of psychological differentiation as represented by the field-dependence/ independence construct (also see Witkin & Asch, 1948a, 1948b; Witkin, Dyk, Faterson, Goodenough, & Karp, 1962; Witkin, Oltman, Raskin, & Karp, 1971). Individuals who are more fieldindependent are good at identifying objects or details that have surroundings that might obscure their view. They tend to see objects or details as discrete from their backgrounds. Individuals who are more field-dependent are less able to view things separate from the overall environment. They tend to be affected by the prevailing field or context. Several instruments have been developed to assess the field-dependence/independence (FDI) construct, including the widely used Embedded Figures Test (EFT) and the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT, Witkin et al., 1971). For more than half a century, regarded as the pioneer work in the field of intellectual styles, WitkinÕs concept of field-dependence/independence has been the most extensively researched and has generated the most interesting disputes among scholars. The focus of these disputes is on the nature of the field-dependence/independence construct. Some scholars (e.g., Kogan, 1980; Saracho, 1991, 2001; Witkin & Goodenough, 1977) argued that the field-dependence/independence concept can be used to describe individual differences in a broadly defined intellectual (behavioral) style, whereas some others contended that the FDI construct primarily represents individual variations in perpetual/spatial/visual preference patterns (e.g., Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1995; Jones, 1997; Richardson & Turner, 2000; Shipman, 1990; Sternberg, 1994, 1997). While both sides of the argument have been presented at the conceptual level, both also are grounded in empirical research. The contention that the FDI construct describes a broad intellectual style (often called ‘‘cognitive style’’) is based on the overall empirical finding that the FDI construct plays an important role in peopleÕs intellectual activities in a wide array of areas. For example, Dyk and Witkin (1965) reported that when parents encouraged their children to act independently, children tended to be field-independent. They also suggested that when children are encouraged to conform to authority, children tend to be more field-dependent. In the study of the role of field-dependence/ independence in secondary school studentsÕ re-enrollments in vocational education and their attitudes toward teachers and programs, Fritz (1981) found that re-enrolled drafting students were statistically more field-independent than were students in three home economics programs. Furthermore, he concluded that field-independent students were less concerned about interpersonal relations with their teachers. Woodward and Kalyan-Masih (1990) reported significant relationships of field-dependence/independence to loneliness as well as to coping strategies among gifted rural adolescents. They found that field-independent adolescents in rural environments sought individual pursuits, and demonstrated more autonomy and self-reliance. In his study of middle school students, Dulin (1993) found that field-independent students showed a significantly lower preference for cooperative learning. In his book ‘‘Cognitive styles and classroom learning’’, Morgan (1997) noted that studies had reported that field-independent students from higher education institutions tend to select areas of study associated with the sciences and field-dependent students are more likely to choose fields of human services such as teaching and social work. More recently, Saracho (2001) pointed out that previous research had shown that field-depen-

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1297

dence/independence characterizes an individualÕs perceptual style, personality, intelligence, and social behavior. The contention that the FDI construct primarily represents individual variations in perceptual/ spatial/visual preference patterns is based on the repeated empirical evidence that (G)EFT performance is only related to intellectual tasks that require disembedding, especially visual disembedding. Furthermore, this argument is also supported by the absence of significant relationships between the field-dependence/independence construct and constructs defined by other models of intellectual styles. Empirical evidence showing that field-independent people demonstrate superiority over fielddependent people in performing tasks that require visual disembedding is abundant. For instance, early in 1972, Vernon equated field-independence measures with spatial measures in the discussion of his empirical study of the relationships between field-independence measures and tests of abilities. Furthermore, he concluded that the field-independence measures did not define a factor distinct from spatial ability. Similarly, after administering a battery of 9 tests to 81 undergraduates, Hyde, Geiringer, and Yen (1975) conducted a factor analysis which indicated that tests of spatial ability, field-independence, and mental arithmetic emerged together in a spatial ability factor. In fact, as Richardson and Turner (2000) have pointed out, research in this area suggests that when field-dependence/independence is measured by the (G)EFT, scores converge with spatial ability scores of intelligence tests (e.g., Dubois & Cohen, 1970; Jones, 1997; Satterly, 1976; Spotts & Mackler, 1967; Stuart, 1967; Weisz, OÕNeill, & OÕNeill, 1975). In the study of undergraduate architecture majors and business majors using the Group Embedded Figures Test, Morris and Bergum (1978) found that students majoring in architecture (a field of study that requires a high level of visual disembedding) were significantly more fieldindependent than were students majoring in business. Copeland (1983) identified significant relationships of field-dependence/independence to yet another area of study that requires high level of perceptual ability: art appreciation. CopelandÕs investigation of students in university art appreciation courses suggested that students with higher GEFT scores received significantly higher course grades than did students with lower GEFT scores. When studying the relationships between field-dependence/independence and mechanical engineering technology studentsÕ achievement, Thomas (1986) found that the field independents tended to achieve significantly better in technical drawing courses, mechanics courses with a strong emphasis on drawing freebody diagrams, and a course with a strong emphasis on diagramming. Furthermore, scholars (e.g., Richardson & Turner, 2000; Shipman, 1990) challenge the globality of WitkinÕs construct of field-dependence/independence also because the FDI construct has failed in obtaining significant relationships with constructs defined in other models more widely known as models of intellectual styles. For example, Shade (1984) administered both the Myers– Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1962) and the Group Embedded Figures Test to a group of 180 ninth-graders. Factor analysis resulted in two factors, with one being dominated by the common component of the use of visual analysis, and the other being most represented by the Myers– Briggs Type Indicator. She concluded that field-dependence/independence primarily represents individual variations in perceptual preference patterns rather than the traditionally defined behavioral styles. Also for instance, many studies exploring the relationships between extraversion and field-dependence indicated that there was no significant relationship between the two (e.g., Fine, 1972; Loo & Townsend, 1977; Riding & Dyer, 1983; Satterly, 1979).

1298

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

The present study attempts to join this dispute by presenting the findings obtained from testing the FDI construct against a more recent and general model of intellectual styles: SternbergÕs (1988, 1997) theory of mental self-government. Using the word ‘‘government’’ metaphorically, Sternberg (1988, 1997) contended that just as there are many ways of governing a society, there are many ways of governing or managing our activities. These different ways of managing our activities can be construed as our thinking styles. In managing our activities, we choose styles with which we feel comfortable. Moreover, we use different thinking styles depending on the stylistic demands of a given situation. Another important feature of thinking styles is that they are at least partially socialized, suggesting that thinking styles can be cultivated and modified. The theory of mental self-government describes 13 thinking styles that fall along five dimensions. These are three functions (legislative, executive, and judicial styles), four forms (hierarchical, oligarchic, monarchic, and anarchic styles), two levels (global and local styles), two scopes (internal and external styles), and two leanings (liberal and conservative styles) of the mental selfgovernment. The key characteristics of each of these 13 thinking styles are briefly summarized in Appendix A. The theory of mental self-government has been operationalized through a number of instruments, including through the most frequently used Thinking Styles Inventory (Sternberg & Wagner, 1992). Internal validity of the theory has been demonstrated in many studies (e.g., Bernardo, Zhang, & Callueng, 2002; Dai & Feldhusen, 1999; Zhang, 1999; Zhang & Sternberg, 1998) conducted among students and teachers from a number of cultural groups, including Hong Kong, mainland China, the Philippines, and the United States. External validity of the theory has been obtained through examining the nature of thinking styles not only against a number of constructs that belong to the family of intellectual styles such as BiggsÕs (1992) concept of learning approach (see Zhang & Sternberg, 2000) and HollandÕs (1973, 1994) notion of career personality types (see Zhang, 2000), but also against a few constructs that are perceived to be significantly correlated with the thinking style construct, including Costa and McCraeÕs (1992) big five personality traits (see Zhang, 2002a) and PerryÕs (1999) construct of cognitive development (see Zhang, 2002c). This research focusing on thinking styles has suggested that the thinking style construct represents a broad intellectual style for two reasons. First, it has been demonstrated that thinking styles play important roles in multiple aspects relevant to student development both inside and outside the classroom. Second, this research has proved that the thinking style construct encompasses intellectual style constructs from all three traditions to the study of styles as reviewed by Sternberg (1997). These three traditions are cognition-centered (e.g., modes of thinking and learning, see Zhang, 2002b), personality-centered (e.g., vocational interest/personality types, see Zhang, 2000), and activity-centered (e.g., learning approaches, see Zhang & Sternberg, 2000). Thus, the present study selected the thinking style construct, a broad intellectual style construct, in testing whether the field-dependence/independence construct represents a broad intellectual style construct or it simply represents individual variations in perceptual/spatial/visual (these three terms will be used interchangeably in this paper) preference patterns. Two specific research questions were investigated. First, are studentsÕ scores on the field-dependence/independence scale significantly related to their scores on the thinking style scales? Second, are studentsÕ academic

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1299

achievement scores in Mathematics and Chinese Language significantly correlated with their scores on the field-dependence/independence scale and on the thinking style scales, respectively? If so, how are they related? Both research questions were set to study the relationships between the thinking style construct and the field-dependence/independence construct. Whereas the first question asks more directly about the relationships between the two constructs, the second question makes use of an intermediate variable (i.e., academic achievement) to further examine the relationships between the two constructs. The logic behind the first research question is as follows: If the FDI construct simply represents perceptual ability, it should not be significantly related to thinking styles that are defined by a rather general model of intellectual styles. However, if the FDI construct represents a more general stylistic behavior, it should be significantly related to thinking styles. Moreover, if the two constructs are significantly related, they should be related in the following ways: First, higher field-independence scores are significantly positively related to the legislative, judicial, global, hierarchical, oligarchic, anarchic, liberal, and the internal thinking styles. Second, higher field-dependence scores are significantly positively related to the executive, local, monarchic, conservative, and external thinking styles. These hypothetical significant relationships were based on the definition of each of the thinking styles in the theory of mental selfgovernment as well as on the characteristics of field-dependence and of field-independence documented in the literature (e.g., Goodenough & Karp, 1961; Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Kalgo & Isyaku, 1993; Saracho, 2001; Witkin et al., 1971). For example, while people higher on the legislative thinking style prefer to choose their own activities and to work on tasks that allow them to use their flexibility and creativity (Sternberg, 1988, 1997), the field independents experience independence from authority which leads them to depend on their own standards and values (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993). While an individual with the internal thinking style prefers to work on tasks that allow him/her to work as an independent unit (Sternberg, 1988, 1997), the field independents are described as being socially detached and preferring occupations that allow them to work by themselves (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993). Also for instance, individuals with the conservative thinking style are characterized by their preference for working on tasks that allow them to adhere to existing rules and conventions in performing tasks (Sternberg, 1988, 1997). By the same token, the field dependents are described as being uncomfortable with unconventionals and as relying on standard approaches (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993). The logic behind the second research question is as follows: If the FDI construct merely represents perceptual ability, it should be significantly related only to academic tasks that require perceptual/visual disembedding. However, if the FDI construct represents a broad cognitive style, it should be related to academic performance in ways that are consistent with the ways that particular thinking styles are related to academic performance. Specifically, an achievement score that is significantly related to the field-dependence dimension should also be significantly related to the thinking styles that are hypothesized to be related to the fielddependence dimension. Similarly, if the two constructs are significantly related, an achievement score that is significantly related to the field-independence dimension should also be significantly related to the thinking styles that are hypothesized to be related to the field-independence dimension.

1300

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

2. Method 2.1. Participants Volunteer participants for this research were 200 (154 female and 46 male) students from a large research-oriented university from Shanghai, the PeopleÕs Republic of China. With 20 years being both the mean and the median, the studentsÕ ages ranged from 18 to 23 years. Of all participants, 103 students were majoring in the Chinese Language, and 97 students were majoring in Mathematics. There were 75 freshmen, 67 sophomores, and 58 juniors. 2.2. Measures Data on two kinds of measures were collected for this study. The first kind was studentsÕ academic achievement scores, and the second kind was their response to two inventories. Regarding academic achievement, studentsÕ achievement scores in Mathematics Analysis, Algebra, and Geometry were used for students majoring in Mathematics, and achievement scores in Modern Chinese Language, Ancient Literature, and Composition were used for students majoring in the Chinese Language. Notice that only achievement scores for the sophomores and juniors were collected; the achievement scores for the freshman group were not available at the time of this data collection since the freshmen just entered the university. The two inventories were the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT, Witkin et al., 1971) and the Thinking Styles Inventory (TSI, Sternberg & Wagner, 1992). The GEFT is a group-administered and timed paper-and-pencil performance test adapted from the individual-administered Embedded Figures Test. It is designed to measure the field-dependence/independence construct. The test takers are presented with 8 simple figures and 25 complex figures with the one of the 8 simple figures embedded within each of the 25 complex figures. The test takersÕ task is to locate and trace, within the context of the complex figures, as many of the simple figures as possible within three timed sections (2, 5, and 5 min each). The score of the GEFT is the number of items correctly traced. The higher the score is, the greater the field-independence is; the lower the score is, the greater the field-dependence orientation is. The reliability estimates provided in the test manual (Witkin et al., 1971) were 0.82 and 0.79 for university male and female students, respectively. The present study employed a Chinese version of the GEFT (Witkin et al., 1971) that has modified the original GEFT in three ways (Chen, Yang, & Gao, 1989). First, although this version adopts the majority of the original GEFT items, a few complex figures have been slightly modified to increase the level of difficulty. The resulting 25 items involve three levels of difficulty. Items of the three levels of difficulty are interspersed throughout the inventory. Second, the scoring of the GEFT is different: Correct tracing of each of the least difficult items (items 1 through 8, and item 17) scores 1 point, that of the medium-difficulty level (items 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, and 23) scores 6 points, and that of the most difficult items (items 10, 13, 14, 18, 21, 24, and 25) scores 7 points. Third, the administration of the 25 items is slightly different from that carried out for the original GEFT. Whereas the time allowed for the first 7 items remains the same as that in the original GEFT since no change has been made to the first 7 items, the remaining 18 items were administered in one section of 9 min.

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1301

These modifications to the original GEFT were based on much pilot testing among Chinese university students (Chen et al., 1989), which indicated that the resulting inventory permitted a normal appearing frequency distribution with a wide range of test scores. It is worth noting, however, that the use of this version of the GEFT should be limited to the testing of Chinese university students. To be used in other cultural contexts, the inventory would require validation among the target populations before being employed in a formal study. In the present study, the CronbachÕs alpha coefficient for the overall GEFT scale is 0.85. Furthermore, CronbachÕs alpha coefficients were also computed separately for three GEFT subscales, each subscale is composed of the items earning the same point(s) for each correct tracing of a simple figure within a complex figure. The subscale that includes items earning 1 point is termed as the GEFT1 subscale; the subscale that constitutes items earning 6 points is termed as the GEFT6 subscale; and the subscale that contains items earning 7 points is termed as the GEFT7 subscale. The alpha coefficients are 0.79, 0.75, and 0.67 for the GEFT1, GEFT6, and GEFT7 subscales, respectively. Basic statistics for the three subscales are presented in Table 1. The TSI is a self-report test that consists of 65 statements. Each 5 statements contribute to the assessment of one of the 13 styles. For each statement, the respondents rated themselves on a 7point Likert-type scale from 1 (the statement does not at all describe the way they normally carry out tasks) to 7 (the statement characterizes extremely well the way they normally carry out tasks). In the present study, the participants responded to a Chinese version of the inventory that was translated and back-translated between Chinese and English (Zhang, 1996). As suggested earlier, the TSI has been widely used and has obtained evidence of its validity, both internal and external. Similarly, reasonably good reliability data has also been obtained for

Table 1 (Sub)scale statistics for GEFT and TSI: means, SDÕs, and CronbachÕs alphas ðN ¼ 200Þ (Sub)Scales

Mean

SD

a

GEFT GEFT1 GEFT6 GEFT7

0.91 4.02 4.44

0.17 1.57 1.89

0.79 0.75 0.67

TSI Legislative Executive Judicial Global Local Liberal Conservative Hierarchical Monarchic Oligarchic Anarchic Internal External

5.48 4.95 4.89 4.50 4.65 4.60 4.51 5.05 5.05 4.77 4.77 4.75 4.91

0.82 0.92 0.93 0.91 0.89 1.31 1.09 1.07 0.73 1.03 0.91 0.99 1.09

0.70 0.65 0.64 0.61 0.53 0.84 0.76 0.78 0.51 0.75 0.52 0.73 0.74

1302

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

the inventory in many studies (e.g., Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1995; Zhang & Sternberg, 2001). CronbachÕs alpha coefficients usually range from the mid 0.50s to the low 0.80s. In the present study, the CronbachÕs alpha coefficients ranged from 0.51 (monarchic scale) to 0.84 (liberal scale), with a median of 0.70 (legislative scale). Given the heterogeneity of the items in each scale, these alpha coefficients are considered sufficiently high to allow the remaining statistical analyses to be conducted. Basic statistics of the thinking style scales are also presented in Table 1. 2.3. Data analysis Previous findings have been mixed regarding the effects of student characteristics (such as age, gender, field of study, and university class level) on both thinking styles (e.g., Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1995; Zhang, 1999, 2001a; Zhang & Postiglione, 2001; Zhang & Sachs, 1997) and fielddependence/independence (Hyde et al., 1975; Kalgo, 2001; Kao, Su, & Chen, 1975; Witkin et al., 1971). Consequently, preliminary statistical analyses (using zero-order correlations and multivariate analysis of variance) were conducted to identify possible group differences in thinking styles and field-dependence/independence based on age, gender, field of study, and university class level. No statistically significant difference was identified. To answer the two research questions, the following statistical analyses were conducted. Regarding the first question, three statistical procedures were conducted: zero-order correlations, exploratory factor analysis, and t-tests. First, the zero-order correlations were computed with the three GEFT subscales along with the overall FDI scale being one set of variables and the thinking styles scales being the other set of variables. The aim of this analysis was to identify how the GEFT (sub)scales are related to the thinking styles. Second, the three GEFT subscales and the 13 thinking styles scales were submitted to an exploratory factor analysis with a directoblimin rotation. This analysis was conducted under the assumption that if the field-dependence/ independence construct and the thinking style construct are related, the scales from the two inventories should share common variance in the data. Third, t-tests were conducted to examine if there was any significant difference in thinking styles between students with higher fieldindependence scores and those with lower field-independence scores. The two comparison groups for the t-tests are the students ranking the top one-third on the overall FDI scale and students ranking the bottom one-third on the overall FDI scale. These t-tests were more stringent statistical procedures for identifying possible relationships between the FDI construct and the thinking style construct than were zero-order correlations and factor analysis as the middle one-third of the students (based on the overall FDI scores) were eliminated from analyses. Regarding the second research question, zero-order correlations were computed between studentsÕ academic achievements and thinking style scores and overall field-dependence/independence scores, respectively. First, zero-order correlations were computed with studentsÕ achievements in all subjects combined (three subjects for the Mathematics majors, and three subjects for the Chinese Language majors). This analysis was aimed at exploring whether or not the two theoretical constructs are related to studentsÕ academic achievement in general. Second, zero-order correlations were calculated separately for studentsÕ achievements in different academic subjects.

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1303

3. Results 3.1. Zero-order TSI and FDI (sub)scale correlations None of the PearsonÕs correlation coefficients between the GEFT (sub)scales and the thinking styles scales was statistically significant at the 0.05 level. This finding indicated that the FDI construct and the thinking style construct are unrelated. These non-significant correlation coefficients are presented in Table 2. 3.2. Principal component factor analysis Exploratory principal component factor analysis with an oblique rotation yielded five factors with eigenvalues greater than 1. These five factors accounted for 68% of the variance in the data. Among the five factors, four factors were loaded with scales from the thinking styles scales and one factor was loaded with the GEFT subscales. Specifically, factor 1 was dominated by loadings that contrast the two scopes of thinking styles (internal and external styles) and by 2 thinking styles that are more creativity-generating (known as ‘‘Type I thinking styles’’, see Zhang & Sternberg, 2000). Factor 2 was dominated by loadings of thinking styles that suggest a normconforming tendency (known as ‘‘Type II thinking styles’’). Factor 3 was loaded by the three GEFT subscales. Factor 4 was dominated by Type I thinking styles. Finally, Factor 5 was dominated by the two contrasting levels of thinking styles: global and local. Detailed statistics from this factor analysis are shown in Table 3. None of the five factors had loadings from both the thinking styles scales and the GEFT subscales, suggesting that the (sub)scales from the two inventories do not share any variance. In other words, this factor analysis also suggested that the FDI construct and the thinking style construct are unrelated.

Table 2 PearsonÕs correlation coefficients between TSI scales and GEFT subscales ðN ¼ 200Þ (Sub)Scale

GEFT1

GEFT6

GEFT7

Legislative Executive Judicial Global Local Liberal Conservative Hierarchical Monarchic Oligarchic Anarchic Internal External

)0.12 )0.06 )0.05 )0.02 )0.01 )0.11 )0.07 )0.05 )0.13 0.03 )0.07 0.00 )0.08

)0.04 0.04 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.00 )0.02 )0.08 )0.08 0.07 )0.02 0.01 0.04

)0.03 0.02 )0.04 )0.02 )0.02 0.01 )0.01 )0.09 )0.10 0.12 0.01 )0.04 0.08

Note: None of the correlation coefficients is significant at the 0.05 level.

1304

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

Table 3 Oblique-rotated five-factor model for the Thinking Styles Inventory and the Group Embedded Figures Test ðN ¼ 200Þ (Sub)Scale EFT1 GEFT6 GEFT7 Legislative Executive Judicial Global Local Liberal Conservative Hierarchical Monarchic Oligarchic Anarchic Internal External % Variance C. Variance Eigenvalues

Factor 1

Factor 2

Factor 3

Factor 4

Factor 5

0.50 0.91 0.92 0.82 0.80 0.46 0.33 0.59

0.39 0.40 )0.45 0.91 25.42 25.52 4.07

0.50 0.79 )0.74

)0.36 0.92

0.50 0.30 0.31

0.49 0.64

)0.49

0.31 0.92 13.12 38.54 2.10

11.87 50.41 1.90

9.29 59.70 1.49

8.54 68.24 1.37

Notes: C. Variance ¼ Cumulative Variance. Scales with factor loadings of less than j0:30j are omitted. GEFT1: subscale for items scoring 1 point for each correct tracing; GEFT6: subscale for items scoring 6 point for each correct tracing; and GEFT7: subscale for items scoring 7 point for each correct tracing.

3.3. Differences in thinking styles by high and low field-independence score groups As stated in the ‘‘method’’ section, in order to make the t-tests more stringent, the t-tests only involved data from two-thirds of the participants. Based on their scores on the overall FDI scale, the participants were divided into three groups: top one-third (high field-independents), middle one-third (medium field-independents), and low one-third (low field-independents). The t-tests compared differences in thinking styles between the top one-third and the low one-third groups. Results from these t-tests indicated that students did not differ in their thinking styles based on their field-independence scores. Therefore, consistent with the results from zero-order correlations and factor analysis, results from t-tests suggested that there is no relationship between the thinking style construct and the field-dependence-independence construct. Table 4 presents the results of these t-tests.

3.4. Academic achievement with FDI and thinking styles When zero-order correlations were computed between studentsÕ general academic achievement scores (i.e., with achievements in all subjects being combined) and their overall FDI

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1305

Table 4 Results from t-tests: Thinking styles by high and low field-independence scores Thinking Style

Scale

Mean

SD

N

Leg

High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low

5.42 5.53 4.93 4.82 4.86 4.93 4.45 4.48 4.61 4.58 4.59 4.65 4.44 4.40 5.08 5.14 5.00 5.16 4.91 4.60 4.74 4.75 4.74 4.79 4.94 4.82

0.95 0.78 0.88 1.00 0.89 0.87 0.87 0.88 0.80 0.87 1.10 1.14 1.04 1.17 0.99 1.06 0.79 0.70 0.99 0.99 0.88 0.93 1.05 0.92 1.09 1.16

63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64 63 64

Exe Jud Global Local Lib Con Hier Mona Oli Ana Inter Ext

Sig. (2-tailed)

t 0.71

0.48

)0.68

0.50

0.45

0.65

0.22

0.83

)0.21

0.83

0.33

0.74

)0.19

0.85

0.30

0.73

1.16

0.25

)1.77

0.08

0.06

0.95

0.31

0.76

)0.57

0.57

Note: Leg ¼ Legislative, Exe ¼ Executive, Jud ¼ Judicial, Lib ¼ Liberal, Con ¼ Conservative, Hier ¼ Hierarchical, Mona ¼ Monarchic, Oli ¼ Oligarchic, Ana ¼ Anarchic, Inter ¼ Internal, Ext ¼ External.  High ¼ Group with high field-independence scores, Low ¼ Group with low field-independence scores.

scores and thinking styles scores, respectively, two significant relationships were obtained. The first was between the executive thinking style and the general academic achievement scores (r ¼ 0:25, p < 0:01). The second was between the anarchic style and the general academic achievement scores (r ¼ 0:18, p < 0:05). However, no significant relationship was identified between studentsÕ composite achievement scores and the field-dependence-independence scores. Following the above procedure, zero-order correlations were computed between the FDI and thinking styles scales and studentsÕ achievement in each of the three different courses separately for students from the Chinese Language major and Mathematics major. For students in the Chinese Language major, two significant correlation coefficients were found. That is, studentsÕ achievement in the course Ancient Literature is significantly related to the monarchic thinking style (r ¼ 0:25, p < 0:05) and to the oligarchic thinking style (r ¼ 0:24, p < 0:05). No significant relationship was identified between the FDI scores and any of the three courses in the Chinese Language. For students in Mathematics major, two significant relationships were obtained. The

1306

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

first one was between studentsÕ achievement in the course Mathematics Analysis and the executive thinking style (r ¼ 0:30, p < 0:05). The second one was between studentsÕ achievement in Geometry and the overall FDI scale (r ¼ 0:28, p < 0:05).

4. Discussion and conclusion The present study examined the nature of the field-dependence/independence construct against a general model of intellectual styles: the theory of mental self-government. The relationships between the GEFT (sub)scales and the thinking styles scales were first tested by zero-order correlations, factor analysis, and t-tests, respectively. Results from none of these statistical procedures suggested significant relationships between the FDI and thinking style constructs. In order to further investigate the nature of the FDI construct, both the overall FDI scores and the thinking styles scores were tested against studentsÕ academic achievements in Mathematics and in the Chinese Language. The achievement scores in several subject matters were selected, including both a subject that requires visual disembedding (i.e., geometry) and subjects that do not obviously require visual disembedding. Results from this analysis indicated that whereas thinking styles were related to studentsÕ general achievement as well as to the Chinese Language studentsÕ achievement in the Ancient Literature course, the FDI scale was related only to studentsÕ achievement in geometry. Therefore, results from the present study indicated that the field-dependence/independence construct represents an ability that requires visual disembedding rather than representing a broad intellectual style. First, the FDI construct did not manifest any significant relationship to the thinking style construct that is defined by a general model of intellectual styles. Second, the FDI construct was related only to geometry––a subject matter that requires visual disembedding. It is true that the magnitudes of the correlation coefficients between different achievement scores and the thinking styles and FDI scales are small. However, the coefficients are statistically significant. Furthermore, I have confidence that these coefficients reflect true relationships rather than indicating chance variance. This confidence is based on previous empirical findings on the relationships of academic achievement to both thinking styles and field-dependence/independence. Thinking styles have been found to contribute to academic achievement in a number of studies (e.g., Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1997; ZhangÕs, 2001a, 2001b; Zhang & Sternberg, 1998). The fielddependence/independence construct has been found to contribute to performance in tasks that require visual disembedding ability in numerous studies (e.g., Copeland, 1983; Hyde et al., 1975; Shade, 1984). In addition, field-dependence/independence measures have been unable to display discriminant validity with conventional intelligence tests. Instead, field-independence is often associated with higher spatial and overall intelligence (Dubois & Cohen, 1970; Jones, 1997; Satterly, 1976; Spotts & Mackler, 1967; Stuart, 1967; Weisz et al., 1975). Thus, based on the results of the present study and those from previous research, I conclude that the field-dependence/independence construct is, in essence, a perceptual ability, rather than a broad style construct.

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1307

5. Implications In this study, the theory of mental self-government, a general and one of the most recent models of intellectual styles, has been used to test the nature of field-dependence/independence, the pioneer work in the field of intellectual styles. The results have not only provided further evidence for the argument that the field-dependence/independence construct represents perceptual ability, but also enriched our understanding of the nature of thinking styles defined in the theory of mental self-government. It could be argued that the constructs from the two theories tested in the present study have provided discriminant construct validity for each other. That is, whereas the field-dependence/independence construct has been proved to be a perceptual ability, the thinking style construct has been proved to be a broad intellectual style construct. Then, what are the implications of the present findings for researchers and scholars in the field and for practitioners using models of intellectual styles? For researchers and scholars, results from this study imply that whereas the contribution of WitkinÕs theory of field-dependence/independence to the field of intellectual styles should be widely recognized, the FDI construct should not be confused with the more general models of styles. An alternative way of addressing the FDI construct as ‘‘cognitive style’’ would be to address it by ‘‘cognitive control’’. As a matter of fact, in their work ‘‘Handbook of individual differences: Learning and instruction’’, Jonassen and Grabowski (1993) have referred to field-dependence/independence as cognitive control. They argued that cognitive controls are the most direct descendants of mental abilities. They further argued that whereas cognitive controls are the psychoanalytic entities that regulate perception, cognitive styles (or broadly speaking, intellectual styles) define learner traits. This argument is consistent with the repeated research finding that fielddependence/independence is, in essence, perceptual ability. It is reasonable to state that perceptual ability is one kind of mental ability. Thus, researchers and scholars should be aware of this essential difference between cognitive controls and intellectual styles. They should use these terms and choose appropriate inventories in their research and other scholarly work accordingly. For practitioners, the message is just as clear as it is to researchers and scholars. When a practitioner intends to measure research participantsÕ broad intellectual styles, he/she should choose a measure based on a model of broad intellectual styles such as the Thinking Styles Inventory, rather than a field-dependence/independence measure since, very often, results from a field-dependence/independence measure merely reflect research participantsÕ perceptual ability.

Acknowledgements I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Wu Jieh-Yee Research Fund as administered by The University of Hong Kong for its strong support to this research project.

1308

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

Appendix A Thinking styles in the theory of mental self-government Dimension

Thinking style

Key characteristics

Function

Legislative

One prefers to work on tasks that require creative strategies; One prefers to choose oneÕs own activities. One prefers to work on tasks with clear instructions and structures; One prefers to implement tasks with established guidelines. One prefers to work on tasks that allow for oneÕs evaluation; One prefers to evaluate and judge the performance of other people.

Executive

Judicial

Form

Hierarchical Monarchic Oligarchic Anarchic

Level

Global Local

Scope

Internal External

Leaning

Liberal Conservative

One prefers to distribute attention to several tasks that are prioritized according to oneÕs valuing of the tasks. One prefers to work on tasks that allow complete focus on one thing at a time. One prefers to work on multiple tasks in the service of multiple objectives, without setting priorities. One prefers to work on tasks that would allow flexibility as to what, where, when, and how one works. One prefers to pay more attention to the overall picture of an issue and to abstract ideas. One prefers to work on tasks that require working with concrete details. One prefers to work on tasks that allow one to work as an independent unit. One prefers to work on tasks that allow for collaborative ventures with other people. One prefers to work on tasks that involve novelty and ambiguity. One prefers to work on tasks that allow one to adhere to the existing rules and procedures in performing tasks.

References Bernardo, A. B., Zhang, L. F., & Callueng, C. M. (2002). Thinking styles and academic achievement among Filipino students. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163(2), 149–163. Biggs, J. B. (1992). Why and how do Hong Kong students learn? Using the Learning and Study Process Questionnaires, Education Paper No. 14, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong. Chen, S. Y., Yang, B. M., & Gao, Y. P. (1989). The group embedded figures test (Chinese version). Beijing, PR China: Beijing University Press.

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1309

Copeland, B. D. (1983). The relationship of cognitive style to academic achievement of university art appreciation students. College Student Journal, 17(2), 157–162. Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). The NEO-PI-R: professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Dai, D. Y., & Feldhusen, J. F. (1999). A validation of the thinking styles inventory: implications for gifted education. Roeper Review, 21(4), 302–307. Dubois, T. E., & Cohen, W. (1970). Relationship between measures of psychological differentiation and intellectual ability. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 31, 411–416. Dulin, K. L. (1993). A study of the relationship between middle school-aged studentsÕ tendency toward fieldindependence or field-dependence and their preference toward learning in a cooperative or a traditional classroom. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54(4A), 1215. Dyk, R. B., & Witkin, H. A. (1965). Family experiences related to the development of differentiation in children. Child Development, 30, 21–55. Fine, B. J. (1972). Field-dependent introvert and neuroticism: Eysenck and Witkin united. Psychological Reports, 31, 939–956. Fritz, R. L. (1981). The role of field-dependence and field-independence in secondary school studentsÕ re-enrollments in vocational education and their attitudes towards teachers and programs. Dissertation Abstracts International, 42(4A), 1607. Goodenough, D. R., & Karp, S. A. (1961). Field dependence and intellectual functioning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 241–246. Grigorenko, E. L., & Sternberg, R. J. (1995). Thinking styles. In D. Saklofske & M. Zeidner (Eds.), International handbook of personality and intelligence (pp. 205–229). New York: Plenum. Grigorenko, E. L., & Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Styles of thinking, abilities, and academic performance. Exceptional Children, 63(3), 295–312. Holland, J. L. (1973). Making vocational choices: a theory of careers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Holland, J. L. (1994). Self-directed search. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Hyde, J. S., Geiringer, E. R., & Yen, W. M. (1975). On the empirical relation between spatial ability and sex differences in other aspects of cognitive performance. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 10(3), 289–309. Jonassen, D. H., & Grabowski, B. L. (1993). Handbook of individual differences: learning and instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Jones, A. E. (1997). Field dependence revisited: an evaluation of issues for education and psychology. Ph.D. thesis, University of Lancaster, England. Kalgo, F. A. (2001). Sex and age trends of field-independent/dependent among secondary school students in Sokoto State. IFE Psychologia: An International Journal, 9(1), 105–114. Kalgo, F. A., & Isyaku, K. (1993). Socio-cultural background of students as a determinant of field-independence/ dependence cognitive style: a study of junior secondary school students in Sokoto State. IFE Psychologia: An International Journal, 1(2), 90–99. Kao, D. F., Su, T. T., & Chen, C. I. (1975). The relationships of field independence to sex, general intelligence, and selfacceptance. Acta Psychologica Taiwanica, 17(10), 5–108. Kogan, N. (1980). A style of life, a life of style––review of cognitive styles in personal and cultural adaptation. Contemporary Psychology, 25, 595–598. Loo, R., & Townsend, P. J. (1977). Components underlying the relation between field dependence and extraversion. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 45, 528–530. Morgan, H. (1997). Cognitive styles and classroom learning. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Morris, T. L., & Bergum, B. O. (1978). A note on the relationship between field-independence and creativity. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 46, 1114. Myers, I. B. (1962). Manual: the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Perry, W. G. (1999). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: a scheme (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Richardson, J. A., & Turner, T. E. (2000). Field dependence revisited I: intelligence. Educational Psychology, 20(3), 255–270.

1310

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

Riding, R. J., & Dyer, V. A. (1983). Extraversion, field-independence and performance on cognitive tasks in twelveyear-old children. Research in Education, 29, 1–9. Saracho, O. N. (1991). StudentsÕ preferences for field dependence-independence teacher characteristics. Educational Psychology, 71(3/4), 323–332. Saracho, O. N. (2001). Cognitive style and kindergarten pupilsÕ preferences for teachers. Learning and Instruction, 11, 195–209. Satterly, D. (1976). Cognitive styles, spatial ability, and school achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 68, 36– 42. Satterly, D. (1979). Covariation of cognitive styles, intelligence and achievement. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 49, 179–181. Shade, B. J. (1984). Field dependency: cognitive style or perceptual skill? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58(3), 991–995. Shipman, S. L. (1990). Limitations of applying cognitive style to early childhood education. In O. N. Saracho (Ed.), Cognitive style and early education (pp. 33–42). New York: Gordon & Breach. Spotts, J. X. V., & Mackler, B. (1967). Relationship of field-dependent and field-independent cognitive styles to creative tests performance. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 24, 239–268. Sternberg, R. J. (1988). Mental self-government: a theory of intellectual styles and their development. Human Development, 31, 197–224. Sternberg, R. J. (1994). Thinking styles: theory and assessment at the interface between intelligence and personality. In R. J. Sternberg & P. Ruzgis (Eds.), Intelligence and personality (pp. 169–187). New York: Cambridge University Press. Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking styles. New York: Cambridge University Press. Sternberg, R. J., & Grigorenko, E. L. (1995). Styles of thinking in the school. European Journal for High Ability, 6, 201– 219. Sternberg, R. J., & Wagner, R. K. (1992). Thinking Styles Inventory. Unpublished test, Yale University. Stuart, I. R. (1967). Perceptual style and reading ability: implications for an instructional approach. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 24, 135–138. Thomas, C. R. (1986). Field independence and technology studentsÕ achievement. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 62, 859– 862. Vernon, P. E. (1972). The distinctiveness of field independence. Journal of Personality, 40(3), 366–391. Weisz, J. R., OÕNeill, P., & OÕNeill, P. C. (1975). Field-dependence-independence on the ChildrenÕs Embedded Figures Test: cognitive style or cognitive level? Developmental Psychology, 11, 539–540. Witkin, H. A. (1965). Psychological differentiation and forms of pathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 70, 317– 336. Witkin, H. A., & Asch, S. E. (1948a). Studies in space orientation, III––perception of the upright in the absence of visual field. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 603–614. Witkin, H. A., & Asch, S. E. (1948b). Studies in space orientation, IV––further experiments on perception of the upright with displaced visual field. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 762–782. Witkin, H. A., Dyk, R. B., Faterson, H. F., Goodenough, D. R., & Karp, S. A. (1962). Psychological differentiation. New York: Wiley. Witkin, H. A., & Goodenough, D. R. (1977). Field dependence revisited (ETS RB77-16). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Witkin, H. A., Oltman, P. K., Raskin, E., & Karp, S. A. (1971). Embedded Figures Test, ChildrenÕs Embedded Figures Test: manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. Woodward, J. C., & Kalyan-Masih, V. (1990). Loneliness, coping strategies and cognitive styles of the gifted rural adolescent. Adolescence, 25(100), 977–987. Zhang, L. F. (1996). A Chinese version of Sternberg and Wagner’s Thinking Styles Inventory. Unpublished test, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Zhang, L. F. (1999). Further cross-cultural validation of the theory of mental self-government. The Journal of Psychology, 133(2), 165–181. Zhang, L. F. (2000). Are thinking styles and personality types related? Educational Psychology, 20(3), 271–283.

L.-f. Zhang / Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 1295–1311

1311

Zhang, L. F. (2001a). Do styles of thinking matter among Hong Kong secondary school students? Personality and Individual Differences, 31(3), 289–301. Zhang, L. F. (2001b). Do thinking styles contribute to academic achievement beyond abilities? The Journal of Psychology, 135(6), 621–637. Zhang, L. F. (2002a). Thinking styles and the Big Five Personality Traits. Educational Psychology, 22(1), 17–31. Zhang, L. F. (2002b). Thinking styles: their relationships with modes of thinking and academic performance. Educational Psychology, 22(3), 331–348. Zhang, L. F. (2002c). Thinking styles and cognitive development. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163(2), 179–195. Zhang, L. F., & Postiglione, G. A. (2001). Thinking styles, self-esteem, and socio-economic status. Personality and Individual Differences, 31, 1333–1346. Zhang, L. F., & Sachs, J. (1997). Assessing thinking styles in the theory of mental self-government: a Hong Kong validity study. Psychological Reports, 81, 915–928. Zhang, L. F., & Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Thinking styles, abilities, and academic achievement among Hong Kong university students. Educational Research Journal, 13(1), 41–62. Zhang, L. F., & Sternberg, R. J. (2000). Are learning approaches and thinking styles related? A study in two Chinese populations. The Journal of Psychology, 134(5), 469–489. Zhang, L. F., & Sternberg, R. J. (2001). Thinking styles across cultures: their relationships with student learning. In R. J. Sternberg & L. F. Zhang (Eds.), Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles (pp. 197–226). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.