It accordingly seems timely to bring to the attention of educators the concept of cognitive styles …
Herman A. Witkin, a psychologist, specialized in cognitive and and learning psychology. He investigated field independence and field dependence using a meaurement tool entitled the Rod and Frame Test. This test required that test subjects sit in a dark room and manipulate a glowing rod and frame until the rod stood perfectly upright, requiring the individual to ignore cues beyond the rod and frame within their field of vision (Witkin & Asch, 1948). This test proved to be difficult and took an extreme amount of time.
Witkin then developed the Group Embedded Figures Test to ascertain field independence and field dependence. The Group Embedded Figures Test required test subjects to find a hidden simple figure within a complex design. The responses were received as field independence or field dependence. Field independent individuals would find be able to quickly locate the hidden figures while field dependent individuals would struggle to locate the hidden figures.
Field independence is an analytical approach to perceive things, seeing objects in parts versus a whole. These individuals who demonstrate field independence also tend to have a more impersonal relationship with the world, preferring data, numbers and information over relationships and social settings. They will rely more on their own perceptions to make judgments. Cohen (1968) found field independent students to perform better in academic settings.
Field dependence is a view of things more as a whole or within a globel aspect. These individuals tend to be more people-oriented and learn in social settings. They see things in a general or broad sense, lacking many details and generally prefer to learn in a social setting. These individuals also have a tendency to recall names and faces with greater frequency in contrast to their field independent counterparts.
Cohen, R. (1968). The relationship between socio-conceptual styles and orientation to school requirements. Sociology of Education, 41, 201-220.
Witkin, H. A., & Asch, S. E. (1948). Studies in space orientation: IV. Further experiments on perception of the upright with displaced visual fields. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 762-782.
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8, The Personal Pursuit of Perfection and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.