According to Bonham (1987), Herman Witkin's Filed Independence-Dependence is the most widely known cognitive style, perhaps owing to the extent of its research. The theory has been continually revised for over 30 years. Current theory places field independence within the framework of psychological differentiation. Field independent persons epend more on self and seem readily to learn material that has a social context. Field independent students appear to be more adept to the usntructured classroom than their field dependent counterparts. Field independence appears to result in a greater development of cognitive restructuring skills.
The more field dependent person is reliant on external referents as a result of their amount of differentiation of self from non-self. Dependent learners rely more on the teacher and peer support. Bythis theory, the independent student tends to be more analytical and attends less to peer pressure or teacher direction.
The Embeded Figures Test (EFT) is designed to measure disembedding, a restructuring skill, which results from the use of style. According to Bonham (1987), the EFT was adapted from Gottschaldt's figures by adding colored patterns to increase complexity. Each complex figure included an embedded simple figure, which the subject is to identify as quickly as possible; there are 24 figures in the EFT. The group version (GEFT), is a paper-and-pencil instrument which requires students to attempt to discern simple geometric figures from more complicated patterns. Students find eight hidden figures by tracing over them.
Casey (1993), citing Witkin (1976), reports reasonably high validity data (-.82 for male undergraduates, -.63 for female graduates) with Spearman-Brown and Tyron's variance coefficients of .89 to .95. Bonham (1987) notes a number of problems that seems to exist in relation to theory and isntrument including gender bias; sex differences were first reported then discounted. Instrumentation is questionable: the epception-of-the-upright equipment is now said to measure style while the EFT and GEFT insruments are said to measure ability. Critics note that the instruments are a measure of either general intellegence or some specific ability. It is not always clear what version is being used or why, nor how readers should interpret outdated literature (Bonham, 1987). Bonham sees two particular problems associated with the new model: the nature of hierarchies and use of a bipolar dimension that is really two dimensional.
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Peter L. Heineman
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