Psychological differentiation and cognitive style
This thesis is concerned with the concept of psychological differentiation,and with its applications in the field of cognitive style, particularly inrelation to individual differences in field-dependence-independence. Thethesis addresses itself specifically to the ''differentiation hypothesis'',which suggests that tests of perceptual field-dependence measure an individual''soverall level of differentiation, and that this level will manifestitself consistently across many areas of psychological functioning,including cognition, personality, and social behaviour.An examination of the concept of differentiation, and of research carriedout on field-dependence-independence, revealed inconsistencies in theexisting evidence and in the relationship between this evidence and theinterpretation of the concept. Attention was focused on three questionsabout the links between field-dependence and differentiation, and someempirical work is reported bearing on each.The first question was whether individual differences in field-dependenceowed more to specific kinds of visual experience than to underlying,enduring personality characteristics. A cross-cultural study is outlinedwhich concerns this issue. This involved the administration of a batteryof perceptual tests to groups of schoolchildren (n=54) and universitystudents (n=34) in Hong Kong. Results did not favour the alternative viewof field-dependence scores; however field-dependence tests showed strongassociations with general intelligence.A second study investigated more closely the relationship between field dependence,intelligence, and other cognitive ''styles'' (capacity fordivergent thinking, and reflection-impulsivity). A number of cognitivestyle measures were administered to groups of school pupils in Edinburgh(n=110). Results suggested that while the other cognitive style tests areseparate from each other and from intelligence, field-dependence testsmeasure little that can be distinguished from more general ability factors.However the possibility remained that field-dependent and field-independentindividuals differ in their orientation towards or away from the interpersonalenvironment.Accordingly, a third study explored the possibility that field-dependentpersons, judged as ''less differentiated'' on the basis of perceptual tests,in fact functioned at a higher level of differentiation in other domains- the verbal and the interpersonal. A study conducted with adolescentsin Sheffield (n=91) failed to find support for this suggestion. Whilefield-dependent and field-independent persons did differ in their orientationtowards others, it could not be shown that field-dependent individualswere more ''differentiated'' in their perceptions of them.