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Environment Influences Individuals’ ‘Cognitive Styles,’ Paper Argues

Report: “Cognitive Style as Environmentally Sensitive Individual Differences in Cognition”
Authors: Maria Kozhevnikov, visiting associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and associate professor of psychology at National University of Singapore; Carol Evans, associate professor at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Exeter; and Stephen M. Kosslyn, dean of the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences
Publication: Psychological Science in the Public Interest
Summary: The paper creates a theoretical framework for understanding “cognitive styles,” or the ways that individuals perform cognitive tasks. Drawing on research from neuroscience and educational and organizational psychology, the authors argue that such styles reflect inborn and external sociocultural factors—and the interplay between them.
Discussion:

The authors propose a matrix. One axis covers the ways that people perceive, form concepts, and engage in higher-order thinking, among other factors. The other describes the extent to which people place information in a disciplinary context, gather content in a holistic fashion or break it into discrete parts, and analyze or use intuition.
The authors hope the matrix can eventually be used to describe what happens to people in different learning or sociocultural environments, and how moving among those environments might lead people to change how they think and make decisions.
“If members of such groups have comparable intellectual abilities and personality traits but develop different cognitive styles,” the authors write, “this would allow us to distinguish clearly between the concept of cognitive styles and more fixed traits.”

Bottom Line: The idea that learning styles exist has come under attack in recent years. In his introduction to the paper, Robert J. Sternberg, a professor of human development at Cornell University, writes that this new work will bring order to a field long noted for its disorder. The paper, he adds, “will be among the most important in the field of cognitive styles.”



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http://psi.sagepub.com/content/15/1/3.full.pdf+html


Norman Stahl
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