The influence of individual cognitive style on performance

in management education



Steven J. Armstrong Department of Organisational Analysis, Lincoln School of Management, University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, Lincoln, UK



This paper reports the outcomes of an empirical study undertaken to explore the possibility that cognitive style may be an important factor influencing performance on certain types of task. Four hundred and twelve final-year undergraduate degree students studying business administration were tested using the Allinson-Hayes Cognitive Style Index. Their cognitive styles were then compared with assessment grades achieved for academic modules, the task categories of which were deemed to be consonant with either the wholist/intuitive or the analytic style of working. Overall ability defined by final degree grades was also tested against individuals' cognitive styles.

As expected, students whose dominant cognitive styles were analytic attained higher grades for long term solitary tasks involving careful planning and analysis of information. However, contrary to expectations, performance on tasks believed to be more suited to the wholist/intuitive style was also higher for analytic individuals, as was overall ability defined by final degree grades. The results were discussed in terms of the nature of the tasks and the need for methods of performance assessment which are independent of an orientation bias. Implications for employment selection criteria are also briefly discussed.


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