Field Dependence revisited: Personality

Julie A. Richardson, Kings College London

Tony E. Turner, Canterbury Christ Church University College

Field dependence was developed by Herman Witkin (e.g. Witkin & Asch, 1948; Witkin & Goodenough, 1981), and refers to the extent to which a person is dependent versus independent , in their organisation of the surrounding perceptual field. Jones (1997) reviewed the development of field dependence and identified some of the key problems which led to its decline. Richardson and Turner (2000) discussed one of these at length – the relationship between field dependence theory and personality theory. Although evidence for links between these areas is large, it lacks quality by not providing a strong theoretical and empirical case for linking field dependence explicitly with a particular theory. Rather, it provides links with many different personality 'characteristics' through a wide range of measures. If any development is to take place it is essential that a more systematic attempt is made to link field dependence with a strong theory of personality. Richardson and Turner (2000) offer a theoretical argument for a relationship between Jung's personality types, and field dependence. This paper takes these ideas further by providing empirical support for the argument. In doing so the paper is divided into three parts.

First, the theoretical argument is summarised and hypotheses are offered which suggest that field dependents would also be Perceivers as described in Jung's Theory of personality types; and field-independents would be Judgers.

The Second part of the paper discusses an empirical investigation based on theses hypotheses. The study involves 62, 11-yr-old children. The independent variables were personality types as determined by the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children. The dependent variables were cognitive styles as determined by the Embedded Figures Test and the Cognitive Styles Analysis. The results were controlled for psychometric intelligence. The respondents were classified in two ways. In the first way, Perceivers and Judgers were grouped according to their Orientation to the outerworld. In the second way, Perceivers and Judgers were grouped according to their functional dominance. It was hypothesised that both Perceiver subgroups would have higher field-dependence than their respective Judger subgroups. It was also hypothesised that both Judger subgroups would have higher field-independence scores than their respective Perceiver subgroups. The results confirmed the hypotheses demonstrating that the Orientation Perceives and Functionally Dominant Perceives had significantly higher field-dependence than the Orientation Judgers and Functionally dominant Judger subgroups (p<0.05). All outcomes appeared to be independent of standardised measures of verbal and spatial intelligence. As a result of the study the two different cognitive styles of field-dependent and field-independents were ascribed to the personality types of Judgers and Perceivers respectively.

Finally, the third part of the part discusses the implications of the results for field dependence theory and future studies.

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