Differences among Cognitive-Processing Styles Groups on Personality Traits

By Gadzella, Bernadette M. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Differences among Cognitive-Processing Styles Groups on Personality Traits


Gadzella, Bernadette M., Journal of Instructional Psychology


Differences among cognitive-processing style (hemispheric dominance) groups on personality traits were investigated. From responses to the Human Information Processing Survey, (HIPS), 17 students were identified using primarily the left hemispheric mode in processing information, 19 students the right hemispheric mode, and 19 students the integrated mode (both left and right hemispheric modes). Responses to the eight second-order 16 PF scales showed significant personality trait differences among the three groups. The left hemispheric group had better leadership qualities than the right hemispheric group, more self-control than the right and integrated groups, and more anxiety than the integrated group. The right hemispheric group showed more extraversion and independence than the left hemispheric group and more anxiety than the integrated group. The integrated hemispheric group showed more extraversion and independence and better leadership skills than the left hemispheric group, and more self-control and better adjustment and leadership skills than the right group.

Hemispheric dominance is often referred to as a cognitive style of how one processes information based on differential capabilities of the left and right (cerebral) hemispheres of the brain (Coleman & Zenhausern, 1979; Zenhausern, 1978). Torrance (1982) defined hemisphericity "as the tendency for a person to rely more on one than the other cerebral hemisphere in processing information" (p. 29). According to Beaumont, Young and McManus (1984), whenever hemisphericity was used in studies it implied that individuals tended to rely on a preferred mode of cognitive processing in which the predominant activity was either in the left or right cerebral hemisphere. Some studies (Sperry, 1964; Springer & Deutach, 1985; Zenhausern, 1978; Zenhausern & Gerbhart, 1979) have shown that the left hemisphere of the brain tends to have more verbal and sequential abilities; whereas, the right hemisphere tends to excels in processing visual-spatial tasks. The left hemisphere tends to process the more intellectual and reflective material and the right hemisphere tends to process material that is more holistic, relational, and impulsive. However, some individuals might use both the left and right hemispheric modes in processing information (Torrance, Taggart & Taggart, 1984). Zenhausern (1978) indicated that the hemispheric (cerebral) dominance is an appropriate classifying variable for studies. Beaumont et al. (1984) indicated that hemisphericity, as a characteristic, has been linked to personality, reasoning and thought, and abnormal states.

In a critical review, Beaumont et al. (1984) classified investigations on hemisphericity into four different groups: studies on lateral eye-movements, electro-physiological measures, questionnaires, and cognitive tasks. Numerous studies appear in each of these groups using relatively independent forms of investigation. Beaumont et al. (1984) questioned the validity of the forms used and the inferences drawn from them.

Regardless of the type of investigation researchers use, it is well known that people have different personality traits and that people think and process information differently. The question is whether hemisphericity is related to personality traits.

Nestor and Safer (1990) investigated whether hemisphericity was related to personality variables as measured by trait anxiety and the tendency to express versus inhibit emotions. Their subjects were 66 right-handed individuals who completed personality measures and were tested on two occasions with multiple measures of hemisphericity. Although some measures of hemisphericity showed moderate reliability, generally, they did not correlate with each other or with the measures of personality. However, the composite hemisphericity index indicated that the Right hemisphericity correlated modestly with the tendency to express emotions and the Left hemisphericity with the tendency to inhibit emotions.

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