Field Independent and Field Dependent Cognitive Styles
The most complex form of expression is called "style"--the particular individualized manner of execution that permeates any highly integrated volitional activity. Though most conspicuous and most celebrated in the fields of esthetic creation, style is also apparent in economic, domestic and social conduct--wherever, in fact, the fundamental traits of personality are operative. Though the roots of style are no doubt to be traced to native temperament, the interaction of mature traits with one another, and their confluent effect upon creative and adaptive acts, are the immediate sources of the stylistic idiom.
-- Gordon W. Allport
Field independent and field dependent cognitive styles have received more attention from scholars in education and psychology than any other cognitive styles. These two styles are frequently paired for discussion because they represent an individual information processing mode along a bipolar plane--at either end of a continuum. This does not mean that there are two distinctively different types of individuals--field independent and field dependent. A continuum in this context means that there are persons with variations of these traits at different points between the two extremes, on each side of a central point. From a psychological differentiation perspective, Witkin describes these two domains in the following manner:
The person with a more field independent way of perceiving tends to experience his surroundings analytically, with objects experienced as discrete from their backgrounds. The person with a more field dependent way of perceiving tends to experience his surroundings in a relatively global fashion, passively conforming to the influence of the prevailing field or context. ( Witkin, et al. 1974, 35)