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Cognitive Style

Leveling And Sharpening, Field-dependence And Field-independence, Reflectivity And Impulsivity

How can several people look at one common object and describe it correctly, yet in so many different ways? Why is it that people exhibit the same variability when experiencing identical events? Psychologists believe that individual biological and psychological differences affect the ways in which people perceive events, objects, sights, sounds, and feelings. Thus, when several people encounter an identical object or event, each might experience a different perception of that object or event. There is no question that the exposure of infants and children to different experiences shapes their personalities and influences who they are and how they interpret things. And many educators and researchers are now focusing their attention on these differences to further understand how individuals in the classroom perceive information and learn in different ways.

Cognitive style is the manner by which individuals perceive information in the environment and the patterns of thought that they use to develop a knowledge base about the world around them. The concept of styles of cognition, an area under continuing investigation, has been discussed and researched in the psychological community as early as the late 1930s. Knowledge gained concerning cognitive styles provides the opportunity to learn more about individual differences. This knowledge can then be applied to assist teachers, counselors, and all professionals who are involved in children's learning experiences.

There are three very important cognitive styles: leveling-sharpening, field-dependence/field-independence, and reflectivity-impulsivity. Cognitive styles are distinct from individual intelligence, but they may affect personality development and how individuals learn and apply information. And while research has shown that these differences precede environmental shaping, the effects of cognitive styles can be accented or mitigated by many outside factors, such as classroom setting, social experiences, and vocational choices. It is for this reason that research in this area is so important and that it is critical to train educational professionals in methods to address these differences in the classroom.

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 2