Conceptual Style Test

The Sonceptual Styles Theory deals with how persons decide to group objects that are not identical. Jerome Kagan spearheaded research at the Fels Research Instute in 1960 where he first proposed a three-style theory and then focused on analytic and relational, measured by the Conceptual Styles Test (CST). Furterh narrowing of focus led the group to explore the impact of reflection and impulsivity on formation of analytic concepts. Irving Sigel proposed a four-style theory including descriptive part-whole, descriptive-global, relational-contextual, and categorical-inferrential.

The Conceptual Style Test measures analytic and nonanaytic (relational) concepts. Some items in the original set of 44 consistently got inferrential-categorical responses and were dropped, leaving 30 items. Each item has three black-and-white line drawings of familiear objects. The test requires a trained administrator. Instructions are to pick out two pictures that are alike or go together in some manner. The CST differs from the EFT and MFFT in that it measures both poles of the trait.

Conceptual styles have been said to relate to other cognitive styles, but the relationships have been largely untested. A relational style produces concepts that take the whole stimulus into account in seeing functional ties amng objects. An analystic style focuses on stimulus parts that have something in common. Kagan's group considered the analytic style to be more elegant and mature, though Nathan Kogan said said their instrument created such a bias in subject repsonse. Both biological and experiential roots are claimed for style differences. Researchers have not agreed on whether and how style preference changes with age, how stable such preferences are, and whether tyles are equally susceptible to deliberate efforts at modification. Little research deals with how this field theory can be applied to increase learning.

One marked problem is the original researcher's failure to take seriously the sex-related differences they were finding. These differences strike at the heart of theory, not just at instrumentation. How the theory should be revised is unclear, because no one has tried.

Another unresolved problem concerns IQ. Findings have been contradictory about whether relationship of style to IQ increases or decreases with age, about which styles are related to verbal IQ and which to performance IQ, and about whether any correlation is true for both sexes.

Narrowing of focus from Kagan's original theory presents two problems. First, no theoretical reason is offered for the narrowing. It seems to be a result only of researchers' preferences. The narrowing means that valid styles were not examined, making the studies far less relevant for adult educators looking for a complete theory. Also, focus on two traits led to the idea that those traits were polar. Actually, the CST was refined to eliminate items that elicited other concepts, and the bi-polar results were artificially created by the isntrument (Bonham, 1987).

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    All contents copyright (C) 1995
    Peter L. Heineman
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