Jerome Kagan et. al (1963) studied the analytic styles and the assumption that forming such concepts requires two processes: reflection on possible alternatives and visual analysis of complex arrays. Reflection is the delay of decision-making in situations where a correct response is not obvious; the operational definition has added that the delay must result in choosing the correct alternative. impulsivity is the wuick choice of an alternative without adequate consideration of options; the operational definition has added that the fast response must result in incorrect choice. Addition of the error score establishes more firmly what was only impied in the original definition: impulsivity is dysfunctional in all learning contexts. Causes of reflection-impulsivity are unclear, though they seem more likely to be experiential than biological. The chief debate is whether anxiety causes reflectives to go slowly or impulsives to hurry, or both.
The Matching Familiar Figures Test is used to measure the bipolar trait of reflection-impulsivity. The intention was to develop an instrument which would overcome earlier test prolems with regard to IQ and memory. The instrument and theory have been in use long enough to build a substantial body of research and diversity of interpretation. The original children's version of the MFFT contains two practice and 12 experimental items. Each item consists of a standard picture of a common object and six variants, one identical to the standard and five slightly different in one detail each. The subject is to choose the cariant that matches the standard, with five incorrect choices allowed per problem. The responses are timed. The instrument is projective, which can be self-administered. The MFFT has produced reasonably high reliability, although lower figures for errors present theoretical and statistical complications. Problems relate tothe theory itself, to the MFFT as its instrument, and to the use of the theory in relation to adults.
The theory has not been enriched since its original postulation, leaving unresolved the questions of whether the trait is different in males and females, what its causes or antecedents may be, and what its relation is to verbal IQ. There is a lack of agreement about whether and how cognitive impulsivity correlates with general impulsivity. Studies bearing on validity have had mixed findings, not always showing correlations with related constructs and not always distinguishing the trait from verbal IQ. limited evidence is available on how modification of reflection-impulsivity actually affects other learning tqasks.
Kagan has not explained to the satisfaction of others how error score can be combined with latency score to create a tehoretically valid measure of the trait. Use of the double measure results in assigning subjects to one of four quadrants-only tow of which are accounted for by the theory; the unexplained quadrants account for about one third of all subjects. On the other hand, some researchers have focused on error scores as the most important measure, calling into question what construct is being measured (Bonham, 1987).
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Peter L. Heineman
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