The concept of rigidity: An enigma

  • Len Stewin


A controversy about the nature of behavioral rigidity exists in current psychological theory. To date, large bodies of empirical data have been accumulated which support two major theoretical perspectives. A dichotomy exists between the assumption that rigidity is a personality factor and the perspective that maintains that rigidity is task specific, a behavioral phenomena observable under certain conditions. This paper highlights the dichotomy by examining some of the relevant classical and recent research in the area. It is concluded that the concept must be used cautiously by both researchers and practitioners.


Empirical Data Large Body Theoretical Perspective Personality Factor Psychological Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, T.W. and Whitley, J.M. (1969). Dimensions of effective counselling. Columbus: Ohio: Merrill.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, C.C. (1981). The bogus science. Canadian Journal of Education 6(4): 8–22.Google Scholar
  3. Angleitner, A. (1973). Factor analysis of the concept of rigidity. Archives für Psychologie 125(1): 73–104.Google Scholar
  4. Angleitner, A. and Rudinger, G. (1975). An examination of factorial disruption of intelligence and rigidity. Archives für Psychologie 127(1–2): 35–50.Google Scholar
  5. Applezweig, D.G. (1954). Some determinants of behavioral rigidity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 49: 224–228.Google Scholar
  6. Baer, D.J. (1964). Factors in perception and rigidity. Perceptual and Motor Skills 19(2): 563–570.Google Scholar
  7. Cattell, R.B. (1935). On the measurement of perseveration. British Journal of Educational Psychology 5: 76–92.Google Scholar
  8. Cattell, R.B. (1946). The riddle of perseveration: I. Creative effort and disposition rigidity. II. Solution in terms of personality structure. Journal of Personality 14: 229–238, 239–267.Google Scholar
  9. Cattell, R.B. and Tiner, L.G. (1949). The varieties of structural rigidity. Journal of Personality 17: 321–341.Google Scholar
  10. Chown, S.M. (1959). Rigidity — a flexible concept. Psychological Bulletin 56(3): 195–223.Google Scholar
  11. Corder, B.F. and Corder, R.F. (1974). A study of the relationship of IQ and cognitive and personality rigidity to performance on concept learning tasks. Educational and Psychological Measurement 34(1): 83–90.Google Scholar
  12. Cowen, E.L. and Thompson, G.G. (1951). Problem solving rigidity and personality structure. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 46: 165–176.Google Scholar
  13. Cowen, E.L., Wiener, M. and Hess, J. (1953). Generalization of problem-solving rigidity. Journal of Consulting Psychology 17: 100–103.Google Scholar
  14. Ferniman, S. and Rogers, J.D. (1974). Sex differences in psychological rigidity. Perceptual and Motor Skills 39(3): 1337–1338.Google Scholar
  15. Fisher, S. An overview of trends in research dealing with personality rigidity. Journal of Personality 17: 342–351.Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, S. (1950). Patterns of personality rigidity and some of their determinants. Psychological Monographs 64(1 Whole no. 307).Google Scholar
  17. Forster, N., Vinacke, W.E. and Digman, J.M. (1955). Flexibility and rigidity in a variety of problem situations. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 50: 211–216.Google Scholar
  18. French, E.G. (1955). Interrelations among some measures of rigidity under stress and non-stress conditions. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 51: 114–118.Google Scholar
  19. Goodstein, L.D. (1953). Intellectual rigidity and social attitudes. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 48: 345–353.Google Scholar
  20. Kounin, J. (1948). The meaning of rigidity: a reply to Heinz Werner. Psychological Review 55: 157–166.Google Scholar
  21. Leach, P.J. (1967). A critical study of the literature concerning rigidity. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 6(1): 11–22.Google Scholar
  22. Luchins, A.S. (1949). Rigidity and ethnocentrism a critique. Journal of Personality 17: 467–474.Google Scholar
  23. Oliver, J.A. and Ferguson, G.A. (1951). A factorial study of tests of rigidity. Canadian Journal of Psychology 5: 49–59.Google Scholar
  24. Pinard, J.W. (1932). Tests of perseveration. British Journal of Psychology 23: 114–126.Google Scholar
  25. Rokeach, M. (1948). Generalized mental rigidity as a factor in ethnocentrism. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 43: 259–278.Google Scholar
  26. Rubenowitz, S. (1963). Emotional flexibility-rigidity as a comprehensive dimension of mind. PA: Council Report NR34.Google Scholar
  27. Schaie, K. Werner (1955). A test of behavioral rigidity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 51: 604–610.Google Scholar
  28. Schmidt, H.O., Fonda, C.P. and Wesley, E.L. (1954). A note on the consistency of rigidity as a personality variable. Journal of Consulting Psychology 18: 450.Google Scholar
  29. Schroeder, H.M. (1971). Conceptual complexity and personality organization. In H.M. Schroeder and P. Suedfild (Eds.), Personality theory and information processing, New York: Ronald Press.Google Scholar
  30. Scott, W.A. (1966). Flexibility, rigidity and adaptation: toward clarification of constructs. In O.S. Harvey (Ed.), Experience, structure and adaptability, New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  31. Stewin, L.L. (1980). Rigidity revisited. Unpublished paper. University of Alberta.Google Scholar
  32. Werner, H. (1946). The concept of rigidity: a critical evaluation. Psychological Review 53: 43–52.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Len Stewin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlbertaAlbertaCanada

Personalised recommendations