Advertisement

Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 99–114 | Cite as

Field dependence–independence as visuospatial and executive functioning in working memory: implications for instructional systems design and research

  • Kent A. Rittschof
Development Article

Abstract

Field dependence–independence (FDI) has long been conceptualized and discussed as a cognitive style relevant to numerous educational approaches and outcomes. However, the FDI construct is most often measured as a cognitive ability, as opposed to a style, using instruments such as the Group-Embedded Figures test (GEFT) or the Hidden Figures Test (HFT). Specifically, FDI is typically measured as visuospatial ability and executive functioning in working memory. While measurement and use of FDI within psychological and educational research has often resulted in misleading or inconsistent discussion about cognitive styles, this review examines how the long history of FDI research continues to be relevant to contemporary instructional contexts. A broader recognition of FDI as ability is suggested in order to (a) better distinguish ability measurements from those of styles, (b) encourage a reinterpretation and awareness of theoretical connections among past studies that use instruments such as GEFT or HFT, and (c) highlight suggestions for future research and application, particularly with contemporary interactive multimedia learning tools.

Keywords

Field dependence–independence Spatial ability Working-memory Visuospatial sketchpad Central executive Interactive multimedia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Kent Rittschof thanks Steve Bonham of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and the reviewers of ETR&D for their insightful comments on an early draft.

References

  1. Adams, V. M., & McLeod, D. B. (1979). The interaction of field independence with discovery learning in mathematics. Journal of Experimental Education, 48, 32–35.Google Scholar
  2. Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer, F., & Wallace, R. (2003). Help seeking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of Educational Research, 73(3), 277–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2004). Examining effects of text-only and text-and-visual instructional materials on the achievement of field-dependent and field-dependent learners during problem-solving with modeling software. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(4), 23–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baddeley, A. D. (1986). Working memory. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baddeley, A. D. (1999). Essentials of human memory. Hove, England: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bahar, M., & Hansell, M. (2000). The relationship between some psychological factors and their effect on the performance of grid questions and word association tests. Educational Psychology, 20(3), 349–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baker, R. M., & Dwyer, F. (2005). Effects of instructional strategies and individual differences: A meta-analytic assessment. International Journal of Instructional Media, 32(1), 69–84.Google Scholar
  8. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brünken, R., Plass, J., & Leutner, D. (2003). Direct measurement of cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 53–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carroll, J. B. (1963). A model of school learning. Teachers College Record, 64(8), 723–733.Google Scholar
  11. Chen, S., & Macredie, R. D. (2002). Cognitive style and hypermedia navigation: Development of a learning model. Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology, 53(1), 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chen, S., & Macredie, R. D. (2004). Cognitive modeling of student learning in web-based instructional programs. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 17(3), 375–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark, J. M., & Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory and education. Educational Psychology Review, 3(3), 149–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Coward, R. T., Davis, J. K., & Wichern, R. O. (1978). Cognitive style and perceptions of the ideal teacher. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 3(3), 232–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cronbach, L. J., & Snow, R. E. (1977). Aptitudes and instructional methods. New York: Irvington.Google Scholar
  17. Curry, L. (1990). A critique of research on learning styles. Educational Leadership, 47(2), 50–56.Google Scholar
  18. Daniels, H. L., & Moore, D. M. (2000). Interaction of cognitive style and learner control in a hypermedia environment. International Journal of Instructional Media, 27(4), 369–384.Google Scholar
  19. Dassonville, P., Walter, E., & Lunger, K. (2006). Illusions of space, field dependence and the efficiency of working memory. Journal of Vision, 6(6), 476.Google Scholar
  20. DiStefano, J. J. (1970). Interpersonal perceptions of field independent and filed dependent teachers and students (Doctoral Dissertation, Cornell University, 1969). Dissertation Abstracts International, 31, 463A–464A (University Microfilms No. 70–11,225).Google Scholar
  21. Ekstrom, R. B., French, J. W., Harman, H. H., & Dermen, D. (1976). Hidden figures test: CF-1, revised: Kit of referenced tests for cognitive factors. Princeton: Educational Testing Services.Google Scholar
  22. Flexor, B. K., & Roberge, J. J. (1980). IQ, field dependence–independence, and the development of formal operational thought. The Journal of General Psychology, 103, 191–201.Google Scholar
  23. Ford, N., & Chen, S. (2001). Matching/mismatching revisited: An empirical study of learning and teaching styles. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(1), 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frank, B. M. (1984). Effect of field independence–dependence and study technique on learning from lecture. American Educational Research Journal, 21, 669–678.Google Scholar
  25. Frank, B. M. (1986). Cognitive styles and teacher education: Field dependence and areas of specialization among teacher education majors. Journal of Educational Research, 80(1), 19–22.Google Scholar
  26. Gettinger, M. (1984). Achievement as a function of time spent learning and time needed for learning. American Educational Research Journal, 21(3), 617–628.Google Scholar
  27. Ghinea, G., & Chen, S. (2003). The impact of cognitive styles on perceptual distributed multimedia quality. British Journal of Educational technology, 34(4), 393–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goodenough, D. R., & Karp, S. (1961). Field dependence and intellectual functioning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 241–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graf, M. (2000). The intermediate style position. In R. J. Riding & S. G. Raynor (Eds.), International perspectives on individual differences, Volume 1, Cognitive styles (pp. 65–78). Stamford CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  30. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423(6939), 534–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2007). Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of vision. Psychological Science, 18(1), 88–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hedberg, J. G., & McNamara, S. E. (1985, March). Matching feedback and cognitive style in a visual CAI task. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 260 105).Google Scholar
  33. Hedges, L. V., & Olkin, I. (1985). Statistical methods for meta-analysis. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. Houtkamp, R., & Roelfsema, P. (2006). The effect of items in working memory on the deployment of attention and the eyes during visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32(2), 423–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Huk, T. (2006). Who benefits from learning with 3D models? The case of spatial ability. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(6), 392–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jolly, P. J. (1980). Student achievement in biology in terms of cognitive styles of students and teachers (Doctoral Dissertation, Louisiana State University), Dissertation Abstracts International, 41, 3403.Google Scholar
  37. Jonassen, D. H., & Grabowski, B. L. (1991). Handbook of individual differences, learning, and instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  38. Kavale, K., & Forness, S. (1987). Style over substance: Assessing the effectiveness of modality testing and teaching. Exceptional Children, 54, 228–234.Google Scholar
  39. Khine, M. S. (1996). The interaction of cognitive styles with varying levels of feedback in multimedia presentation. International Journal of Instructional Media, 23(3), 229–237.Google Scholar
  40. Klingberg, T., Forssberg, H., & Westerberg, H. (2002). Training of working memory in children with ADHD. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 24(6), 781–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Leader, L. F., & Klein, J. D. (1996). The effects of search tool type and cognitive style on performance during hypermedia database searches. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(2), 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. MacLeod, C. M., Jackson, R. A., & Palmer, J. (1986). On the relation between spatial ability and field independence. Intelligence, 10(2), 141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mayer, R. E. (2003). Elements of a science of e-learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 297–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mayer, R. E., & Massa, L. J. (2003). Three facets of visual and verbal learners: Cognitive ability, cognitive style, and learning preference. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(4), 833–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mayer, R. E., & Sims, V. K. (1994). For whom is a picture worth a thousand words? Extensions of dual-coding theory from multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 638–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Messick, S. (1984). The nature of cognitive styles: Problems and promise in educational practice. Educational Psychologist, 19, 59–74.Google Scholar
  48. Messick, S. (1994). The matter of cognitive style: Manifestations of personality in cognition, learning, and teaching. Educational Psychologist, 29(3), 121–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Messick, S. (1996). Bridging cognition and personality in education: The role of style in performance and development. European Journal of Personality, 10, 353–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McKenna, F. P. (1984). Measures of field dependence: Cognitive style or cognitive ability? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 593–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Miller, G. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Moore, C. A. (1973). Styles of teacher behavior under simulated teaching conditions (Doctoral Dissertation, Stanford University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 34, 3149A–3150A (University Microfilms No. 73-30,449).Google Scholar
  53. Moran, A. (1985). Unresolved issues in research on field dependence–independence. Social Behavior and Personality, 13(2), 119–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Moreno, R. (2006). Learning in high-tech and multimedia environments. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 63–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Miyake, A., Friedman, N., Rettinger, D., Shah, P., & Hegerty, M. (2001a). How are visuospatial working memory, executive functioning, and spatial abilities related? A latent-variable analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(4), 621–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Miyake, A., Witzki, A. H., & Emerson, M. J. (2001b). Field dependence–independence from a working memory perspective: A dual-task investigation of the hidden figures test. Memory, 9(4), 445–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Oltman, P. K. (1968). A portable rod-and-frame apparatus. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 26, 503–506.Google Scholar
  58. Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Paivio, A. (2006). Mind and its evolution: A dual coding theoretical approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Richards, J. T., Oman, C. M., Shebilske, W. L., Beall, A. C., Liu, A., & Natapoff, A. (2002). Training, transfer, and retention of three-dimensional spatial memory in virtual environments. Journal of Vestibular Research, 12, 223–238.Google Scholar
  61. Richardson, J. A., & Turner, T. E. (2000). Field dependence revisited I: Intelligence. Educational Psychology, 20(3), 255–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Riding, R. J. (1997). On the nature of cognitive style. Educational Psychology, 17(1), 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rittschof, K., Griffin, M., & Custer, W. (1998). Learner differences affecting schemata for thematic maps. International Journal of Instructional Media, 25(2), 179–198.Google Scholar
  64. Saracho, O. N. (1993). The effects of teachers’ cognitive styles on their students’ academic achievement. International Journal of Early Childhood, 25(2), 37–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Saracho, O. N. (2000). A framework for effective classroom teaching: Matching teachers’ and students’ cognitive styles. In R. J. Riding & S. G. Raynor (Eds.), International perspectives on individual differences, Volume 1, Cognitive styles (pp. 297–314). Stamford, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  66. Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (1994). Matching preschool children’s and teacher’s cognitive styles. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 683–689.Google Scholar
  67. Schwarts, N., & Phillipe, A. (1991). Individual differences in the retention of maps. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 16(2), 171–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schwen, T. M. (1970). The effect of cognitive styles and instructional sequences on learning a hierarchical task. (Doctoral Dissertation, Indiana University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 31, 2797A–2798A (University Microfilms No. 70-23,380).Google Scholar
  69. Slavin, R. E. (2000). Educational psychology theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and bacon.Google Scholar
  70. Snow, R. E. (1992). Aptitude theory: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Educational Psychologist, 27(1), 5–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stahl S. A. (1999). Different strokes for different folks? A critique of learning styles. American Educator, 23(3), 27–31.Google Scholar
  72. Stasz, C., Shavelson, R. J., Cox, D. L., & Moore, C. A. (1976). Field independence and the structuring of knowledge in a social studies minicourse. Journal of Educational Psychology, 68(2), 550–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Steinfeld, S. L. (1973). Level of differentiation and age as predictors of reinforcement effectiveness (Doctoral Dissertation, Hofstra University), Dissertation Abstracts International, 34, 2912B–2913B (University Microfilms No. 73-25,324).Google Scholar
  74. Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking styles. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sternberg, R. J., & Wagner, R. K. (1992). Thinking styles inventory. Unpublished test, Yale University.Google Scholar
  76. Sternberg, R. J., & Williams, W. M. (2002). Educational psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  77. Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Thompson, G., & Knox, A. B. (1987). Designing for diversity: Are field dependent learners less suited to distance education programs of instruction? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 12, 17–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tiedemann, J. (1989). Measures of cognitive styles: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 24(3), 261–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tinajero, C., & Paramo, M. F. (1997). Field dependence–independence and academic achievement: A re-examination of their relationship. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 67, 199–212.Google Scholar
  81. Tomasi, D., Chang, L., Caparelli, E., & Ernst, T. (2007). Different activation patterns for working memory load and visual attention load. Brain Research, 1132(9), 158–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. van Merriënboer, J. J., & Ayres, P. (2005). Research on cognitive load theory and its design implications for e-learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(3), 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. van Merriënboer, J. J., & Sweller, J. (2005). Cognitive load theory and complex learning: Recent developments and future directions. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 147–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Walter, E., & Dassonville, P. (2007). In search of the hidden: contextual processing in parietal cortex. Journal of Vision, 7(9), 1061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wilborn, M. R. (1981). An investigation of the relationship among proportional reasoning, field-dependence/independence, sex, and grades in science of eighth grade ISCS students (Doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University), Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 92.Google Scholar
  86. Witkin, H. A., & Goodenough, D. R. (1981). Cognitive styles: Essence and origins: Field dependence and field independence. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  87. Witkin, H. A., Moore, C. A., Goodenough, D. R., & Cox, P. W. (1977). Field dependent and field independent cognitive styles and their educational implications. Review of Educational Research, 47(1), 1–64.Google Scholar
  88. Witkin, H. A., Oltman, P., Raskin, E., & Karp, S. (1971). A manual for the embedded figures test. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  89. Woolfolk, A. E. (2004). Educational psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  90. Yates, G. C. (2000). Applying learning style research in the classroom: Some cautions, the way ahead. In R. J. Riding & S. G. Raynor (Eds.), International perspectives on individual differences, Volume 1, Cognitive styles (pp. 347–364). Stamford, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  91. Yoon, G. S. (1994). The effect of instructional control, cognitive style, and prior knowledge on learning of computer-assisted instruction. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 22, 357–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Zhang, L. (2004). Field dependence/independence: cognitive style or perceptual ability––validating thinking styles and academic achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1295–1311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Zhang, L, & Sternberg, R. (2005). A threefold model of intellectual styles. Educational Psychology Review, 17(1), 1–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA

Personalised recommendations