Field Dependence and Field Independence

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Field Dependence and Field Independence





Field Dependence and Field Independence

People tend to differ in many ways including how they perceive the world. Field dependence and field independence is another cognitive control area where individuals differ in terms of their abilities to discern the surrounding environments such as visual cues (Rayner & Cools, 2012). In this regard for instance, difference occurs where different individuals have different abilities in finding geometric shapes that are a bit hidden or embedded in a background (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993). Field dependent individuals tend to rely on surrounding or external information for to most of the situations while field independent individuals rely on their inner information in analyzing situations. Thus, when the geometrical shape is hidden, field dependent individuals lack enough information for making out the shape. On the other hand, field independent individuals are merely affected by structure and form of the surrounding.

The differences not only occur in visual cues but also other cues such as auditory. Additionally, they differ in terms of social interaction. Field dependent individuals are more interpersonal and have a better ability to read from social cues that provide external information. They also convey their feelings to others more openly, which makes them friendly and warm to others. Cognitively this has been explained as inability to separate self from environment. On the other hand, field independent individuals tend to be more autonomous and able to impose their own ideas and sense in many situations. They are more tasks oriented and tend to be more impersonal. However, they are in a position to separate their identity or self from the environment. Thus, they are in a position to reorganize or structure the environment surrounding them to come up with their own ideas that suit their needs (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993).

When it comes to academic learning, independent individuals prefer learning on their own in order to explore the world around them using their inner knowledge to draw meaning. Considering they are not influenced by the form and structure, they are able to learn better on their own rather than when they have to rely on the external information (Rayner & Cools, 2012). On the other hand, field dependent students find it better to learn in groups where they can have access to external information from others especially from the instructor. Since they are not able to use their inner knowledge for making their own conclusion, they require external help from the instructor and peers in order to understand.

The differences between field dependent and field independent variable are many and varied. It is through these differences that one can be able to differentiate between field dependent and independent individuals. They can be tested using the tests identified by Jonassen and Grabowski 1993, which include embedded figures test (EFT), children embedded figures test (CEFT), Closure Flexibility Test, Group Embedded Figures Test and Tactile Embedded Figures Test. In my fieldwork, I observed a student by the name of john. In my observation, I started by observing the social interaction with other students, where I realized that john did not talk much around people most of the time. Using the chart suggested by Jonassen and Grabowski provided in their book, results of john were as follows

Field Dependent Characteristics   Field Independent Characteristics  
global   analytical x
accepts Structure x generates structure  
externally directed   internally directed x
attentive to social information x inattentive to social cues  
conflict resolvers unobserved philosophical, cognitive unobserved
social able and gregarious   individualistic x
affiliation oriented x distant in social relations  
interpersonal   intrapersonal x
needs friendship x reserved, aloof  
conventional, traditional   experimental x
influenced b the salient features   generates own hypotheses x
factually oriented   concept oriented x
acquires unrelated facts   acquires information to fit conceptual scheme x
accepts ideas as presented   less affected by format/structure x
gets feelings/decisions from others   impersonal orientation x
sensitive to others x insensitive to social undercurrents  
affected by stress x ignores external stress  


From the results, it was observed that much of his character falls into the field independent cognition control. With this cognition control, John there is positive and negative effects. One of the positive effects is the ability to learn independently. He does not need others to learn and understand most of the material he learns. Additionally, he is not affected by structure and form. He is in a position to impose his own ideas to different situations and structure hardly affects him. According to Jonassen and Grabowski (1993), field independent people are able to perform well in solving problems, operational thinking, figuring out underlying ideas, and remembering structural information. It was observed in John that during his study time, he takes time to find out about information and ascribe his own thinking to come up with ideas. On the other hand, this acts as a disadvantage since he has to take sometime before figuring out some information. Considering he uses his inner knowledge, understanding an idea may take time before e is able to ascribe his knowledge unlike other students who will use information they acquire from the instructor. Thus, he sometimes takes longer than usual.



Jonassen, D. H., & Grabowski, B.L. (1993). Handbook of individual difference, learning    and instruction. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Rayner, S. & Cools, E. (2012). Style Differences in Cognition, Learning, and Management: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York, N.Y: Routledge.


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