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Differences Among Cognitive-Processing Styles Groups on Personality Traits.

Differences among cognitive-processing style (hemispheric dominance) groups on personality traits were investigated. From responses to the Human Information Processing Survey, (HIPS), 17 students were identified using primarily the left hemispheric mode in processing information, 19 students the right hemispheric mode, and 19 students the integrated mode (both left and right hemispheric modes). Responses to the eight second-order 16 PF scales showed significant personality trait differences among the three groups. The left hemispheric group had better leadership qualities than the right hemispheric group, more self-control than the right and integrated groups, and more anxiety than the integrated group. The right hemispheric group showed more extraversion and independence than the left hemispheric group and more anxiety than the integrated group. The integrated hemispheric group showed more extraversion and independence and better leadership skills than the left hemispheric group, and more self-control and better adjustment and leadership skills than the right group.

Hemispheric dominance is often referred to as a cognitive style of how one processes information based on differential capabilities of the left and right (cerebral) hemispheres of the brain (Coleman & Zenhausern, 1979; Zenhausern, 1978). Torrance (1982) defined hemisphericity "as the tendency for a person to rely more on one than the other cerebral hemisphere in processing information" (p. 29). According to Beaumont, Young and McManus (1984), whenever hemisphericity was used in studies it implied that individuals tended to rely on a preferred mode of cognitive processing in which the predominant activity was either in the left or right cerebral hemisphere. Some studies (Sperry, 1964; Springer & Deutach, 1985; Zenhausern, 1978; Zenhausern & Gerbhart, 1979) have shown that the left hemisphere of the brain tends to have more verbal and sequential abilities; whereas, the right hemisphere tends to excels in processing visual-spatial tasks. The left hemisphere tends to process the more intellectual and reflective material and the right hemisphere tends to process material that is more holistic, relational, and impulsive. However, some individuals might use both the left and right hemispheric modes in processing information (Torrance, Taggart & Taggart, 1984). Zenhausern (1978) indicated that the hemispheric (cerebral) dominance is an appropriate classifying variable for studies. Beaumont et al. (1984) indicated that hemisphericity, as a characteristic, has been linked to personality, reasoning and thought, and abnormal states.

In a critical review, Beaumont et al. (1984) classified investigations on hemisphericity into four different groups: studies on lateral eye-movements, electro-physiological measures, questionnaires, and cognitive tasks. Numerous studies appear in each of these groups using relatively independent forms of investigation. Beaumont et al. (1984) questioned the validity of the forms used and the inferences drawn from them.

Regardless of the type of investigation researchers use, it is well known that people have different personality traits and that people think and process information differently. The question is whether hemisphericity is related to personality traits.

Nestor and Safer (1990) investigated whether hemisphericity was related to personality variables as measured by trait anxiety and the tendency to express versus inhibit emotions. Their subjects were 66 right-handed individuals who completed personality measures and were tested on two occasions with multiple measures of hemisphericity. Although some measures of hemisphericity showed moderate reliability, generally, they did not correlate with each other or with the measures of personality. However, the composite hemisphericity index indicated that the Right hemisphericity correlated modestly with the tendency to express emotions and the Left hemisphericity with the tendency to inhibit emotions.

In an initial study, Charman (1979) examined the relationship between personality and hemispheric asymmetries with eight male psychology undergraduates of which four were classified as extraverts and four as introverts. He reported that (a) extraverts were significantly better than introverts in processing information, especially from the rapidly fading iconic (visual) information, (b) introverts were much slower than extraverts in processing analytical information, and (c) extraverts processed iconic information more efficiently in the right hemisphere (RH) than the left hemisphere (LH), whereas, introverts did the converse. His findings were interpreted to give further support to Dimond (1972), who "proposed the differences between extraverts and introverts for processing information on the ground that LH is better for verbal analytic processing whilst RH is better adapted for holistic processing" (p. 657).

In studying hemisphericity and creative functioning, Torrance (1982) noted a common notion that the right hemisphere is dominant in creative thinking. He pointed out that theories and models of the creative thinking processes have long been recognized as "the operation of two basic patterns of mental functioning. In one of these patterns, the logical, rational mind is dominant and in the other the intuitive, non-logical mind and other states of consciousness are dominant" (p. 29). In making reference to Osborn's (1964) study, Torrance explained the difference between critical intelligence as a specialized function of the left hemisphere and creative intelligence as a specialized function of the right hemisphere. Therefore, according to Taggart and Torrance (1984), creative thinking and problem solving require both the left and right hemisphere functions.

Using the 16 PF Questionnaire, Karnes, Chauvin, and Trant (1984) investigated leadership traits (a personality characteristic) in students who were enrolled in a Honors College curriculum. They found significant differences on the Leadership Potential Scores of the 16 PF between students who held at least one elected leadership position and those who did not hold any leadership position. The elected leaders in the honors program were described as emotionally stable, mature, relaxed, unfrustrated and composed. However, these researchers did not study the hemisphericity of their students. The question raised here are leadership traits related to hemisphericity?

On college academic achievements, studies (Bracken, Ledford & Mccalum, 1979; Gadzella, 1995; Wheatley, Mitchell, Frankland & Kraft, 1978) show differences among individuals preferring left-, right-, and integrated- cerebral dominance on different tests. Coleman and Zenhausern (1979) examined differences between the left- end right- dominant individuals on a lateralized reaction time memory test. They found the two groups differed on processing speed and encoding strategies. Gadzella and Kneipp (1990) investigated differences between hemisphericity and cognitive strategies on a comprehension task. They reported differences on reaction time between the left- and right- hemispheric groups in processing sentences structured as True Negatives and False Negatives. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether there were significant differences in personality traits among hemisphericity (cognitive-processing styles) groups.


Subjects: Fifty-five students, enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at a mid-western state university, were the subjects. They were identified as using primarily left, right, or integrated hemispheric mode in processing information from their responses to the Human Information Processing Survey, HIPS, (Torrance, Taggart & Taggart, 1984). In the group, 17 (8 men and 9 women, mean age = 25.5 years) used primarily the left hemispheric mode, 19 (6 men and 13 women, mean age = 19.7 years) used primarily the right hemispheric mode, and 19 (2 men and 17 women, mean age = 22.4 years) used the integrated mode, that is, they used both the left and right hemispheric modes in processing information. All subjects were right handed.

Instruments: Subjects responded to HIPS, and the 16 Personality Factor, 16 PF, (Cattell, Cattell & Cattell, 1978). The HIPS was used to identify the subjects' hemispheric mode of processing information. This inventory is a self-report, paper and pencil questionnaire consisting of 40 items. From the responses to HIPS one can infer an individual's hemispheric mode as being left, right, integrated (using both left and right), or mixed (using left or right). The procedure used to determine a subject's preferred strategy(ies) is done by converting the three HIPS scale raw scores (left, right, and integrated) to standard scores. If the individual's standard score is less than 120, that individual is classified as using a mixed (inconsistent) strategy (Taggart & Torrance, 1984). Subjects with mixed strategies were deleted from the study.

A number of HIPS reliability and validity studies are reported in the manual (Taggart & Torrance, 1984). One study (Reynolds, Reign, & Torrance, 1977), involved 50 undergraduate education majors who responded to HIPS. One week later, these undergraduates responded to Form A of the Your Style of Learning and Thinking (SOLAT). Pearson product-moment coefficients of correlation between the scales of the two inventories showed the Right Hemisphere Scales = .84, the Left Hemisphere Scales = .86, and the Integrated Style Scales = .82.

A HIPS construct validity test (Taggart & Torrance, 1984) was reported from responses provided by 33 graduate students from a variety of academic disciplines. The researchers indicated that although creative thinking and problem solving required both right and left hemisphere functions, the data showed that the creativity measures correlated significantly and positively (from .30 to .73) with the Right Hemisphere Scales and significantly and negatively (from -.36 to -.68) with most of the Left Hemisphere Scales.

The 16 PF questionnaire is a self-report, paper and pencil inventory which lists characteristics one selects as traits that best describe oneself. All 16 PF scales could be used or the eight second-order factor scales derived from the 16 PF. Detailed descriptions of the 16 PF reliability and validity studies are provided in the manual. Krug and Johns (1986) cross-validated the eight second-order factors of the 16 PF from the responses provided by a large sample (N = 17,381) of men and women. The results were congruent with those of previous studies (Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1991). These eight second-order factor scales describe personality characteristics in terms of fewer more general traits. They were the scales used in the present study.

These eight second-order factor scales are referred to as: Extraversion, Anxiety, Tough Poise, Independence, Control, Adjustment, Leadership, and Creativity. Each scale score is interpreted as being low score direction versus high score direction. For example, in the Extraversion scale, low scores describe introversion and high scores describe extraversion. In the Anxiety scale, low scores describe low anxiety and high scores describe high anxiety. In the Tough Poise scale, low scores describe emotional sensitivity and high scores describe insensitivity. In the Independence scale, low scores describe subduedness and high scores describe independence. In the Control scale, low scores describe low self-control and high scores describe high self-control. In the Adjustment scale, low scores describe neuroticism and high scores describe adjustment. In the Leadership scale, low scores describe low leadership and high scores describe high leadership skills In the Creativity scale, low scores describe low creativity and high scores describe high creativity.

Procedure: Students signed a research release form which indicated that their scores would be analyzed only by groups. They received credit in the course they were enrolled. An analysis of variance was computed for the three (left, right and integrated) and gender groups on each of the eight second-order factor scales. Significant (p [is less than] .05) Newman Keuls post hoc tests were reported.


There were no significant differences between the gender groups on the second-order factor scales. The means and standard deviations for these eight scales for the three (left, right, and integrated hemispheric dominance) groups are presented in Table 1. Data showed significant differences on six of the eight scales: Extraversion [F(2, 53) = 6.90, p [is less than] .02]; Anxiety [F(2, 53) = 10.01, p [is less than] .01]; Independence [F(2, 53) = 4.79, p [is less than] .02]; Control [F(2, 53) = 24.83, p [is less than] .01 ]; Adjustment [F(2, 53) = 3.85, p [is less than] .02]; and Leadership [F(2, 53) = 10.59, p [is less than] .01]. The two scales in which the groups did not differ significantly were: Tough Poise [F(2, 53) = 0.98, p [is greater than] .05] and Creativity [F(2, 53) = 2.99, p [is greater than] .05]. The significant differences between the groups are summarized for each of the three groups as having reported higher scores than the other groups as follows.

The LEFT hemispheric group reported significantly higher scores than the: (a) right hemispheric group on the Leadership scale, (b) right and integrated groups on the Control scale, and (c) integrated group on the Anxiety scale. The RIGHT hemispheric group reported significantly higher scores than the: (a) left hemispheric group on the Extraversion, Anxiety and Independence scales, and (b) integrated group on the Anxiety scale. The INTEGRATED hemispheric group reported significantly higher scores than the: (a) left hemispheric group on Extraversion and Independence scales, (b) right hemispheric group on Control and Adjustment scales, and (c) left and right hemispheric groups on the Leadership scale.

Table 1

Means and Standard Deviations on the Eight 16 PF Second-Order Scales for Three Hemispheric Dominance Groups
 Hemispheric Groups

16 PF Second-
Order Scale Left (n = 17) Right (n = 19)

Extraversion 3.50 3.30 5.85 2.04
Anxiety 5.95 1.25 7.23 1.23
Tough Poise 7.51 1.84 6.47 1.22
Independence 3.95 1.80 6.05 2.92
Control 7.60 1.58 4.04 1.49
Adjustment 4.93 1.91 4.47 1.34
Leadership 5.52 1.35 4.70 1.00
Creativity 4.86 1.08 5.11 1.37

16 PF Second-
Order Scale Integrated (n = 19)

Extraversion 5.04 1.33
Anxiety 5.27 1.59
Tough Poise 6.14 1.79
Independence 5.98 1.92
Control 6.50 1.62
Adjustment 5.95 1.76
Leadership 6.42 1.10
Creativity 6.02 1.93

Discussion and Conclusion

From the results of the analyses it can be concluded that there were some significant differences among the cognitive-processing (hemispheric dominance) style groups on personality traits. Stated simply, the left hemispheric group indicated having better self-control and leadership skills than the right hemispheric group and better self-control than the integrated group. The right hemispheric group showed more extraversion and independence than the left hemispheric group and higher anxiety than the integrated group. The integrated group were more socially out going and independent and showed better leadership skills than the left hemispheric group. The integrated group indicated having better self-control, adjustment and leadership skills than the right hemispheric group. It would appear that the integrated group has some personality traits which were found in both the left and right hemispheric groups. It might be a reason why they do better in various academic achievements (Gadzella, 1995; Wheatley et al., 1978)

There were no significant differences among the groups on the Tough Poise or Creativity scales. It might be that this Creativity scale measures characteristics found to be functions of both the left and right hemispheres. That is, it might be measuring what Torrance (1982) referred to as the left hemisphere focusing on critical thinking and the right hemisphere focusing on creative (original) thinking.

In previous studies (Charman, 1979; Dimond, 1972; Torrance, 1982), only the left and right hemispheric groups were investigated. In the present study, the integrated group (which uses both the left and right hemispheric modes in processing information) was also studied. Previous studies focused on personality characteristics such as extraverts and introverts (Charman 1979; Nestor & Safer, 1990), creativity (Torrance, 1982), and leadership (Karnes et al, 1984). In the present study (using the eight second-order factor scales) additional data on anxiety, independence, self-control, adjustment, and leadership were investigated. Although this study investigated some variables which were not previously studied, it was viewed as an exploratory one. It would be desirable to conduct similar studies with a larger number of subjects. The research studies could include variables such as gender, race, cultural background, intelligence and/or academic achievements, courses completed, interests, work and leadership experiences.


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Dr. Gadzella, Department of Psychology and Special Education, Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to B. M. Gadzella, Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Special Education, Texas A & M University-Commerce 75429
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Author:Gadzella, Bernadette M.
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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