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Field-dependence, intelligence, and socialisation in Hong Kong Chinese.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 08:57 by James. McGuire
This thesis is concerned with the "field-dependence-independence" dimension which is held by Herman Witkin and his associates (1954, 1962) to underlie certain relationships between personality and perception. Specifically, I take issue with Witkin's claim that the "field-dependence" dimension is unitary, and with his attempt to explain individual differences in "field-dependence" in terms of "socialisation" practices and experiences; and hold that the extension of his theory into a cross-cultural setting has provided data which the theory, in its present form, is unable to handle. A review of the literature had suggested that such factors as visual experience, intelligence, and education would cut across the "field-dependence" dimension, and might provide a better account of individual and cultural differences in performance on Witkin's tests than would the hypothesised factor of "socialisation". To test these ideas empirically, therefore, I carried out a cross-cultural investigation in Hong Kong, selected as being the most suitable place to 'balance* the two points of view against each other. Two groups of Ss, one of 9-year-old children, the other of University students, were given a test battery which included Witkin's Rod-and- Frame and Embedded Figures Tests, measures of intelligence, and questionnaires concerning socialisation experiences (which were sent to the parents in the case of the 9-year-olds); and Indices of ability in the Chinese language were obtained. It was predicted that the "field-dependence" dimension would fragment, in that Witkin's tests would be unrelated to each other; that Embedded Figures Test scores would be more closely related to ability in Chinese and to intelligence; and that no evidence would be found for the effects of "socialisation". Results with the 9-year-olds were more supportive of Witkin's position. The Rod-and-Frame and Embedded Figures Tests were significantly correlated with each other, while the latter showed little relationship with ability in Chinese; on the other hand, no effect of "socialisation" was in evidence, and the role of some intellectual factor seemed everywhere apparent. With the students, however, my own position received greater support: again, "socialisation" seemed to have little effect on "field-dependenca", and the Embedded Figures Test was much more closely correlated with an intelligence measure than with the Rod-and-Frame Test. My general conclusion is that these principal results constitute a cogent criticism of Witkin's theoretical position, and suggestions are made about the type of modifications which are necessary if "field-dependence" theory is to continue to be of value in the cross-cultural context.


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University of Leicester

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