Cognitive style as environmentally sensitive individual differences in cognition: A modern synthesis and applications in education, business, and management

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The key aims of this article are to relate the construct of cognitive style to current theories in cognitive psychology and neuroscience and to outline a framework that integrates the findings on individual differences in cognition across different disciplines. First, we characterize cognitive style as patterns of adaptation to the external world that develop on the basis of innate predispositions, the interactions among which are shaped by changing environmental demands. Second, we show that research on cognitive style in psychology and cross-cultural neuroscience, on learning styles in education, and on decision-making styles in business and management all address the same phenomena. Third, we review cognitive-psychology and neuroscience research that supports the validity of the concept of cognitive style. Fourth, we show that various styles from disparate disciplines can be organized into a single taxonomy. This taxonomy allows us to integrate all the well-documented cognitive, learning, and decision-making styles; all of these style types correspond to adaptive systems that draw on different levels of information processing. Finally, we discuss how the proposed approach might promote greater coherence in research and application in education, in business and management, and in other disciplines.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-33
Number of pages32
JournalPsychological Science in the Public Interest, Supplement
Issue number1
Early online date16 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


  • Cognitive psychology, Cognitive styles, Environmentally sensitive individual differences, Neuroscience, Taxonomy of cognitive styles

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