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Field dependence and field independence is an area of study in which individual differences in cognitive style have been identified. The construct relates to the degree to which a subjects perception or comprehension of information is affected by the surrounding perceptual or contextual field.
The area was developed by Herman Witkin. His research showed that there were differences in how people perceived discrete items within a surrounding field. People at the one end of the extreme where perception was strongly dominated by the prevailing field were designated "field-dependent." Field-dependent learners see the forest. At the other extreme, people were considered "field-independent", if they experienced items as more or less separate from the field. Whereas field-dependent people see the forest, field-independent learners see the tree within the forest. Since scores on learning style tests form a continuous scale, the terms field-dependent and field-independent reflect a tendency, in varying degrees of strength, toward one end of the extreme (field-dependent) or the other (field-independent) (Witkin et al, 1977)..
There have been a number of tests developed to test for these cognitive differences across a variety of sensory modalities:
- Auditory Embedded Figures Test
- Childrens Embedded Figures Test
- Closure Flexibility Test
- Embedded Figures Test
- Group Embedded Figures Test
- Hidden Figures Test
- Rod and Frame test
- Tactile Embedded Figures Test
- Main article: Assessment of field dependence and field independence