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One of the most popular models of cognitive style was devised by Kirton. His model, called Adaption-Innovation theory, claims that an individual’s preferred approach to problem solving, can be placed on a continuum ranging from high adaptation to high innovation. He suggests that some human beings, called adaptors tend to prefer the adaptive approach to problem-solving, while others (innovators), of course, prefer the reverse. Adaptors use what is given to solve problems by time-honored techniques. Alternatively, innovators look beyond what is given to solve problems with the aid of innovative technologies. Kirton suggests that while adaptors prefer to do well within a given paradigm, innovators would rather do differently, thereby striving to transcend existing paradigms.
Kirton also invented an instrument to measure cognitive style (at least in accordance with this model) known as the Kirton Adaption-innovation Inventory (KAI). This requires the respondent to rate themselves against thirty-two personality traits. A drawback of all the other efforts to measure cognitive style discussed above is their failure to separate out cognitive style and cognitive level. As the items on the KAI are expressed in clear and simple language cognitive level plays no significant role. Scores on the A-I continuum are normally distributed between the extreme cognitive styles of high innovation and high adaptation.
- Bobic, M., Davis, E., and Cunningham, R. “The Kirton adaptation-innovation inventory”, Review of Public Personnel Administration (19:2), Spring 1999, pp 18-31.