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One example of an empiricist theory within psychology is Albert Bandura's social learning theory. According to the theory, people learn by observing the behavior of others. In his famous Bobo doll experiment , Bandura demonstrated that children could learn aggressive behaviors simply by observing another person acting aggressively. Even today, research in psychology often tends to emphasize one influence over the other. In biopsychology , for example, researchers conduct studies exploring how neurotransmitters influence behavior, which emphasizes the nature side of the debate.

In social psychology , researchers might conduct studies looking at how things such as peer pressure and social media influence behaviors, stressing the importance of nurture. What researchers do know is that the interaction between heredity and environment is often the most important factor of all. Perfect pitch is the ability to detect the pitch of a musical tone without any reference. Researchers have found that this ability tends to run in families and believe that it might be tied to a single gene. However, they've also discovered that possessing the gene alone is not enough to develop this ability.

Instead, musical training during early childhood is necessary to allow this inherited ability to manifest itself. Height is another example of a trait that is influenced by nature and nurture interaction.

Do age and gender make a difference in the relationship between intellectual styles and abilities?

A child might come from a family where everyone is tall, and he may have inherited these genes for height. However, if he grows up in a deprived environment where he does not receive proper nourishment, he might never attain the height he might have had he grown up in a healthier environment. Throughout the history of psychology , however, this debate has continued to stir up controversy. Eugenics, for example, was a movement heavily influenced by the nativist approach.

Galton believed that intelligent individuals should be encouraged to marry and have many children, while less intelligent individuals should be discouraged from reproducing. Today, the majority of experts believe that both nature and nurture influence behavior and development.

However, the issue still rages on in many areas such as in the debate on the origins of homosexuality and influences on intelligence. While few people take the extreme nativist or radical empiricist approach, researchers and experts still debate the degree to which biology and environment influence behavior. Increasingly, people are beginning to realize that asking how much heredity or environment influence a particular trait is not the right approach.

These influences include genetic factors that interact with one another, environmental factors that interact such as social experiences and overall culture, as well as how both hereditary and environmental influences intermingle. Instead, many researchers today are interested in seeing how genes modulate environmental influences and vice versa. Have you ever wondered what your personality type means?

Sign up to get these answers, and more, delivered straight to your inbox. Levitt M. Perceptions of nature, nurture and behaviour. Life Sci Soc Policy. Schoneberger T. Three myths from the language acquisition literature. Consequently, the study of styles was easily immersed into the investigation of abilities or of personality traits and the need for a distinct area of research on styles seemed to no longer exist. In fact, some critics of the concept of styles e.

At the same time, it has been repeatedly found that styles are just as important as abilities in accounting for individual differences in human performance e. Moreover, from the perspective of educational practice, achieving a clear understanding of the differences between styles and abilities may help both teachers and students in their teaching and learning.

Therefore, over the years, advocates for the unique value of intellectual styles have done much, at both the conceptual and empirical levels, to differentiate styles from abilities e. At the conceptual level, both similarities and differences between the two constructs have been elaborated. Messick noted that one of the major distinctions between abilities and styles is that the former pertain to how much and the latter are relevant to how.

To these scholars, what abilities and styles have in common is that they both contribute to human performance. At the empirical level, complex relationships have been found between abilities often used interchangeably with intelligence and styles.

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Some studies resulted in either nonsignificant relationship or statistically significant relationships that were contrary to expectations. Convergent thinking refers to the reproduction of ideas and facts directly from known information. Divergent thinking involves the generation of new ideas that minimally depends on known information. Intelligence was most commonly assessed by traditional IQ tests.

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The author concluded that contrary to expectations, those individuals who are divergent in their thinking are not necessarily those who are highly intelligent. More recently, Armstrong examined the relationship between cognitive styles and overall ability among business and management students in England. As expected, students higher on the analytic style obtained better grades for long-term solitary tasks, involving careful planning and analysis of information. However, contrary to expectations, students scoring higher on the analytic style also achieved better on tasks that were believed to be more suitable for students higher on the intuitive cognitive style as well as on the overall ability.

That is to say, styles and abilities were not related in the expected directions. Conceptual tempo defines an information-processing continuum that is most prominent in children. It is represented by two opposing styles: reflective and impulsive.

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People with a reflective style tend to consider and reflect on alternative possible solutions before they respond to a problem. People with an impulsive style tend to come up with a solution without sufficient forethought. Messer asserted that conceptual tempo is moderately correlated with intelligence only when levels of intelligence fall within the normal range. These inconsistent findings on the relationships between abilities and styles call for further investigation of this topic.

In particular, it is believed that future studies should overcome at least two weaknesses in previous ones. First, the majority of the previous studies were conducted more than two decades ago and they are largely based on traditional theoretical models. Yet, in reality, neither styles nor abilities are uni-dimensional.

It is true that as a rule, both preferences as represented by styles and capacities as represented by abilities vary within the human population. However, as evidenced in numerous research findings e. Evidence for significant gender differences in various abilities has also been well documented in the literature. For example, numerous studies have concluded that men tend to demonstrate higher levels of spatial abilities than women e. Likewise, empirical findings for the effects of gender and age on styles are also abundant. In a like vein, many authors have found a general change in intellectual styles with age.

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Adults, especially adult learners, are the most field independent. To summarize, although the distinctions between intellectual styles and abilities have been clearly delineated at the conceptual level, research findings on the relationships between the two constructs have been complex and inconsistent. One of the reasons for the inconsistent findings could well be that previous research did not take into account the effects of age and gender on the relationships between styles and abilities.

As reviewed above, age and gender do affect both abilities and styles. Containing two studies one serving as an initial exploration and the other serving as a cross validation , the present research intends to further disentangle styles from abilities. It takes two strategies to overcome the limitations of previous studies.

Perspectives on the Nature of Intellectual Styles

Second, this research examines the confounding effects of both age and gender upon the relationship between styles and abilities. Sternberg , contended that just as there are different ways of governing a society, there are different ways that people use their abilities. Based on empirical data, Zhang and Sternberg reconceptualized the 13 styles into three types. Type II styles suggest a norm-favoring tendency and they denote lower levels of cognitive complexity, including the executive implementing tasks with specific instructions , local focusing on details , monarchic working on one task at a time , and conservative using traditional approaches to tasks styles.

Research using these inventories suggests that thinking styles vary as a function of both personal characteristics e. More importantly, such evidence has been obtained in many parts of the world, including Asia Bernardo et al. Finally, the Thinking Styles Inventory has been tested with other well-established inventories that measure intellectual styles, including the Group Embedded Figures Test Witkin et al.

However, efforts in differentiating these styles from abilities have been rare. A thorough literature search resulted in merely three such studies. Each of these two studies resulted in merely one significant correlation coefficient out of the 13 correlations. Thus, both studies concluded that essentially, there was little association between thinking styles and ability. According to Sternberg , , intelligence is composed of three aspects: analytical abilities, creative abilities, and practical abilities. Analytical abilities emphasize information processing of the human mind.

Practical abilities involve individuals applying their abilities to the kinds of problems that confront them in daily life. Studies carried out in several cultures e. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, an effort has been made to distinguish thinking styles from the triarchic abilities. Therefore, the existing studies reached the same conclusion: that styles and abilities are essentially independent of each other. However, none of the three studies has proved the null hypothesis on the relationship between styles and abilities.

The present research continues to explore the relationship between thinking styles and the triarchic abilities.

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The need for taking age and gender into consideration arose from the fact that although no significant difference in the triarchic abilities has been reported for age and gender, previous research has found that both age and gender could make a difference in thinking styles Cheung ; Zhang and Sachs The two aforementioned studies have also identified that older participants tended to score lower on Type I thinking styles.

Such variations in thinking styles as a function of age and gender would necessarily obscure the true relationship of thinking styles to other human attributes, including abilities. Therefore, in the present research, an effort was made to remove the potential effects of age and gender on the relationships between thinking styles and abilities.

It was hypothesized that age and gender have a confounding effect on the relationship between styles and abilities. In Hong Kong, secondary schools are classified into three bands, with the top one-third of primary school graduates being admitted to Band One secondary schools and the bottom one-third being admitted to Band Three schools on the basis of their academic achievement. Data were initially gathered among students in a Band One school.