Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models
Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models

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Understanding the environment: Thinking styles and models

3 Section activities

Activity 1A: Identifying your cognitive style

Research in cognition – the way we see, understand and engage with our surroundings – associates certain aspects of our behaviour, such as sociability, with the level of activity within different parts of our brains. Some researchers have proposed that activity in the right hemisphere of the brain is mostly concerned with synthesis (the simultaneous integration of many inputs at once), and is especially concerned with spatial orientation and visual imagery. They also have evidence that the left hemisphere of the brain is engaged with analysis (the sequential processing of information), and is therefore active during logical thought processes such as writing and mathematics. Although there is now significant evidence that different regions of the brain perform distinct functions, I would like you to think of the differences between the behaviour determined by left and right hemispheres of the brain more as a metaphor, in recognition that this differentiation is an oversimplification of the functioning of what is an extremely complex organ.

Activity 1

In 1996, cognitive scientists Christopher Allinson and John Hayes (Allinson and Hayes, 1996), presented a test to differentiate those individuals that are predominantly intuitive thinkers from those that are predominantly analytical thinkers (which they ascribed to the dominance of the right hemisphere or left hemisphere of an individual's brain respectively). The Cognitive Style Index allows people to identify where they are along the intuitive/analytical gradient. There are also a range of free online tests which you can take which will give you a good indication on your cognitive style – you can use a search engine to find these.


This is how Allinson and Hayes distinguish between intuition and analysis:

Intuition, characteristic of the right brain orientation, refers to immediate judgement based on feeling and the adoption of a global perspective. Analysis, characteristic of the left brain orientation, refers to judgement based on mental reasoning and a focus on detail. These right-left patterns are not merely transient; people seem to have a rather permanent stylistic orientation to the use of one hemisphere. Intuitivists (right-brain dominant) tend to be relatively nonconformist, prefer an open-ended approach to problem solving, rely on random methods of exploration, remember spatial images most easily, and work best with ideas requiring overall assessment. Analysts (left-brain dominant) tend to be more compliant, favour a structured approach to problem solving, depend on systematic methods of investigation, recall verbal material most readily and are especially comfortable with ideas requiring step-by-step analysis.

(Allinson and Hayes, 1996)

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