Using Cognitive Measurement Models in the Assessment of Cognitive Styles
Sam Messick long championed the cause of cognitive styles-at once carefully distinguishing entangled style constructs while simultaneously tracing their path through an immense field of research on the psychology of human differences (Gardner, Jackson, & Messick, 1960; Messick, 1984, 1987, 1996; Messick & Kogan, 1963). Indeed, the influence of cognitive styles extends well beyond the borders of differential psychology. Characteristic ways of perceiving and organizing experience represented in cognitive style constructs are important not merely for understanding how individuals differ, but for understanding belief and conflict in science itself. In other words, cognitive styles are not just an interesting subfield of differential psychology, but are more like foundational elements that help shape the sorts of theories we build, the methods we use to test them, and, perhaps most important, cause conflict among those who hold different beliefs. One of our themes will be the confusions that have resulted from failure to understand why investigators adhere so tenaciously to different research paradigms and procedures. In this chapter, however, we will discuss-not so much the broad sweep of theorizing about cognitive styles-but rather the much narrower topic of how
they might be measured. We emphasize the limitations of trait-factor models and the potential contributions of cognitive models for this task. We hope to hasten the arrival of the day when the sophistication of techniques for measuring style constructs catches up with the sophistication of theorizing about them that Messick championed. One avenue for improved measurement is through the use of measurement models derived from cognitive psychology.