Role of Cognitive Style Constructs Field Dependence-Independence and Reflection-Impulsivity in Skill Acquisition

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Stephan Swinnen Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

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Joost Vandenberghe Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

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Erik Van Assche Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

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This study sought to determine the relationships between the cognitive styles field dependence-independence and reflection-impulsivity and the acquisition of a gross motor skill in an unstructured learning environment. In reference to the first cognitive style construct, it was hypothesized that field-independent subjects perform better than field-dependent subjects because they provide organization when the material to be learned lacks structure, leading them to rely on their analyzing and restructuring ability. The second construct refers to cognitive inhibition required for response uncertainty tasks as well as motor impulse inhibition. Subjects (57 boys, 65 girls) were 13-year-old junior high school students. Several visual perceptual tests were administered and gymnastic performance scores were measured at pretest, during the learning session, and posttest. The hypothesis that field-independent subjects are more successful in an unstructured learning environment than field-dependent subjects was confirmed for boys only. The correlations between the reflection-impulsivity variables and gymnastic performance were generally low, and no support could be found for the hypothesis that reflective subjects are more successful in learning the skill than impulsive subjects.

We are indebted to R. Pecht, teacher at Peellandcollege Deurne, The Netherlands, for making this project possible. His talent for structure and organization were critical for the success of this project. Thanks is also extended to the 8-member research team and to B. Meurisse who helped score the movements.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephan Swinnen, Institute of Physical Education, Catholic University of Leuven, Tervuurse Vest 101, 3030 Heverlee, Belgium.

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