Cognitive structure: a comparison of two theories and measure of integrative complexity ...

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


This study was intended to assess the generality of a particular type of cognitive structure characteristic, that of integrative complexity. Pursuant of this, the theories of H. M. Schroder and O. J. Harvey were com- pared, and their respective measures administered to 440 students (Ss) of both sexes from three different southern schools. The theoretical analysis suggested that Schroder's theory is more truly structural in nature, and is more powerful in that it is more easily and obviously applicable to a broad range of cognitive domains. Harvey's position is much more firmly grounded on the content of the interpersonal domain. Both theories claim that the characteristic of cognitive structure which is most important in determining cognitive complexity is not differentiation, or an increase in the dimensionality, of the cognitive domain, but the subsequent integration of the differentiated components. Unfortunately, neither theorist is able to define integration so as to clearly distinguish it from a dimensional position. Here again, however, Schroder's theory seems to be the stronger, since it is at least explicit enough that the locus of difficulty can be precisely identified. Further, even if Schroder is un- able to define adequately the integration concept, his theorizing suggests the importance of the possibility of super- and sub-ordinate relationships among dimensions. Results of the testing were as follows: (a) As expected, the respective measures of cognitive integration were non-significantly correlated with each other, (b) Both measures of integration were significantly correlated with such measures of intelligence as vocabulary, abstract thinking, and SAT verbal and mathematical scores, (c) Sex differences in the scores may exist, although the pattern is not clear, (d) Other sample characteristics may affect the distribution of scores, e.g. large intelligence differences, socioeconomic differences, etc. On the other hand, Negroes are not ipso facto inferior to Caucasians, even when the latter enjoy a 100- point advantage on SAT averages. Nor are Southern whites inferior to Northern whites, at least when both are of superior intellectual ability. (e) Reliability, as estimated by coefficient alpha, is satisfactory for Harvey's measure and unsatisfactory for Schroder's, (f) The distribution of scores is such that for both measures complex Ss are rare, so pools of Ss must be tested in order to obtain adequate numbers of complex Ss. This is more a problem in attempting to apply Schroder than Harvey, largely because Schroder has often not bothered to study middle-range Ss, so their characteristics are unknown. Schroder's variable (especially) is essentially inapplicable to an unscreened group of subjects. Overall, Schroder's theory seems more promising than Harvey's. Suggestions were made for improving the reliability and distribution of scores. Additionally, a translation of Schroder's theory into dimensional terminology was attempted, and some important implications of his position for the dimensional orientation were discussed.



This thesis was digitized as part of a project begun in 2014 to increase the number of Duke psychology theses available online. The digitization project was spearheaded by Ciara Healy.



Published Version (Please cite this version)


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.