Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The goals of this study were, first, to study the relationship between cognitive style (field dependence-independence) and the counseling skills of empathy and social problem solving in an adult learner sample, and, second, to examine in detail, through protocol analysis, components of the social problem-solving process. The study was done with 70 elementary and secondary teachers in training to become school guidance counselors. The statistical design for the study was a 3 x 2 factorial design with repeated measures on one factor. The between-subjects factor consisted of three levels of cognitive style, while the within-subjects factor consisted of two types of problem situation: interpersonal and intrapersonal. Both analogue and in vivo measures of problem solving and empathy were obtained in both interpersonal and intrapersonal situations for all subjects.;The results of the first part of the study provided little support for hypothesized relationships between cognitive style and the two counseling skills of problem solving and empathy. In the case of empathy, situational factors had more influence on subjects' performance than did cognitive style. It was found that subjects at all levels of field independence scored significantly higher on intrapersonal analogue empathy items than they did on interpersonal items. With respect to problem solving, the obtained main effect of cognitive style reflected an unanticipated U-shaped relationship between field independence and problem solving. Follow-up analyses showed that field-independent subjects generated more strategies on interpersonal analogue problems than did field-dependent subjects. In addition, they tended to use a sequential problem-solving process, while field-dependent and mid-range subjects tended to utilize a wholistic process.;Analyses of social problem-solving elements, regardless of cognitive style, indicated that subjects utilized more analysis and evaluation of self on intrapersonal problems, while displaying more evaluation of strategies on interpersonal problems. When problem-solving items were classified as simple versus complex, it was found that subjects generated more strategies, elaborations, and problem descriptions with relatively simple problems, while they generated more analyses, evaluations, and feeling statements with relatively complex problems. Thus, situational variables had a powerful influence on subjects' problem-solving behavior whereas previous analyses with cognitive style had found no significant impact on problem-solving behavior.



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