The complexity of cognitive structure in relation to scholastic achievement.
This study is concerned with patterns of information search and utilisation, and the effect these have on the areas of academic interest and the level of achievement within these areas as a result a fit between the individual and his environment. In particular, the study deals with the scholar's level of cognitive complexity as described by Harvey, Hunt and Schroder (1961) and the effect such complexity level has upon subject preference in the final school year and whether this in turn effects the level of competence and achievement of the pupil. It will be argued that individual differences in cognitive style or information processing strategies act as moderator variables, resulting in a preference for and relative success in some rather than other domains of intellectual activity. A distinction is drawn between styles that encourage the consideration of a fairly wide range of variables, and those that favour a more restricted range in any given situation. Furthermore, it is argued that the natural sciences, in nature and educational aims, favour individuals with restricted styles, while the arts and humanities favour the "broader" cognitive styles. A link is drawn between these styles and the complexity of the individual's cognitive structure, and the hypothesis is tested that a preference for and success in the arts as against the sciences is a function of an increase in complexity. Results in support of the hypothesis is presented and implications of the findings are discussed.