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Psychology Journal, 2014

Vol. 11, No. 2


pp. 55-59

ISSN: 1931-5694
www.psychologicalpublishing.com
2014 Psychological Publishing

Cross-Cultural Comparison of Engineers Thinking Styles


Mark C. Gridley*
Jeremy Cripps
Heidelberg University
* Mark Gridley; mgridley@heidelberg.edu(email).

ABSTRACT - The Gregorc Style Delineator and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator were
administered to 25 English-speaking engineering students in Bulgaria, with a mean age of
22 years, 10 women, and 15 men. Of the 25 students, 17 preferred concrete instead of
abstract styles of thinking, and 17 preferred sequential instead of random lines of thought.
Jungs sensing type personality characterized 19 of the 25 students. Their modal profile
did not significantly differ from that of American engineering students.

he question of whether personality and thinking style differ by culture is intriguing


(Honingsfeld & Dunn, 2003; Zhang & Sternberg, 2000; Watkins, 2002). We
already know that personality differs by occupation. The vocational requirements
of certain thinking styles apparently attract personalities with those styles to jobs
that maximize them (Strong, 1943, 1952; Holland, 1966, 1973; Rieger, 1949; Deutsch &
Shea, 1957; Kunert, 1969; Kolb, 1981). The present study attempted to determine
whether the trends that related thinking style by occupation existed cross-culturally.
Thinking styles have been designated by Gregorc (1982) in terms of perceptual
abilities as the means for grasping information. He identified two qualities of perceptual
abilities. The first is abstractness, which enables the person to grasp, conceive, and
visualize data through the faculty of reason and to emotionally and intuitively register
and deal with inner and subjective thoughts, ideas, and concepts. This quality permits the
person to apprehend and perceive that which is invisible and formless to the physical
senses. This corresponds roughly to the intuition function of the ego as conceived by
Jung (1962) and measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators N scale.
Gregorc designated the second quality of perceptual ability as concreteness. This
enables the person to grasp and mentally register data through the direct use and
application of the physical senses. Some individuals are more concretely oriented than
they are abstractly oriented, and abstract thinkers are better at synthesizing and
integrating many details than concrete thinkers are because abstract thinkers seek
patterns, such as the big picture (Gregorc, 1982). The concreteness tendency in preferred
thinking style corresponds roughly with the sensing function of the ego as conceived by
Jung and measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators S scale.
In classifying direction of thought, Gregorc designated ordering abilities as the ways
in which we authoritatively arrange, systematize, reference, and dispose of information.
These emerge as two qualities, (1) sequence, which disposes the mind to grasp and

Psychology Journal, 2014, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 55-59

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organize information in a linear, step-by-step, methodical, predetermined order and (2)


randomness, which disposes the mind to grasp and organize information in a nonlinear,
galloping, leaping, and multifarious manner. This style allows data to be processed
simultaneously and holistically. Some individuals are more sequentially oriented than
random, and some are more randomly oriented than sequential. The coupling of these
qualities forms four distinct transaction ability channels: concrete-sequential, abstractsequential, abstract-random, and concrete-random.
Method
The Gregorc Style Delineator (1982) and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1985) were
administered to 25 English-speaking engineering students at Technical University in
Sofia, Bulgaria, with a mean age of 22 years, 10 of whom were women, 15 of whom
were men.
The Gregorc Style Delineator is a paper-and-pencil test that requires participants to
react to self-descriptive adjectives arranged in ten columns of four adjectives per column,
ranking the adjectives in each group of four according to how well the adjectives fit the
participant. Standardized coefficients alpha reported for internal consistency of the
inventory for 110 adults (Gregorc, 1982b) were .92 for the Concrete Sequential scale, .89
for the Abstract Sequential scale, .93 for the Abstract Random scale, and .91 for the
Concrete Random scale.
Test-retest reliability coefficients were .85 for the Gregorcs Concrete Sequential
scale, .87 for the Abstract Sequential scale, .88 for the Abstract Random scale, and .87
for the Concrete Random scales. The test manual reports predictive validity on the 110
adults of .70 for Concrete Sequential, .76 for Abstract Sequential, .60 for Abstract
Random, and .68 for Concrete Random (Gregorc, 1982b). Concurrent validity is
suggested by 424 out of 475 subjects reporting to Gregorc that they either agreed or
strongly agreed that the characteristics attributed to them by their test scores represented
them well.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a paper and pencil, forced-choice test of
70 items in which participants indicate whether a given descriptor fits them. On the S-N
scale for a sample of more than 10,000 participants Myers and McCaulley (1985) found
Cronbach alphas from .74 to .85 and test-retest correlation coefficients from .69 to .93.
Scores on the MBTIs Sensing scale correlate .75 with scores on the Sensing scale of the
Millon Index of Personality. Scores on the MBTIs Intuition scale correlate .60 with
scores on the Intuiting scale of the Millon Index of Personality (Millon, 1994).
Statistically significant correlations have been found between MBTI scores and behaviors
reflective of MBTI constructs, and persons self-assessment of their own MBTI type
(Beyer & Schmeck, 1992; Devito, 1985; Hicks, 1984; Myers and McCaulley, 1989;
Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998; Pearman & Fleenor, 1996).
Results
Answers on the Gregorc showed that of the 25 engineering students, 17 (68%)
preferred concrete instead of abstract styles of thinking, and 17 (68%) preferred
sequential instead of random lines of thought. Answers on the Myers-Briggs showed that
Jungs sensing type personality characterized 19 (76%) of the 25 students.

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Psychology Journal, 2014, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 55-59

Discussion
The most preferred thinking style of the Bulgarian engineering students was classified
by the Gregorc Style Delineator as concrete and sequential. These findings compare well
with those of previous studies. It resembles the pattern of results that Gridley (2006)
found among 26 full-time, professional engineers in the United States who completed the
Gregorc. The concrete-sequential thinking preference that the present sample
demonstrated is also consistent with preferences found among 147 professional engineers
found by Gridley (2007), among whom the first-choice in thinking style was the
hierarchic form of mental self-government on Sternbergs Intellectual Styles
Questionnaire (the mode of organizing an individuals problem solving strategies that
views goals in hierarchies and views competing goals as acceptable; Sternberg &
Wagner, 1991). The modal thinking style among the Bulgarian engineers also resembles
that obtained by McCaulley, Macdaid, and Walsh (1987) among students at a consortium
of eight American engineering schools and by Macdaid, McCaulley, and Kainz's (1994)
presentation of 986 MBTI profiles of professional engineers. Engineers have a modal
profile of SJ (Sensing-Judging) on the MBTI, which Myers reports as associated with
individuals who describe themselves as matter of fact and practical, receptive and
retentive of factual detail and for whom abstract ideas and theories seem less real and are
much less acceptable. They like work where they can achieve immediate, visible, and
tangible results. (Myers, 1987, p. 87)
Gregorc describes the high scorer on the concrete-sequential classification as
perceiving himself/herself as thorough, careful with detail, a perfectionist,
ordered, realistic, solid, product-oriented and practical (1982, p. 10). These
descriptors are quite similar to those offered for engineers by Kunert (1969), Kolb
(1976), and Deutsch and Shea (1957). Therefore, we can conclude that the Bulgarian
engineering students in our study see themselves in ways very similar to those reported
for engineering students and professional engineers in the United States. This suggests
that vocation-specific, preferred thinking styles may not differ significantly by culture, at
least for the engineering profession.
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