You are on page 1of 1

Field Dependence–Independence

Herman Witkin devised the Embedded Figures Test (EFT) to measure field dependence–independence. Some people have
difficulty locating the simple figures hidden within the more complex surroundings; in a sense, they are caught up “in the
forest” and “unable to see the trees.” Witkin referred to such observers as “field dependent.” Others quickly find the smaller
figures; they see objects independently of their background. Witkin labeled such observers as “field independent.” Scores on
field dependence–independence are relatively stable over time. After more than 30 years of studying this individual
difference variable, Witkin reported that field-independent students tend to favor the natural sciences, math, and
engineering, while the field-dependent prefer the social sciences and education. In addition, Witkin found that the fieldindependent seem to function with more autonomy and demonstrate a more detached orientation toward others. In
contrast, the field-dependent are oriented toward others. They seek their advice, gravitate toward social situations, and
prefer to be physically close to others.
Research by Aldert Vrij and colleagues has examined how this difference may relate to selective perception. For example, in
one study, the researchers examined police officers’ ability to disregard distractions in simulated, though naturalistic,
shooting situations. Results indicated that field-independent officers performed better on the shooting task and were able
to give a more accurate description of the critical event than were the field-dependent officers. Presumably, the former
could focus better on the target without being distracted by the noise and activity occurring in the field around them.
Another recent line of research suggests that field
independent students learn more effectively than
do field-dependent students in a hypermedia-based
instructional environment. The former seem to find
the theme that runs through the various media
presentations more easily than do the latter.
Each orientation, suggests Randy Larsen and David
Buss, has its strengths and its limitations. Fieldindependent people may be skillful at analyzing

Field dependent

field independent

complex situations and extracting information from
background distractions. However, they tend to
score lower in interpersonal skills. Field-dependent people are more attentive to context and have stronger social skills.

Larsen, R., & Buss, D. (2005). Personality psychology: Domains of knowledge about human behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill.