Measuring Individual Differences in Visual and Verbal Thinking Styles

AbstractDo people have dispositions towards visual or verbal thinking styles, i.e., a tendency towards one default representational modality versus the other? The problem in trying to answer this question is that visual/verbal thinking styles are challenging to measure. Subjective, introspective measures are the most common but often show poor reliability and validity; neuroimaging studies can provide objective evidence but are intrusive and resource-intensive. In previous work, we observed that in order for a purely behavioral testing method to be able to objectively evaluate a person’s visual/verbal thinking style, 1) the task must be solvable equally well using either visual or verbal mental representations, and 2) it must offer a secondary behavioral marker, in addition to primary performance measures, that indicates which modality is being used. We collected four such tasks from the psychology literature and conducted a small pilot study with adult participants to see the extent to which visual/verbal thinking styles can be differentiated using an individual’s results on these tasks.

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