Much of human behaviour is assessed with reference to overall performance, such as being the fastest, the brightest, the most accurate, etc. Yet, this approach assumes that human behaviour can be explained along the dimension of intelligence. However, performance is, most of the time, more complex. For some tasks, it might be advantageous to be fast, while for others it might be best to stop and think. This context-specific evaluation of performance has been integrated in theoretical approaches such as in the one on « cognitive style ». Here, people are placed along the dimension of analytic (local) and global processing. While theoretically sound, empirical investigations demonstrate that conventional cognitive style tests struggle to meet validity. For example, some tests measure intelligence more than cognitive style while others can be mainly explained by common personality measures (e.g. NEO, Big five). In the current project, we i) reflect on theoretical assumptions of cognitive style theory and ii) elaborate new cognitive style instruments that respect theoretical assumptions and by inference validity requirements.
Autistic and psychotic-like (schizotypal) traits are dimensionally expressed within both healthy and clinical populations. While these trait dimensions are predominantly conceptualized as mutually exclusive, research suggests that these traits can co-occur within an individual. Most importantly and perhaps paradoxically, when both traits are expressed at relatively elevated levels, individuals seem to present attenuated dysfunction in clinical populations, and normative or even superior performance in healthy populations. Using multiple methodological approaches, we work with our collaborators on: (1) the elaboration of mechanisms that could explain this seeming paradox, and (2) the extent to which these benefits might generalize across domains (e.g., cognitive, affective). Currently, we are examining these effects in paradigms that assess attentional abilities, perception, theory of mind, social functioning, cognitive styles, creativity, academic achievement and religiosity.
Michiel van Elk
Sophie Von Bentivegni