Another common misconception, say the researchers, is that information is easier to process when it matches a person’s preferred cognitive style.

This theory – known as the “matching hypothesis” in education – suggests, for example, that “visual learners” and “auditory learners” engage best with material presented in their preferred mode.

Yet, research suggests that style flexibility – being able to select among styles, monitor their effectiveness, and switch styles if necessary – may actually be more important than style rigidity.

“Teaching a student to select the most appropriate style to a given situation among a variety of styles and how to switch styles if necessary is a much more beneficial approach,” said Kozhevnikov.

According to the report’s authors, the new taxonomy can help researchers in education to develop instruments that more accurately tap into cognitive styles; help teachers assess which cognitive styles are required to perform a specific task well; and can inform the development of programs that train individuals to apply various styles.

“Research on cognitive style in psychology, culture-sensitive individual differences in neuroscience, learning styles in education, and decision styles in business and management all address the same phenomena,” says Kozhevnikov. “Integrating these phenomena into a unified framework not only illuminates the use of cognitive style in applied disciplines like education and in business and management, it also contributes to developments within the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.”

The new framework is in the latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The full report, which includes the matrix, is available free to the public here: http://psi.sagepub.com/content/15/1/3.full#sec-6

[Material from a press release was used in this report]