Cognitive style suffers from a confusing multitude of conceptualizations, and dominance by information-processing type measures. This study sought to elucidate a comprehensive and universal set of personality-centred cognitive style constructs. A grounded approach based on the psycholexical hypothesis (effective in personality modelling) was adapted, explicating cognitive styles as evident in late adolescents. Approximately 700 Australian secondary teachers generated a lexicon of 1040 style adjectives, which were consolidated into 99 key words. 596 teachers rated 1192 senior secondary students against these. After removing acquiescence and a ubiquitous good–bad-ability factor, optimum structure appears to be a spherex abridgeable as three circumplexes, reported across six factor pure and 24 blended facets. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.