Making Life Complicated: Prompting the Use of Integratively Complex Thinking


  • This research was partially supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant #410-87-1021. The authors are indebted to Kathleen Kitching, Donna Martin, Scott Pawson, Lisa Keith, and Karen Williams for data collection, scoring, and data preparation. An earlier version of Study 1 was presented at the Canadian Psychological Association annual meeting in Montreal, June 1988. Study 2 was presented at the Canadian Psychological Association annual meeting in Ottawa, June 1990.

Inquiries and requests for reprints should be addressed to Bruce Hunsberger, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5, or to James Lea, now at the Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.


ABSTRACT Two studies are reported which assess the proclivity of individuals to increase the integrative complexity of social, moral, or religious thinking when prompted to do so. We also examined the influence on complexity of topic area and respondents' religiosity. In both studies significant increases in complexity were obtained when participants were prompted to differentiate and integrate material, suggesting that an important distinction needs to be made between competence and performance with respect to complexity. However, there was some evidence that prompting complexity was more effective in eliciting differentiation than integration. Both studies indicated that overall, religious orientation was not a significant predictor of integrative complexity, nor did it interact with other factors (including religious vs. nonreligious content of stimulus materials). Finally, there was some evidence that complexity may vary across different content areas, and this variation may be differentially affected by prompting for complexity.