A Power Test of Conceptual Complexity: Textual Correlates1


  • 1

    This research was made possible by grants to the first author from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and to the second author from he Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (No. 410-87-0144). We are also grate ful for the help of Gloria Baker-Brown, Susan Bluck, Joan Donelly, Geoff Donelly, and Wayne Wong, who assisted in data collection, scoring, and coding.

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to either author at the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6T1Y7.


Conceptual complexity is a personality characteristic that involves the individual's ability to differentiate and integrate aspects of information. It is usu ally measured with the Paragraph Completion Test (PCT), which requires the completion of six paragraphs, in response to standard stems, often with a time limit of 100-120 sec each. In order to eliminate time pressure, which may reduce complexity, the current study evaluated a revised format that used only two stems but allowed 8 minutes per response. As expected, this procedure resulted in higher scores and produced enough written output to allow analysis of particular test components. Complexity scores from 277 university students were related to total number of words written, sentence length, and number of words with more than three syllables, but not to standard formulae designed to measure readability, such as the Flesch, SMOG and FOG indices. The modest size of the obtained correlations suggests that the scoring of conceptual complexity on the basis of semantic content cannot be replaced by indices based on linguistic and textual components.