Psychology ETDs

Publication Date



Researchers and theoreticians have long assumed differences to exist in the attentional and learning processes between hysterical and obsessive-compulsive style individuals. This assumption of differences between the two cognitive styles has engendered limited research. Further, this research has utilized only the type of tasks employed in learning and memory experiments. The present study attempted to assess differences in the memories of hysterical and obsessive style individuals, moving from memory for word lists as assessed in previous research, to memory for information more typically utilized in a clinical situation.

Hysterical (Hy) and obsessive-compulsive (Pt) style subjects were obtained through the administration of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to 343 university undergraduates. After MMPI administration, 17 Hy and 15 Pt subjects returned for a second session and received false information concerning "data" gathered from the MMPI. Information was presented in two ways to each subject. The first involved a dramatic, impressionistic presentation. The second presentation was technical and detailed. Subjects were given recall and recognition tests for both types of information.

It was hypothesized that a significant interaction would occur between sentence style and cognitive style. It was predicted that while Hy and Pt subjects would perform comparably in recognition of dramatic detail, Pt subjects would outperform Hy subjects on recognition of technical detail. The same interaction was predicted for memory assessed by free recall, i.e., Pt subjects would recall approximately the same amount of dramatic detail as Hy subjects, but would recall more technical detail than Hy subjects.

Additionally, each subject's style of field approach was assessed. It was assumed that a significant correlation would exist between cognitive style and field approach, with Pt subjects performing more field independently than Hy subjects as assessed by the Embedded Figures Test (EFT).

The results failed to confirm these hypotheses. Pt subjects did not demonstrate better recall or recognition for technical detail than Hy subjects. Moreover, no significant difference in performance between groups was obtained on the EFT. The finding that Pt males recalled significantly more details from technical sentences than did Pt females, however, suggests that the present experimental results may have been confounded by a sex factor.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Peder Jack Johnson

Second Committee Member

Ralph David Norman

Third Committee Member

William Richard Miller

Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons