Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

C. Raymond Millimet


The major function of this study was to assess differences in interpersonal cognitive complexity among the four belief systems specified by Harvey’s Conceptual Systems Theory. In addition, criticism is offered of many of the more commonly used indicators of cognitive complexity (e.g. Bieri, 1955) since they tend to identify cognitive complexity with cognitive differentiation. Herein is offered an alternative method of measuring cognitive complexity which is seen as indicating both differentiation and integration. The study used 54 graduate and undergraduate students, of which 35 were females and 19 were males. The alternative method of calculating cognitive complexity relies upon Hinkle’s (1965) "laddering" technique. A set of constructs was initially elicited from each subject using Kelly’s standard Rep grid. Out of these constructs one of the subordinate constructs, as estimated by means of Hinkle’s "implication grid," was used as the base from which a series of other constructs were sequentially elicited, with each successive construct being superordinate to that which proceded it. In the context of the pyramidally-shaped theoretical model of cognitive structure herein presented, it is proposed that the number of constructs which can be strung together in such a subordinate-superordinate chain represents the number of hierarchical levels within the cognitive structure and it is this number of hierarchical levels which is proposed as a more accurate approximator of cognitive complexity. Findings revealed, in fact, that there was a negative correlation between a differentiation analysis of complexity and the laddering analysis, suggesting that traditional differentiation scores not only fail to take integration into account, but, in fact, misrepresent integration as a lack of cognitive differentiation. With regard to the major hypothesis, neither differentiation scores nor laddering scores discriminated among any of Harvey’s four conceptual systems, indicating that Conceptual Systems Theory draws primarily qualitative, rather than quantitative, distinctions among construct dimensions used by the four system types.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska at Omaha In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts.

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