A learning style, or cognitive preference, is a consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning. We can learn in many different ways, but when we use our preferred methods, we are generally at our best and feel most competent, natural, and energetic. There are many theories and various instruments to determine learning styles, but they are all essentially based on the idea that individuals perceive, organize, or process information differently on the basis of either learned or inherited traits. The related theory of multiple intelligences, introduced by Gardner (1983), states that every individual has a different set of developed intelligences, determining how easy or difficult it is to learn information presented in a particular manner. This can be seen as defining a specific learning style, although some authors (Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2000) claim that the multiple intelligences theory is centered around the content of learning in distinct fields of knowledge, while learning styles focus mostly on the process of learning.
The tendency to typify human differences has a long tradition in history, and the number four has often appeared in the taxonomies (Silver et al., 2000). From the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance, the dominant concept of human personality was that of Hippocrates’ humors, based on the idea that everyone has four liquids or humors in the body: blood, black bile, phlegm, and yellow bile. A similar amount of each humor would result in a balanced human, while an excess of any of them would develop into one of the four types of personality: sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric. The sacred medicine wheel, in the spiritual stories of the North American Indians, also refers to four human personality traits: wisdom, clarity of perception, introspection, and understanding of one’s emotions.
In the 1920s, Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1921) differentiated human personalities in his theory described in Psychological Types. Jung observed that, when people’s minds are active, they are involved in one of two mental activities: perceiving, taking in information; or judging, organizing that information and coming to conclusions. He identified two opposite ways people perceive—sensation and intuition—and two opposite ways that people judge—thinking and feeling. The combination of these dimensions results in four mental processes. In addition, Jung observed that individuals tend to focus their energy and be energized more by either the external world of people, experience, and activity, or the internal world of ideas, memories, and emotions. He called these two orientations of energy extraversion and introversion. Combining the two different orientations to the world with the four mental processes, Jung described eight fundamental patterns of mental activity available to people. While these eight mental processes are available to and used by everyone, he believed that people are innately different in what they prefer: their dominant function. Based on his observations, Jung concluded that differences in behaviour result from people’s inborn tendencies to use their minds in different ways. As people act on these tendencies, they develop patterns of behaviour: psychological types (Jung, 1961/1989; Myers, 2000).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Hypermedia-Based Learning: Learning in hypermedia environments, allowing nonlinear access to information through links provided within text, images, animation, audio, and video. It is considered flexible, where varied instructional needs can be addressed.
Brain Lateralization: A theory based on the idea that the two hemispheres of the brain have different functions and process information in different ways, catering to different intelligence centers.
Learning Style: A consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning on the basis of either learned or inherited traits. Also known as cognitive preference.
Multiple Intelligences: A theory developed by Howard Gardner stating that every individual has a different set of developed intelligences or “languages” that one speaks, cutting through cultural, educational, and ability differences.
Intelligence: The capacity to know or understand, readiness of comprehension, or the intellect as a gift or endowment—as a classical definition. The capacity to solve problems or to create products that are valued in one or more cultural settings—as defined by Gardner.
Individuation: The process by which the individual develops into a fully differentiated, balanced, and unified personality. A concept introduced by Carl Jung.
Psychological Types: Patterns of behaviour resulting from differences in mental functions preferred, used, and developed by an individual. A theory developed by Carl Jung.
Hypervideo: Refers to the integration of video in truly hypermedia spaces, where it is not regarded as a mere illustration, but can also be structured through links defined in its spatial and temporal dimensions. Sometimes called video-based hypermedia.