the influence of the transcendental meditation ?· to have a higher degree of field independence...

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    Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A.

    Research completed 1981.

    Students who practised the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme were found to have a higher degree of field independence when compared with undergraduate test norms. The authors propose that this more stable internal frame of reference results from the growing stability of experience of pure consciousness gained through the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programme.-EDITOR~




    The effects of the Maharishi International University (M/U) undergraduate curriculum on field independence was studied with 98 male students, mean age 24. MIU students scored higher on the GEFT than undergraduates reported in the testnorms (p< .001). There was a significant increase infield independence as a function of length of time spent at M/U, controlling for age, attrition and entering SAT scores (p=.046).

    The results are interpreted to indicate that the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program pro_duces a more stable internal frame of r.eference.


    Field independence is a theoretical construct posited by Witkin and his colleagues to explain a trait that appeared to be common to a variety of perceptual tests and germaine to a wide range of cognitive, social and cultural behavior (Goodenough, 1976; Witkin, 1979; Witkin and Goodenough, 1977; Witkin, Dyk, Faterson, Goodenough, and Karp, 1974; Witkin, Lewis, Hertzman, Machover, Meiss-ner and Wapner, 1954). This trait can be described as the ability to make perceptual judgements in-dependently of a distracting field or context, as measured by various perceptual tests. The rod and frame test, for example, measures the accuracy of vertically aligning a luminous rod in a darkened room when the only external reference to the ver-tical is a luminous frame around the rod which is set askew (the distracting field) . The embedded figures test measures the rate of finding (disembed-ding) a simple geometric form hidden in a complex visual pattern (the field). The commonality between high performance on these two different tasks ap-pears to be the ability to make accurate perceptual judgements independently of distracting informa-tion from the field. Field independence can thus be said to be the subjects' ability to enhance the signal to noise ratio.

    Thurstone's flexibility of closure, Guilford's adap-tive flexibility, Phillip's spatial decontextualization, Duncker's functional fixedness, Wechsler's percep-tual organization (Pelletier, 1976; Werner, 1957), psychological differentiation (Witkin et al., 1974) and perceptual-cognitive style (Goodenough, 1976; Witkin and Goodenough, 1977) are all different con-ceptualizations of this ability, with different evalu-ations of the significance of the trait.

    The cognitive style concept, for example, holds that. field independence (FI) is an analytic cognitive style, a preference for attending to internal sources of information, while field dependence (FD) is a global cognitive style, a preference for external

    sources of information. This orientation is value neutral, regarding FI-FD as neither good nor bad (e.g. Witkin, 1979; Witkin and Goodenough, 1977; Witkin, Oltman, Raskin and Karp, 1971). However, there is considerable evidence that supports the view that FI increased developmentally and represents a more mature style of CNS integration (e.g. Silver-man, McGough, and Bogdonoff, 1967). For exam-ple, FI has been shown to increase developmentally in all individuals (Witkin, Goodenough and Karp, 1967). It is also positively correlated with de-velopmental measures such as Piaget's formal operations stage (Rubinstein, 1980) and Piaget's and Kohlberg's moral reasoning stages (Arbuthnot, 1971; Caring, 1971; Schleifer, 1971). At the upper end of the age scale, FI tends to decrease with advancing age (Lee and Pollack, 1978; Markus, 1971; Schwartz and Karp, 1967), while those who are more active and successful during advancing age remain more FI (Karp, 1967).

    Of particular interest is the concept of a stable in-ternal frame of reerence (Witkin et al., 197 4; Witkin and Goodenough, 1977) which appears to explain a broad range of experimental data on FI and may help to explain why FI may be correlated with a more mature style of CNS integration.

    In the case of the rod and frame test, the stable internal frame of reference can be specified as a clear internal sense of the vertical originating from semicircular canals. In the case of the embedded figures test, the stable internal frame of reference may be identified with a stable memory of the sim-ple geometric form. In social experiments on percep-tual judgements, field independent subjects are less affected by social pressure from confederates than are field dependent subjects (e.g. Linton, 1955; also see Weissenberg, 1978; Weiss and Shaw, 1979; and see Witkin and Goodenough, 1977 for review). Presumably, the stable internal frame in this case is a stable set of values.

    FI is also apparently associated with a stable sense of well-being or self-concept that operates as an in-



    ternal frame of reference. For example, FI subjects are less int;Iuenced by noncontingent aversion than FD subjects (see Goodenough, 1976 for a review), they are less anxious in ambiguous situations (Culver, Cohen, Silverman and Shmavonian, 1964), and they show less test anxiety (Lau, 1977). Psychophysiological studies show a positive correla-tion between FI and physiological stability; FI is associated with lower GSR lability (Block, 1957; Hustmyer and Karnes, 1964) and greater stability of a variety of physiological and personality para-meters (Silverman et al., 1967).

    The wide range of perceptual, social and physiological contexts in which the concept of a stable internal frame of reference applies leads to the conclusion that it may be a very abstract, general trait reflecting a high level of integration of the cen-tral nervous system at a deep structural level. A high degree of communication between various aspects of the nervous system with a low degree of internal noise could be expected to give greater access to in-ternal sources of information, such as information about immediate and recent experience, as in the case of current information from the vestibular organs or recent memory of a simple geometric form, as well as encoded information acquired during the life-span pertaining to stable values and a stable sense of self and well-being. This interpretation of a stable internal frame of reference as a low-noise/high-communication system is consistent with numerous findings, such as those associating FI with greater performance effectiveness under conditions of in-trinsic motivation (see Goodenough, 1976 for review), more rapid adaptation and greater differen-tiation of physiological responses (McGough, Silver-man, and Bogdonoff, 1965; Silverman, Cohen, Shmavonian and Greenberg, 1961), well differen-tiated classical conditioning of autonomic responses (Courter, Wattenmaker and Ax, 1965), greater dif-ferentiation of the visual evoked response to parametrically varied stimuli (Buchsbaum and Silver-man, 1970), greater interhemispheric lateralization of both EEG alpha (Oltman, Semple and Goldstein, 1979) and verbal and configurallearning (Zoccolotti and Oltman, 1978), etc.

    Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1969) has discussed the acquisition of a stable internal frame of reference and its broad range of benefits for psychophysio-logical development in terms of stabilization of "pure consciousness" in the development of enlightenment. He predicts that the regular experience of turning


    the attention inward through the Transcendental Meditation technique will develop a stable state of silent inner awareness (pure consciousness) through-out the cycle of waking, dreaming and sleeping. This stable internal frame of reference would function as an anchor to life so that it is no longer blown about by the winds of circumstance, to use his metaphor.

    Pelletier (1974, 1976) predicted that the regular experience of turning the attention inward through the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program would increase field independence. In a random-assign-ment-to-groups study of 40 subjects, mean age 24.7 years, he found that over a three-month period of the TM program field independence increased on three different measures, the rod and frame test, the embedded figures test and the autokinetic percep-tion test.

    Whereas Pelletier studied new meditators, the pre-sent study attempts to replicate his results using students in the undergraduate program at Maharishi International University who participate in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program as part of their regular daily routine.


    SUBJECTS AND APPARATUS-A random sample of 120 male MIU undergraduates were tested on Witkin's Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT, Witkin et al., 1971). Data were collected on age, time practicing the TM program, time practicing the TM-Sidhi program, entering SAT scores, time at MIU at the time of testing, attrition from MIU over the next two years (obtained from registrar's office) and whether the subject previously had taken the GEFT. All subjects (N = 6) who had previously taken the GEFT before were eliminated from the sample. Also eliminated from the sample were subjects with missing data


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