Individuals process information and make decisions in different ways. Some plan carefully and analyze information systematically, whereas others follow their instincts and do what “feels right.” We aimed to deepen our understanding of the meaning of the intuitive versus systematic cognitive styles.
We compared cognitive styles of arts, accounting and mathematics students (Study 1). We found that cognitive styles were associated with values (Study 2) and traits (Study 3), and interacted with experience in predicting performance (Study 4).
The systematic style was most frequent among accountants and the intuitive style was most frequent among artists, validating the meaning of the styles. Systematic style was positively correlated with conscientiousness and with security values and negatively correlated with stimulation values.
The intuitive style had the opposite pattern, and was also positively correlated with extraversion. Experience improved rule-based performance among systematic individuals but had no effect on intuitive ones.
We conclude that cognitive style is consistent with other personal attributes (traits and values), and has implications for decision-making and task-performance.