If you are looking to dowload the Automated Integrative Complexity scoring system, click on this link.
Cognitive Complexity Lab Overview
What do we study?
In the cognitive complexity lab, we study virtually anything that has to do with how complexly people think. What causes complex thinking? What consequences does it have? So, for example, we study environmental, cultural, and personality influences on complex thinking, consequences of complex thinking for psychological and physical health, and consequences of complexity for international relations (e.g., Conway, Gornick, Burfiend, Mandella, Kuenzli, & Houck, in press, Political Psychology; Conway, Dodds, Towgood, McClure, & Olson, 2011, Journal of Personality; Conway, Thoemmes, Allison, Towgood, Wagner, Davey, Salcido, Stovall, Dodds, Bongard, & Conway, 2008, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Conway, Suedfeld, & Clements, 2003, Psicologia Politica ; Conway, Schaller, Tweed, & Hallett, 2001, Social Cognition; Thoemmes & Conway, 2007, Political Psychology). In doing so, we have studied a wide array of persons: College students, U.S. Presidents and Presidential Candidates; Canadian Prime Ministers, famous religious converts, famous atheists, and famous liars such as Ken Lay of ENRON and Richard Nixon. We have also studied the effects of lying, of extremism, of political conservatism/liberalism, and of attitude heritability on complex thinking.
What is cognitive complexity?
Cognitive complexity is how complexly or simply people think about a particular issue. So, for example, I may think "broccoli is terrible -- I hate it." That's a pretty simple thought -- one idea about broccoli. But I may think something else about broccoli, like "broccoli has a terrible texture, but a nice flavor." (Ok, the flavor part is totally untrue, but work with me here). That's more complex -- it contains two distinct ideas about broccoli. Further, I may think “broccoli has a terrible texture and a nice flavor; but really, it’s the way the flavor and texture combine in the palate that make the unique broccoli experience.” That’s more complex still – I’m not just presenting two distinct ideas (flavor and texture), but I’m discussing how they are interrelated. Well, it turns out that almost any statement ever recorded in the history of human beings can be coded along this complexity dimension. In our lab, we use the well-validated integrative complexity construct to code written or spoken statements on a 1-7 scale, as well as two new constructs of our own design known as elaborative complexity and dialectical complexity. These two new constructs help us "break down" the overall integrative complexity score into its component parts, in particular whether it emerged because someone is defending a single view complexly ("elaborative" complexity) versus actually considering multiple views in a complex way ("dialectical" complexity).
What is cognitive complexity, Part II?
Recently, we have further developed the cognitive complexity construct with a new, innovative way of determining what kind of complexity we are talking about. In particular, consider the following two statements: (1) "Broccoli has a terrible texture but a great flavor." (2) "Broccoli has a terrible texture and, completely independent of that, it also has a terrible flavor." Both statements would score a 3 on the intergrative complexity scale, because both clearly discuss different dimensions associated with broccoli. Yet few would argue that the two statements are at least somewhat psychologically different: The first statement acknowledges pros and cons to broccoli, while the second offers a unilaterally negative view. In response, we have developed a system that allows to tell how much of a particular integrative complexity score is due to the first kind of thing (which we call dialectical complexity) versus the second kind of thing (which we call elaborative complexity). In addition to seeing our recent publications on the topic (Conway, Gornick, Burfiend, Mandella, Kuenzli, & Houck, in press, Political Psychology; Conway, Dodds, Towgood, McClure, & Olson, 2011, Journal of Personality; Conway, Thoemmes, Allison, Towgood, Wagner, Davey, Salcido, Stovall, Dodds, Bongard, & Conway, 2008, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), we also refer the reader to this link which contains a "manual" for scoring the new system (or see "resources" page):
What is cognitive complexity, Part III?
Even more recently, we have become involved in designing a system to automatically score complexity via the computer. We've published a paper (Conway, Conway, Gornick, & Houck, in press) on this system's validation. You can dowload the actual system yourself at this link.