Individual differences and cognitive complexity investigated in community college writing.




Thomson, David E.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Synthesizing empirical findings about lifelong writing development, I tested a measurement of cognitive complexity (CC) toward understanding how the language of affect may interact with that language associated with acts of thinking. A community college in central Texas was the site of the study where I analyzed the essays of basic (n= 134) and advanced (n =89) composition students. Since vocational-track students make up about half of the enrollment, I compared those students' (n= 27) performance with traditional associate-degree seeking students (n =134). Additionally, I collected personality profiles from many of those students (n= 145) to explore any possible interaction of Neuroticism (N) on the affect component of the measure under investigation. Results showed small relations between CC and sex (Cohen's d} =.24), CC and course level (d =.18), and CC and N (r =.1). Just as women tended to outscore men on CC, so did basic composition students in comparison to their advanced peers. There was almost no difference between vocational and traditional college track students. Overall, this study may present evidence of a natural-word-usage ceiling evident in the automated textual analysis software used to measure CC. More clearly it showed that CC as measured in the present study negatively correlates with standardized reading (r =-0.14) and writing (r =-0.28) scores. I conclude by discussing the need to gather a broader lifespan sampling of whatever ability and trait characteristics detail CC as that realized in an academic community valuing the free and tolerant exchange of ideas.