Suedfeld's Integrative Complexity Research
Integrative Complexity in a Nutshell
Integrative complexity is a measure of the intellectual style used by individuals or groups in processing information, problem solving, and decision making. Complexity looks at the structure of one's thoughts, while ignoring the contents. It is scorable from almost any verbal materials: books, articles, fiction, letters, speeches and speech transcripts, video and audio tapes, and interviews.
Complexity has two components, differentiation and integration. Differentiation refers to the perception of different dimensions when considering an issue. Integration refers to the recognition of cognitive connections among differentiated dimensions or perspectives.
If you want more technical information about integrative complexity, or want to learn how to score for this construct, please click this link to visit the highly successful Electronic Complexity Workshop.
Suedfeld's Research Use of Integrative Complexity at UBC
Much of the research in Dr. Suedfeld's laboratory utilizes integrative complexity in some way, with the studies using it most falling under the general category of Political Psychology (occasionally as part of an ongoing collaboration with Michael D. Wallace from the department of Political Science). Other studies address issues related to social, cognitive, and environmental psychology. Crossing all of these categories, the brief examples listed below are divided by the type of data used, Questionnaire versus Archival.
Research Using Questionnaire Data
Research Using Archival Data
- Complexity as a Function of the Number of Problems to Solve
- This is a recently completed project, but serves as a good example of the type of complexity-related experimental work conducted in Dr. Suedfeld's laboratory. In this study, subjects were asked to solve 1, 3, or 6 problems in either 10, 20, or 30 minutes. For each problem they wrote at least one paragraph discussing how they would resolve the various issues from the perspective of the president of the UBC student government.
- Complexity as a Function of Motive Conflict
- This is a survey-based study of conditions that affect the level of integrative complexity. Previous research has shown that complexity is higher when the individual is faced with conflicts between two values both of which are highly, and more or less equally, important. This study extends the paradigm to situations in which two or more highly, and more or less equally, important goals (motives) are being pursued. Thus the study explores the idea that high complexity may be associated with high motive conflict in a manner similar to that found with value conflict. To do this, the study examines subjects' responses to scenarios such as the following:
- You are running an environmental group with a large membership but you have a problem in persuading the government to make a decision that:
- Makes them do what you want (= Power motive)
- Resolves the situation successfully (= Achievement motive)
- Makes you become more popular (= Affiliation motive)
- Analysis will compare the complexity behind decisions made by subjects experiencing conflict between one or more of these motives.
- South American Liberators
- This study looks at motive imagery and changes in the integrative complexity of South American Liberators, such as José de San Martin, Simon Bolivar, and Bernardo O'Higgins, before, during, and after liberating their countries.
- Vaclav Havel
- The goal of this study is to examine motive imagery and changes in integrative complexity for the first and now former President of the Czech Republic, who is also a distinguished writer and playwright. The study is examining not only changes as a function of political context, but also differences between political and artistic expression.
- War Against Terrorism
- This project looks at changes in the integrative complexity of world leaders prior to 9/11 and up to the end of the Iraq war. There are 3 sub-projects in this group.
- War on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (world leaders)
- War on the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq (world leaders)
- War on Terrorism (USA only)
- Indian-Pakistani Conflicts
- This project is looking at changes in the integrative complexity of Indian and Pakistani leaders (Prime Minister/President, Defense Ministers, External Affairs Ministers and UN Representatives) during conflict and control (no major war) periods.
- Cross-Language Study of Yasser Arafat's Speeches
- This study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ara Norenzyan, who can read the original Arabic in which Arafat's speeches were written. This study will not only provide an interesting cognitive analysis of the speeches of a long-standing, controversial Middle-Eastern leader, it will also further address the issue of the comparability of integrative complexity scores obtained from original versus translated materials. Past research has found little or no difference, attesting to the universality of the construct.
- Canadian Prime Ministers
- Content and structural analyses are being performed on the speeches of Canadian Prime Ministers whose subsequent reputations vary widely, to see whether reputation is reliably associated with any variable such as integrative complexity, the dominance of a particular type of motive imagery, etc.
- Complexity and the Holocaust: Survivors, Nazis, Bystanders, and Rescuers
- This whole family of studies is examining the Holocaust-related writings of survivors, Nazis, bystanders, and rescuers to determine if these groups vary in their complexity levels when discussing the event, and whether those levels change depending upon the period of the Holocaust discussed (i.e., before, during, or after the war). More information regarding Suedfeld's Holocaust research may be found at the Holocaust Studies web-page.
- Women's Narratives
- This study looks at integrative complexity and four other psychological aspects of women who have lived through tumultuous and dangerous times (e.g., women Holocaust survivors, women slaves, women during wartime, etc.). In addition to integrative complexity, the study also examines attributional style, motive imagery, self and social definition, and psychological stances toward the environment. Other variables may be incorporated as the research progresses.
Last updated: Monday, June 7, 2004
Follow this link to see a complete list of Dr. Suedfeld's relevant publications on this topic.
Note that that list has a large degree of overlap with the Political Psychology reference list.
For more technical information regarding the integrative complexity construct, or to learn to score for it, visit the Electronic Complexity Workshop
Currently averaging 20 registrants a year
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About this web-site
This web-site describes the research and other achievements of Dr. Peter Suedfeld, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.
This page describes Dr. Suedfeld's general research use of the integrative complexity construct, a means of characterizing the style of verbal discourse. Integrative complexity is used in nearly all of Suedfeld's many research projects, which may be explored through the following topic links:
Primary Research topics: