Adolescent Identity: Rational vs. Experiential Processing, Formal Operations, and Critical Thinking Beliefs

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Numerous studies have attempted to determine social and cognitive predictors of identity status. The present study introduced a new and promising variable into these endeavors: the extent to which adolescents rely on rational vs. experiential information processing. To investigate the utility of this construct, 49 adolescent volunteers were administered multiple measures of formal operations, two critical thinking questionnaires, the Rational Versus Experiential Inventory (S. Epstein, R. Pacini, V. Denes-Raj, and H. Heier [1995] “Individual Differences in Rational and Analytical Information Processing,” unpublished manuscript, University of Massachusetts) and the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status—II (G. Adams, C. Bennion, and K. Huh [1989] “Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status: A Reference Manual,” Unpublished manuscript, University of Guelph), as a measure of identity status. A measure of rational/experiential processing was found to be correlated significantly with measures of both formal operations and critical thinking beliefs. In a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses, rational/experiential processing predicted most identity status scores even after the variance in identity status associated with formal operations and critical thinking had been controlled. These findings, although preliminary, suggest that developmental researchers look beyond traditional predictors of identity and toward possibly more fundamental aspect of human information processing.

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