top of page

A Source of Conflict: Field Dependency (or not)

I am a gatherer of heuristics (think ‘Eureka!’ to remember this word if it’s new to you). As a high school teacher of English and a high school principal bent on school reform, I would prod my students, my staff and myself with heuristics. These ‘discovery devices’ would help us all think out of the box, prompting higher level critical thinking. A simple heurist device is to think about what a topic is not, desconstructing it. The Myers-Briggs test is a more complicated heuristic (when applied to the characters in a novel).

You may not know Herman Witkin’s cognitive theory (first proposed in 1962) of field dependence and field independence. Most people line up behind one or the other category, with field dependent (FD) people found mostly in the social sciences and education; field independent (FID) folks in technology and hard sciences. I’m oversimplifying here, of course.

You may be interested to know that Witkin helped the Air Force sort out the best pilots with his tests. Turns out if your plane is up in the fog or the clouds, field independent pilots are more likely to know where land is. We field dependent people have trouble figuring where ‘up’ is.

My husband is field independent. He walks into Starbucks, grabs the paper and sits down to read it because that’s his goal. No checking out which of our friends might be about and which barista is at the bar. He doesn’t even know the names of the barista’s. He finds a chair, opens the paper, reads (back to front). Always.

I’m field dependent. I wave to my friends, note the new people in the crowd, wink at Pierce who’s pulling shots, talk to the manager, John, about how the new grocery store is affecting his traffic. And I order coffee for my husband and me. Since I’m doing a book signing at Starbucks next month, I’m giving them a novel of mine to pass among themselves. I may not have time to read the newspaper J.

My hero and heroine in BAD LIES are opposite in their regard to the field: Sophie is highly field dependent (in her gambling as well as with her golf, she considers the tiniest of elements as important to her success). Jack, is extremely independent of the field, and struggles to coach a woman who seems to him, unfocused and erratic.

Mixing the two cognitive types makes for interesting conflict, and provides my husband and me with a way to understand our differences. (I used to give the Witkin Embedded Figures Test to my students and the results always helped them see/appreciate their special strengths). I think you might enjoy learning more about your own cognitive style, and it might be a brand new heuristic to apply to the next novel you read or write!

While you’re thinking, here’s BAD LIES

Italy’s haunted caves spell danger for an American golfer and a NATO geologist


Sophie Maxwell is a late-blooming, unorthodox golfer, and mother of a precocious thirteen year-old. Determined to put divorce, bankruptcy, and a penchant for gambling in her past, Sophie goes to Italy for a qualifying golf tournament.

Jack Walker turned his back on a pro golfing career to become a geologist. As a favor to his ailing father he’ll caddy for Sophie; off hours, he’ll find caves on the Mediterranean coast, suitable for NATO listening posts for terrorist activity.

Someone is determined to stop Jack’s underground hunt and ruin Sophie’s chances to win her tournament.

On a Rome golf course and in the Amalfi coast’s haunted caves, all the odds are stacked against Sophie and Jack. In their gamble of a lifetime, who wins?

Seven Suspense Novels Spiked with Romance

Web and Blog:

Facebook page:



Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page