The Five Styles of Cognition


The InQ — the Inquiry Mode Questionnaire — is a set of statements with forced, multiple-choice responses designed to determine the subject’s mode of thinking. Strong evidence from both experimental and field research, supported by factor-analysis studies, points to the existence of five styles of Cognition which define most human thinking. The InQ measures the extent to which a person uses each of these styles, highlighting the strengths and limitations of each. It measures thinking, not some aspect of personality, and describes key behavioral cues related to each.

The five styles are:


Synthesists focus their thinking on ideas and find connections among things that other people see as having little or no relationship — their style is challenging, speculative, integrative, and process-oriented.


Idealists experience reality as the whole into which new data are assimilated, based on perceived similarities to things they already know — their style is assimilative, receptive, and need-oriented.


Pragmatists perceive a world constantly changing and largely unpredictable, requiring a flexible, whatever-works approach to problem-solving — their style is adaptive, incremental, and payoff-oriented.


Analysts see the world as structured, organized, and predictable, who believe there should be one best method for doing anything — their style is prescriptive and method-oriented.


Realists are inductive, whose mental modes are derived chiefly from observation and their own experiences — their style is empirical and task-oriented.

Thinking about thinking?

“It doesn’t seem to matter how much people like each other, or how well they get along together, or how agreeable their personalities are. When it comes to a matter of solving a problem or making a decision, any two people, chosen at random, are not only likely to approach the situations differently, but they seem to be looking at two very different situations. When a problem-solving group is made up of six, twelve, or fifty people, the situation becomes quite bewildering. It’s no wonder so many people say they hate meetings!” – Harrison & Bramson


The InQ's Reliability

Validity and Reliability Studies on inquiry modes include: Wes Churchman, Challenge to Reason (McGraw Hill, 1968) and the Design of Inquiring Systems (Basic Books, 1971); Ian Mitroff and Louis Pondy, “On the Organization of Inquiry” (Public Administration Review, September-October, 1974). The InQ has been tested vigorously for validity and reliability (see “An Investigation of Item Characteristics, Reliability and Validity of the Inquiry Mode Questionnaire,” in Educational and Psychological Measurement, 1983, Vol. 43).

Compatibility Compatibility If you are already using other tests, such as Myers-Briggs, then our family of learning materials will add a new and necessary dimension — people’s preferred thinking styles — to the information generated by those tools. There are correlations between certain parts of the Myers-Briggs and the InQ. Where it correlates, it reinforces the information our tests can offer you. Myers-Briggs addresses styles of Cognition to a limited extent only. Just think how much more comprehensive your insights can be when using tools that complement each other this way!

New Research We encourage researchers and doctoral students to use the InQ in their research. We can offer a special researchers’ discount on our materials. If you are interested, send a letter to us outlining the purpose and design of your project. If approved, we will send a letter of confirmation to you. Our only stipulation is that you share the results and raw data with us and cite us in your publications.

Feedback We invite your comments on your experiences with our learning materials — what you liked best and least, and your suggestions for improving both the content and how they are presented. Each time we reprint our supplies, we incorporate these improvements as best we can.

The InQ is easy to use, whether on paper or online. It is self-administered, self-scored, and self-interpreted. It is non-judgmental in that it does not declare one style to be better than another. It is non-threatening in that you are left to consider the merits of your styles. Working alone, you can complete the basic assessment in as short as 30 minutes, while the self-study of interpretations and implications can be done at your convenience.