Adaption-Innovation and Meaning Theory

– by E Diskin

This Masters thesis is an attempt to associate the Adaptor-Innovator theory with the Meaning theory proposed by Kreitler & Kreitler (1976).

The Meaning theory of Kreitler & Kreitler (1976) explains the ways by which individuals attribute meaning to the world and to the objects (referents) contained in it. The theory suggests that the individual, when processing information, arranges this referent information using 22 dimensions, contained within 4 types of relationships: attribution, comparative, exemplifying-illustrative and metaphoric-symbolic. This decision making model is based upon the authors’ comprehension theory exploring the manner individuals give significance to objects and occurrences in their surroundings.

The present study suggests that both theories here explored, one of cognitive style (using KAI) and one of information processing procedures, are related in that the 4 types of relationships are further manifestations of the cognitive style of Adaption-Innovation.

The operational hypotheses are:

(1) that those more adaptive, who tend to process information within the accepted frame, are more likely to use the attribution and exemplifying-illustrative types of relation that enlarge the processing referent boundaries.

(2) Innovators are likely to use more comparative and metaphoric-symbolic relations, which expand the understanding of the referent relation to include other referents.

(3) In addition it is suggested that subjects whose A-I scores were around the mean will make equal use of the 4 types of relations.

Eighty British subjects, varying in their socio-economical status volunteered to fill out the two measures. A high correlation was found between scores on the KAI and the scores derived from the Meaning questionnaire.

The results were in accord with expectations. It was found that adaptors tend to use more attribution and exemplifying types of relations, while the innovators use more comparative and metaphoric-symbolic types of relations. But the results failed to support the hypothesis that subjects with KAI scores close to the mean would show a mixed use of the 4 types of relations.

The theoretical and practical implications of the present study and the possibilities for future research in this area are discussed.


The Kreitler Meaning test yields 4 scores showing the number of times a certain relation was used out of each respondent’s total answers. For this study, two combined scores were calculated:

(a) Total number of attribution and exemplifying-illustrative relations used.

(b) Total number of comparative and metaphoric-symbolic relations used.

In accord with theory, adaptors were found to be more inclined to use the attribution relation with a correlation of -0.38 and innovators to use comparative and metaphoric-symbolic relations, with a correlation of 0.71 (both at p= >.001). The correlation between KAI and Exemplifying –Illustrative was non-significant. The results are summarized in the following table.

Table One
AI Relationships - table 1

The respondents were divided according to their KAI scores, in accordance with Kirton’s suggestion (1988), into 6 groups, formed by dividing the range into spaces of 10 while the 2 extreme groups each had a space of 20. The analysis of the one-way differences between these groups and the comparative + metaphoric – symbolic scores between the groups (D.F = 5, P = >.001, F = 18.29) is described in Table No 2.

Table Two

One-way difference analysis results between groups on the adaptor-innovative scale and between comparative and metaphoric-symbolic frequency of use
AI Relationships - table 2
Four of the six groups representing: Adaptors 1 & 2 and Middling scorers 3 & 4 (ranging from 64-110) do not differ significantly from one, contrary to expectation, but do have significantly different scores from groups 5 and 6 (ranging from 111-140).

It appears that there is more distinction between higher innovators and the rest than between those on either side of the mean especially in the comparative + metaphonic-symbolic relation use.

Table Three

Differences between the group average frequency of use of comparative + metaphoric-symbolic relations.

AI Relationships - table 3


Diskin, E., 1988. The Cognitive Basis of Adaption-Innovation Theory M.A Thesis, Bar Ilan University , Israel .

Kreitler H. & Kreitler S., 1976. Cognitive Orientation and Behaviour. New York : Springer.