A descriptive study of the relationship of selected neuropsychological factors and cognitive learning styles of alcoholics

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Sanders, Nick

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Educational theories and practices that substantiate effective learning and development are seldom emphasized in the psychoeducational component of recovery programs for alcoholism. The primary purpose of this research was to study the relationship between selected neuropsychological and personality variables and cognitive learning styles of alcoholics during different lengths of time alcohol free. The whole population in this study consisted of 126 male and female self-selected subjects ranging in age from 18 to 65 years. Ethnic backgrounds were mixed. All subjects identified themselves as alcoholics. Subjects were associated with a psychoeducational treatment center and Alcoholics Anonymous. The whole group had from 0 days of sobriety to 35 years of abstinence. Subjects completed a demographic instrument, two cognitive tests (Shipley Institute of Living Scale-Vocabulary and Abstraction Test-SILS and the Group Embedded Figures Test -GEFT) and one learning styles inventory (Kolb Learning Styles Inventory-LSI). The mean IQ scores on the SILS for ethnic subjects and the group with 28 days or less sobriety were significantly lower than the white-non-Hispanic with 29 days or more sobriety. A need for more ethnic representation in the study limited some results. Interaction effects were identified between those subjects with less than 28 days of sobriety and 29 days or more sobriety on SILS vocabulary and abstraction scores. The two sample groups (newly sober and longer term sober) did not show a significant difference in abstraction skills on the GEFT. Field dependence was not a significant outcome. The SILS T- scores were higher than the average scores suggested in the SILS testing manual. Interaction effects between ethnicity and education were identified suggesting these variables may be as significant in this group as length of sobriety. More research was recommended to identify the vocabulary of recovery since addiction literature indicates that alcoholics with higher cognitive restructuring skills may have longer terms of sobriety. No specific learning style was identified for the group by the data from the Kolb LSI. Since the LSI pointed toward more individualized instruction for the group, the study suggests Vygotskian theories of dynamic assessment and attention to the curriculum and instruction of recovery programs may be applicable when designing instruction for the psychoeducational component of recovery programs and may be as important in recovery as length of sobriety during treatment.