The relationship between tolerance for uncertainty and creativity among high school students with a critical style of thinking

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The paper presents the results of a study of tolerance relation to uncertainty and creativity among senior schoolchildren with a critical style of thinking. The authors use valid diagnostic methods: A. Belousova’s thinking style questionnaire, S. Badner’s uncertainty tolerance questionnaire, and P. Torrance’s test. The sample consists of 90 senior schoolchildren, both boys and girls. As a result of the study, the groups of schoolchildren with a dominant critical and practical style of thinking have been identified. The authors show that there are significant differences in the development of relationships between uncertainty and creativity tolerance scales, between uncertainty tolerance and critical thinking style, creativity and critical thinking style. The differences have been obtained in the development of tolerance for uncertainty, creativity in relation to the practical style of thinking.

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Tolerance to uncertainty belongs to the categories whose importance is growing, since there is a real need for practical recommendations and technologies for providing psychological assistance to people who are in a situation of variability, transitivity of socio-economic changes. E. A. Suroedova, N. N. Mozgovaya, M. V. Vasilchenko [1] show deformations in the semantic sphere of modern youth caused by changes in lifestyle and living conditions. D. Dautov et al. [2] raise questions about the development of clip thinking among modern youth who live and study in conditions of uncertainty and the development of digital technologies. Dynamically developing socio-economic transformations increasingly create situations of uncertainty, forming possible economic and psychological risks in the social behavior of young people. This is especially true for older students who are susceptible to the challenges of modernity and the contradictions that they find in the social sphere.
Literature review
High school students are an age group that is characterized by: ease of perception, acceptance and assimilation of new ideas; emotional sensitivity, anxiety; search for personal and life choices, the desire to rethink moral and value truths-which are combined with categorical, straightforward, imperative decisions [3]. Yu.A. Tushnova shows that at this age there are many difficult situations that require the mobilization of efforts, the development of strategies of coincident behavior, productive coping strategies [4].
We believe that high school students, due to their age characteristics, are focused on the new, different from the ordinary, standard, template. In such conditions, it is important for high school students to develop: the skills to critically evaluate information and situations, the ability to accept the possibility of uncertainty, ambivalence in solving problems, the skills to quickly evaluate and make decisions, the ability to creatively approach the design and solution of problems.
It seems to us that the peculiarity of the psychological characteristics of the personality of senior schoolchildren, combined with the instability of the formed value-semantic structures of consciousness, act as the psychological basis through which new information passes through the filter, values are perceived, interests and motives are formed, and adaptation to socio-cultural conditions takes place. One of the ways, according to V. E. Klochko, O. M. Krasnoryadtseva [5], which will allow you to form and develop constructive behavioral strategies of behavior, adaptability, an active life position, promotes the development of the sovereignty of the individual, its independence. In our opinion, human thinking is one of the ways to develop the sovereignty of the individual: the ability to perceive, comprehend the received information, reflect on it, analyze, separate the essential and non-essential, highlight reliable and unreliable information, critically process the received information-these are all operations that relate to human thinking and mental activity.
In this regard, one of the most important tasks is the formation of a thinking person who has his own life position, is able to set and develop life goals, argue his position and have the skills to prove his rightness. In accordance with the existing ideas in the literature, these requirements are met by critical thinking, which involves the ability to see problems, readiness to solve problems, and reflection on one's intellectual activity [6].
The problem of the development of critical thinking has been studied by many foreign and domestic psychologists (E. N. Volkov, L. Ginny, D. Johnson, I. O. Zagashev, E. S. Zair-Bek, D. Kluster, S. Kurfis, G. Lindsay, K. Meredith, S. Matthews, R. Paul, R. Paul, R. Sternberg, D. Steele, C. Temple, D. Halpern), one of the aspects of which was the study of the features of critical thinking in high school students.
D. Halpern believes that critical thinking is characterized by balance, logic and purposefulness. It is characterized by the use of cognitive skills and strategies that increase the likelihood of getting the desired result. Critical thinking is characterized by controllability, reasonableness, and purposefulness [6].
The study of the problem of tolerance to uncertainty begins with the works of E. Frenkel-Brunswik, who emphasized the concept of ambivalence. Ambivalence was defined as the possibility of a person's existence and reflection of the positive and negative qualities of an object. In this construct, tolerance to uncertainty was considered as a cognitive component. In turn, tolerance to uncertainty was defined as a binary perception of black-and-white situations [7].
In Russian psychology, there is a stable tradition of analyzing theoretical and empirical studies of tolerance to uncertainty, which is presented in the review articles of A. N. Gusev [8], I. N. Leonov [9], A. G. Matushanskaya, B. S. Alishev [7]. Interesting results on the formation of tolerance to uncertainty are shown in the study of professional self-determination of high school students in the work of Yu. A. Rokitskaya, N. Sh. Manucharyan [10].
The presented analytical articles allow us to say that, perhaps, since the use of this term by E. Frenkel-Brunswik, the problem of understanding the essence of the phenomenon of tolerance to uncertainty arose, which resulted in a differentiation of approaches: on the one hand, understanding tolerance to uncertainty as a personal trait (S. Bakalis and T. Joiner, D. T. Kenny and R. Ginsberg, B. T. Hazen, J. L. Herman, J. Litman, A. P. MacDonald, B. D. Naemi, R. W. Norton, N. G. Rotter and A. N. O'Connell, J. Sidanius, M. Trottier, F. Zenasni) [9], on the other hand, tolerance to uncertainty was considered as a cognitive phenomenon (D. T. Kenny, R. Ginsberg, D. L., Maclean, E. Frenkel-Brunswik) [10].
R. J. Hallman examined the tolerance of ambiguity as the ability to accept conflict and tension that arise in a situation of duality, to resist nevesomosti and inconsistency of information to make the unknown, not to feel uncomfortable before uncertainty [11].
Jach H. K., Smillie L. D. [12] as part of the development of the theory of psychological entropy, Hirsh [13], DeYoung [14] investigated the tolerance to uncertainty and the personality traits of the Big Five. The authors showed that openness to experience is associated with tolerance to uncertainty through intellectual curiosity, which is included as one of the parameters in the structure of the factor "Openness to experience" (intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity and creative imagination). They believe that participants with higher intelligence are more tolerant of uncertainty, because behind this is the need to reflect on complex problems, openness to experience and extraversion were positively correlated.
Zenasni F., Besançon M., Lubart T. found a positive relationship between creativity and tolerance to uncertainty in adolescents. According to scientists, the more tolerant teenagers are to uncertainty, the higher their creativity indicators [15]. Studies by Mahmoud N. E., Kamel S. M., and Hamza T. S. have shown that there is a significant correlation between student creativity as measured by the Torrence Test and tolerance to uncertainty. The authors conclude that the ability to divergent thinking of adolescents is related to their ability to accept uncertainty [16]. In the study of K. Stoycheva found that tolerance to uncertainty is a factor that positively affects the creative abilities of adolescents: a high level of tolerance to uncertainty of adolescents contributes to the generation of more original and unusual ideas [17].
A. V. Karpov considers tolerance to uncertainty as an integral ability and understands it as " resistance to the influence of the uncertainty factor of the external and internal environment, which is one of the main professionally important qualities of a manager. It is determined by a combination of cognitive abilities to remove uncertainty and an emotional tendency to perceive uncertain situations as difficult, but not psychotraumatic " [18, p. 562]. Leonov considers it possible to talk about tolerance to uncertainty as a personality trait that changes "under the influence of new experience or purposeful activity of the subject itself", "takes an active part in dynamic processes associated with overcoming or generating uncertainty (primarily at the cognitive level) by changing existing ideas and concepts, as well as by creating new ones" [9, p.50]. Thus, we believe, I. N. Leonov tries to integrate two approaches, combining the understanding of tolerance to uncertainty both as a personal trait and as a cognitive characteristic, since changing, according to the author, "existing ideas and concepts" and creating new ones are the characteristics of human mental activity, which refers us to the ideas of O. K. Tikhomirov [19]. A similar position is taken by T. V. Kornilov, proposing the concept of intellectual and personal potential, which assimilates the ideas of dynamic regulatory systems and multiple cognitive choices made by a person in a decision-making situation [20, p. 71]. E. G. Lukovitskaya considers tolerance to uncertainty as a social attitude that has a traditional three-component composition: cognitive, emotional and behavioral. with its three-component structure, " since it contains an assessment of uncertainty, and an emotional response and a certain behavioral response [9]. Kholodnaya considers tolerance to uncertainty as a cognitive style, calling it "tolerance to unrealistic experience", which is characterized by the ability to accept impressions that do not correspond to a person's personal experience [21, p.71].

Thus, in Russian studies, tolerance was represented as an integral personal characteristic, studied as psychological stability, a system of personal attitudes and a set of multi-level individual properties.
With all the diversity of scientists ' ideas about the nature of tolerance to uncertainty, generalizing the ideas of I. N. Leonov [9], M. A. Kholodnaya [21], we believe that the basis of this phenomenon is the ability of a person to accept contradictory information.
There are not many studies devoted to the study of tolerance to uncertainty, individual psychological characteristics in adolescents with different thinking styles.
One of the most significant parameters that influence the style of thinking is creativity.
According to E. P. Ilyin, there are different approaches to the problem of creativity: as the ability to bring something new to experience (F. Barron), generate original ideas for solving problems (M. Wallach), formulate hypotheses about new components of the situation (E. Barron). Torrence), to form new ways of thinking (D. Guilford) [22].
In a study [23] conducted on conservatory students, it was shown that students with a high level of nonverbal creativity have a pronounced desire to find new, unusual solutions.
In Abolghasem P., et al. [24] analyzes the relationship between thinking styles and students ' creativity. The authors took as a basis the classification of R. Sternberg's thinking styles and the questionnaire on Abedi's creativity. The following styles of thinking were found to be positively associated with creativity: legislative, global, liberal, hierarchical, anarchic, internal, and external; at the same time, local and conservative styles of thinking were negatively associated with creativity.
In order to determine the relationship between thinking styles, creativity, innovation orientation, and academic motivation, Malekian F. [25] conducted a study among students of an Iranian University. The author was based on the classification of R. Sternberg's thinking styles. The results showed that there are significant relationships between such thinking styles as executive, external, judicial, legislative, individualistic, secondary, conservative, and creativity.
Zhua C. and Zhang L.-F. [26] conducted a study on a large sample of students from several universities in China in order to study the relationship between thinking styles and the perception of students ' creativity. Significant relationships between thinking styles and the idea of creativity were identified. Using regression analysis, the authors found the influence of thinking styles on students ' perceptions of creativity.
Thus, the review of studies of critical thinking style has shown that various patterns of relationships with personal and cognitive characteristics of a person are possible.
We proceed from the understanding of the functional nature of the style of thinking [27, 28]: the style of thinking is defined as a characteristic set of functions: generation, selection, meaning transmission and implementation, actualized by a person in various situations of problem solving. The direction of the style of thinking is determined by the type of dominant function that determines the nature of the style of thinking: the dominance of the generation function is manifested in the development of the initiative style of thinking, the dominance of the selection function – in the development of the critical style, the dominance of the meaning transfer function – in the development of the management style, the dominance of the implementation function-in the development of the practical style of thinking. In accordance with these ideas, the critical style of thinking develops with the dominance of the selection function, aimed at selecting, screening out information, which in behavioral terms appears as the dominance of criticism, critical statements and actions. In connection with this understanding, it can be assumed that the critical style of thinking may have negative relationships with tolerance to uncertainty, which is understood as the ability of a person to accept contradictory information, since teenagers with a critical thinking style are most likely to have a negative attitude to information that contradicts their ideas. As a second hypothesis, we suggest that there may be positive relationships between nonverbal creativity and critical thinking style, since critical thinking style involves generating hypotheses, ideas aimed at achieving a goal, which corresponds to the indicators of creativity.

Materials and methods
The aim of the study was to study the relationship between tolerance to uncertainty and creativity in high school students with a critical thinking style. The sample consisted of 90 high school students aged 15 to 18 years. Of these, 37 boys and 53 girls. The following methods were used in the study: to identify the style of thinking - the questionnaire "Method of measuring the style of thinking" by A. K. Belousova [27]; to identify the level of nonverbal creativity - the test of P. Torrence "Completion of pictures", the adaptation of A. N. Voronin [29]; to identify the level of tolerance to uncertainty, we used the questionnaire "Methodology for determining tolerance to uncertainty" by S. Badner, adapted by G. U. Soldatova and L. A. Shaigerova [30]. Methods of mathematical statistics were used: descriptive statistics, Pearson's linear correlation coefficient, and Student's T-test. The analysis of the results was carried out using a computer program for statistical data processing "SPSS 23.0 for Windows".
Results of the study
At the first stages of our study, the diagnosis of the thinking style of senior schoolchildren was carried out, the results of which are presented in Table 1. Respondents with a pronounced specific thinking style were identified. In our study, we selected respondents who have a high level of critical thinking style. The percentage ratio is shown in Table 1.

Thinking style

Number of subjects

Percentage ratio













The study identified differences in the severity of thinking styles in senior schoolchildren; 35 respondents (39%) have a pronounced Critical thinking style; 31 subjects (34%) have a pronounced Practical thinking style; Managerial thinking style prevails in 17 (19%) senior schoolchildren, Initiative thinking style prevails in 7 (8%) senior schoolchildren. Based on the results obtained, we can say that Critical and Practical thinking styles dominate in high school students, while Managerial and Initiative thinking styles have a low level of representation.
The results obtained allowed us to distinguish two groups of high school students: those with a high degree of Critical Thinking style and those with a high degree of Practical thinking style.
To identify the relationships between the level of tolerance to uncertainty, creativity and thinking styles, we used the Pearson rank correlation coefficient. As a result, the following data was obtained.
Table 2. Significant correlations between uncertainty tolerance, nonverbal creativity, and thinking styles

Originality Uniqueness Critical Practical
Difficulty -,291*
at p=0.015 -, 318**
at p=0.007 -, 331**
at p=0.005, 354**
at p=0.003
Undecidability -, 317**
at p=0.008 -, 256*
at p=0.032 -, 324**
at p=0.006 ,342**
at p=0.004
The total index of TN -, 345
at p=0.003 -, 348**
at p=0.003 -, 341**
at p=0.004 ,421**
at p=0.000
Originality - -, 259*
at p=0.030 -, 444**
at p=0.000
Uniqueness - -, 261*
at p=0.029 -, 469**
at p=0.000

The analysis of tabular data reveals significant links between the style of thinking, as well as tolerance to uncertainty and creativity in high school students.
The critical style of thinking has significant inversely proportional relationships with the scales of tolerance to uncertainty: "Complexity "(r=-331**, at p=0.005)," Unsolvability "(r=-324**, at p=0.006)," General index of TN " (r=-341**, at p=0.004). And at the same time, direct positive relationships were found with the scales of creativity: Originality (r=259*, at p=0.030), Uniqueness (r=261*, at p=0.029).
Uncertainty tolerance (TN) has significant inversely proportional relationships with the Creativity scales (K): the Complexity scale (TN) has inverse relationships with the Originality scale (K) (r=-291*, at p=0.015), the Uniqueness scale (K) (r=-318**, at p=0.007); the Unsolvability scale (TN) has negative relationships with the Originality scale (K) (r=-317**, at p=0.008), Uniqueness (K) (r=-256*, with p=0.032); the scale of the general index of tolerance to uncertainty has negative relationships with the scales of Creativity: Originality (r=-345**, at p=0.003), Uniqueness (r=-348**, at p=0.003).The
results of the correlation analysis are presented in the form of a correlation pleiad (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Correlation pleiad " The relationship of critical thinking style and components of tolerance to uncertainty and creativity»
In relation to the Practical style of thinking, results were obtained that show different relationships.
The practical style of thinking has significant direct links with the scales of tolerance to uncertainty: "Complexity "(r=354**, at p=0.003)," Unsolvability "(r=342**, at p=0.004)," General index of TN " (r=421**, at p=0.000). And at the same time, the inverse negative relationships with the scales of creativity were found: Originality (r=-444**, at p=0.000), Uniqueness (r=-469**, at p=0.000).

Figure 2. Correlation pleiad "The relationship between the practical style of thinking and the components of tolerance to uncertainty and creativity"
Discussion and conclusions
The results show that the sample of high school students is dominated by boys and girls with a pronounced critical and practical style of thinking. This allows us to say that for older students, the dominant tendency is the desire to evaluate everything first of all: plans, hypotheses, goals, knowledge, in general - the personality and activities of others; the second trend is the desire to achieve, implement, implement plans, plans, ideas in practice, which is quite consistent with the general characteristics of this age group [3].
The analysis of the results of the relationship between the Critical thinking style and creativity and tolerance to uncertainty shows that the lower the level of the components of tolerance to uncertainty ("Complexity", "Unsolvability", "General index of TN"), the higher the development of creativity (Originality, Uniqueness) and Critical thinking style.
Comparing the results obtained with the studies available in the literature, we find that similar results were obtained in studies [24, 25] that showed positive relationships between different styles of thinking (in accordance with the classification of p.Sternberg) and creativity. Our findings are also consistent with those of [15-17], which highlight the positive relationship between uncertainty tolerance and creativity in adolescents.
In our sample, the emphasis was placed on high school students with a developed critical style of thinking, which gives a peculiar picture. In our opinion, in the study sample, negative relationships between tolerance and critical thinking style arise precisely because the critical thinking style does not allow students to accept contradictions, reflect the complexity and unsolvability of the situation due to the dominance of evaluation activity, which stops and stops productive activity. At the same time, the fact that there are direct positive links with creativity is emphasized. We believe that the results emphasize the complex dual nature of the critical style of thinking, in which two contradictory tendencies collapse [27, 28]: the ability to detect contradictions and the ability to evaluate, criticize everything that does not fit into the existing knowledge and experience of a person. In our opinion, this explains the negative links with tolerance to uncertainty and the positive links with creativity. In this connection, we emphasize that a person opens up the possibility of changing himself through the perception of uncertainty as a source of activity that transforms the situation and his life world.
As a result of an empirical study of tolerance to uncertainty and creativity in high school students with a critical thinking style, we made the following conclusions:
1. The critical style of thinking, which is based on the desire to select, sift out ideas, has no direct connection with the acceptance of ambiguity, uncertainty, because these qualities are opposite to the very definition of the critical style of thinking. However, there is an inverse relationship: the higher the level of critical thinking style, the lower the ability to tolerate uncertainty is developed. The critical style of thinking, which involves understanding the proposed ideas and hypotheses, is based on the desire to see weaknesses and possible contradictory points, which is directly related to the parameters of creativity, the ability to detect contradictions.
2. The practical style of thinking, which has a focus related to the implementation of ideas, is directly related to the acceptance of uncertainty, but does not involve the development of creativity.
3. Tolerance to uncertainty has an inverse relationship with creativity, which shows a rather complex relationship that can lie between these ambiguous psychological phenomena, the nature and relationship of which suggest further research.


About the authors

Alla K. Belousova

Don State Technical University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7506-3749
SPIN-code: 7335-5087
Scopus Author ID: 56785699200
ResearcherId: Q-1710-2015

Dr. Psych. Sci., Head of Educational and Oganizational Psychology Department of Don State University, Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation

Russian Federation, Rostov-on-Don

Alena V. Samarskaya

Don State Technical University


Assistant of Educational and Organizational Psychology Department of Don State University, Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation

Russian Federation, Rostov-on-Don

Ekaterina V. Kryazhkova

Don State Technical University


Postgraduate Student of Educational and Organizational Psychology Department of Don State University, Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation

Russian Federation, Rostov-on-Don


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Supplementary files

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1. Fig. 1. Correlation galaxy "The relationship between the critical thinking style and the components of tolerance for uncertainty and creativity"

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2. Fig. 2. Correlation galaxy "The relationship between the practical style of thinking and the components of tolerance for uncertainty and creativity"

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