Need for cognition has been variously defined as “a need to structure relevant situations in meaningful, integrated ways” and “a need to understand and make reasonable the experiential world”. Higher NFC is associated with increased appreciation of debate, idea evaluation, and problem solving. Those with a high need for cognition may be inclined towards high elaboration. Those with a lower need for cognition may display opposite tendencies, and may process information more heuristically, often through low elaboration.
Need for cognition is closely related to the five factor model domain openness to ideas, typical intellectual engagement, and epistemic curiosity (see below). Need for cognition has also been found to correlate with higher self-esteem, masculine sex-role orientation, and psychological absorption, while being inversely related to social anxiety.
The 18 statements from the revised Need for Cognition Scale (Cacioppo et al., 1984) used in the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education are shown below. Asterisks designate the items that are reverse scored.
- I would prefer complex to simple problems.
- I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking.
- Thinking is not my idea of fun.*
- I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities.*
- I try to anticipate and avoid situations where there is likely a chance I will have to think in depth about something.*
- I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours.
- I only think as hard as I have to.*
- I prefer to think about small, daily projects to long-term ones.*
- I like tasks that require little thought once I’ve learned them.*
- The idea of relying on thought to make my way to the top appeals to me.
- I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems.
- Learning new ways to think doesn’t excite me very much.*
- I prefer my life to be filled with puzzles that I must solve.
- The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me.
- I would prefer a task that is intellectual, difficult, and important to one that is somewhat important but does not require much thought.
- I feel relief rather than satisfaction after completing a task that required a lot of mental effort.*
- It’s enough for me that something gets the job done; I don’t care how or why it works.*
- I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally.