Need for Cognition Scale


Author of Tool: 

Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., & Kao, C. F

Key references: 

Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 116-131. Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., & Kao, C. F. (1984). The efficient assessment of need for cognition. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 306-307

Primary use / Purpose: 

The Need for Cognition Scale is an assessment instrument that quantitatively measures the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking.


Cacioppo and Petty created the Need for Cognition Scale in 1982. The original scale included 34 questions. Two years later, Cacioppo and Petty collaborated with Chuan Feng Kao to shorten the scale to the 18-item format. The 18-item Need for Cognition Scale has been used in several settings. Investigators have used the scale to examine (a) the relationship between students’ need for cognition and their academic performance (Sadowski & Gulgoz, 1992a, 1996; Tolentino, Curry, & Leak, 1990), (b) how one’s need for cognition and religious views impact satisfaction with one’s life (Gauthier, Christopher, Walter, Mourad, & Marek, 2006), (c) how jurors’ need for cognition influences their legal decisions (Bornstein, 2004), and (d) how college students’ need for cognition influences their self-reported satisfaction with their lives as a whole (Coutinho & Woolery, 2004).


Based on previous research, the Need for Cognition Scale appears to be a valid and reliable measure of individuals’ tendencies to pursue and enjoy the process of thinking—that is, of their “need for cognition” (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982; Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996; Cacioppo et al., 1984; Sadowski, 1993; Sadowski & Gulgoz, 1992b). Need for Cognition scores are not influenced by whether an individual is male or female, or by differences in the individual’s level of test-taking anxiety or cognitive style (the particular way that an individual accumulates and merges information during the thinking process). In general, scores on the Need for Cognition Scale also are not impacted by whether or not the individuals are trying to paint a favorable picture of themselves (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982).


PDF iconScale

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):


Welcome to the Measurement Instrument Database for the Social Sciences (MIDSS). The site is designed to be a repository for instruments that are used to collect data from across the social sciences. Please use the site to discover instruments you can use in you own research.