Need for cognition is people’s desire to engage in difficult cognitive activity (read more via Wikipedia).

Or in simpler terms, people’s willingness to think deeply.

There are various surveys with which you can measure this personality trait. The 6-item Need for Cognition Scale is a short one.

Below are average scores for British and American participants as listed in the study of Coelho and colleagues (2018).

Group Score (possible values 1 to 5)





Note that the NCS-6 is unidimensional, which means there are no subscales. You get one score and that is it.

When is the scale useful?

"Since the 1950s, the need for cognition has attracted considerable research attention (Cacioppo et al., 1996; Cohen, Stotland, & Wolfe, 1955) and has been studied in various areas within psychology, including clinical (Bagby, Taylor, & Ryan, 1986), social (Aquino, Haddock, Maio, Wolf, & Alparone, 2016; Wolf, von Hecker, & Maio, 2017), personality (Sadowski & Cogburn, 1997), and educational psychology (Kardash & Scholes, 1996), and in areas beyond psychology, such as management (Kearney, Gebert, & Voelpel, 2009), journalism (Liu & Eveland, 2005), and marketing (Haddock, Maio, Arnold, & Huskinson, 2008; Haugtvedt, Petty, & Cacioppo, 1992)." Coelho and colleagues (2018, p.1)

"There is abundant research supporting the scientific importance of the NCS, showing its meaningful relations to other individual difference variables. For instance, the need for cognition is positively linked with openness to experience and intelligence (Furnham & Thorne, 2013), desire for control (Thompson, Chaiken, & Hazlewood, 1993), intrinsic motivation (Cacioppo et al., 1996), information processing (Sicilia, Ruiz, & Munuera, 2005), and many other variables (Cacioppo et al., 1996). In contrast, it is negatively related to neuroticism, external locus of control, and dogmatism, and unrelated to loneliness, shyness, and sociability (see, Cacioppo et al., 1996, for an overview). Importantly, the need for cognition also predicts a range of attitudinal and behavioral outcomes, including preferences for a complex number-circling task over a simple one (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982), achieving higher grade point averages (see, Cacioppo et al., 1996), interpersonal and intergroup attitudes (Aquino et al., 2016; Wolf et al., 2017), persuasion (Haddock et al., 2008), news media skepticism (Tsfati & Cappella, 2005), and responses toward sexual and nonsexual appeals (Putrevu, 2008)." Coelho and colleagues (2018, p. 2)

Run the demo

The need NCS-6 be used for research, but you need to acknowledge the authors and their research paper when writing about it (References).


This is a simple scale question with some reverse coded items.

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
scale: characteristic
- extremely uncharacteristic
- .
- .
- .
- extremely characteristic

l: ncs6
t: scale characteristic
o: width 50%
q: For each sentence below, please select how uncharacteristic or characteristic (5-point scale) this is for you personally.
- I would prefer complex to simple problems.
- I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking.
- {reverse} Thinking is not my idea of fun.
- {reverse} I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities.
- I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems.
- I would prefer a task that is intellectual, difficult, and important to one that is somewhat important but does not require much thought.

l: ncs6_score
t: set
- mean $ncs6

l: feedback
t: info
q: Your score on the NCS-6 is {$ncs6_score} points.
The score can range from 1 (you do not like deep thinking) to 5 (you like effortful thinking).


  • Coelho, G.L.D.H., Hanel, P.H.P, & Wolf, L.J. (2018). The Very Efficient Assessment of Need for Cognition: Developing a Six-Item Version. Assessment, online first, 1-16. Download here.