A longitudinal study on the stability of the need for cognition

Jeroen Bruinsma*, Rik Crutzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is unclear whether the Need for cognition (NFC) is a stable trait. The current study tests whether individual level changes in NFC occur over time and whether, in line with cognitive development and decline across the lifespan, these changes in NFC differ between age groups (i.e., 5 24, 25-49 and >= 50). Methods: A total of 5746 respondents participated in a five-wave online personality questionnaire, including an 18-item NFC-scale. A series of growth curve models (GCMs) were used to assess change in NFC over time and autoregressive correlations (rho) and the differences (Delta) between NFC scores in 2008 and 2014 as indicators of stability. Results: Assessment of internal scale structure revealed that a substantive NFC scale (i.e., one factor) provided the best fit. Ascending (Delta = 0.241) growth curves are reported for younger respondents. For middle aged respondents descending (Delta = 0.059) and for older respondents descending growth curves (Delta = -0.098) are reported. The rho for younger (rho = 0.119) and older respondents (rho = 0.106) were lower compared to those of middle aged respondents (rho = 0.189). Conclusion: Small individual-level changes in NFC occur over time. Younger respondents' NFC is more likely to increase and older respondents' NFC is more likely to decrease compared to middle aged respondents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-161
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Need for cognition
  • Stability
  • Longitudinal
  • Personality
  • Traits
  • BIG 5
  • AGE

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