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The Cognitive Flexibility Inventory: Instrument Development and Estimates of Reliability and Validity

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Abstract

The cognitive flexibility inventory (CFI) was developed to be a brief self-report measure of the type of cognitive flexibility necessary for individuals to successfully challenge and replace maladaptive thoughts with more balanced and adaptive thinking. It was designed to measure three aspects of cognitive flexibility: (a) the tendency to perceive difficult situations as controllable; (b) the ability to perceive multiple alternative explanations for life occurrences and human behavior; and (c) the ability to generate multiple alternative solutions to difficult situations. The two studies presented in this manuscript describe the initial development of the CFI and a 7-week longitudinal study. Results from these studies indicate the CFI has a reliable two-factor structure, excellent internal consistency, and high 7-week test–retest reliability. Preliminary evidence was obtained for the CFI’s convergent construct validity via the CFI’s correlations with other measures of cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale) and coping (Ways of Coping Checklist-Revised), respectively. Support was also demonstrated for the concurrent construct validity of the CFI via its correlation with the BDI-II. Further research is needed to investigate the reliability and validity of the CFI among clinical populations.

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Notes

  1. The potential differences in the coping strategies utilized by cognitively flexible versus inflexible individuals on the CFI in response to life event stress were investigated in research conducted by the present authors (Dennis and Vander Wal 2009b). A manuscript summarizing this research is currently being prepared for publication.

  2. The ASQ could not be utilized as a measure of cognitive flexibility/explanatory flexibility utilizing scoring guidelines by Fresco et al. (2007a, b), as the open-ended responses of participants on the ASQ, which are necessary for such scoring, had not been recorded.

  3. For a more detailed description of the WCCL-R subscales, see Folkman and Lazarus (1985). The internal consistency reliability for the TR and KTS subscales was low, likely due to the fact that each subscale was composed of only three items. Despite this, these subscales were included in the present analyses to maximize the ability to detect preliminary evidence supporting distinct relationships between aspects of cognitive flexibility and particular coping styles.

  4. The first correlation reported refers to the Time 1 correlation and the second correlation reported refers to the Time 2 correlation.

  5. It is expected that increasing the number of items on a measure will increase the measure’s internal consistency. The Spearman-Brown Prophecy formula (Crocker and Algina 2006) was therefore used to predict the internal consistency of the CFS if it had the same number of items as the 20-item CFI, while retaining its current psychometric properties. Results indicated that the internal consistency of the CFS would increase from .79 to .86 at Time 1 and from .78 to .85 at Time 2 if it had 20 items like the CFI.

  6. The relationship between cognitive flexibility and coping style is unclear at present. The present authors recently completed research investigating cognitive flexibility (as measured by the CFI) and coping styles as potential mediators and/or moderators of the relationship between life event stress and depressive symptomatology (Dennis and Vander Wal 2009b). A manuscript summarizing this research is currently being prepared for publication.

  7. The present authors have recently completed research investigating this question (Dennis and Vander Wal 2009a). A manuscript summarizing this research is currently being prepared for publication.

  8. Numbers in parentheses indicate the original CFI item number prior to the construction of the finalized 20-time CFI.

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Correspondence to John P. Dennis.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 1.

Table 1 Longitudinal study: factor loadings and cross loadings for 20 CFI items retained after Time 1 and Time 2 exploratory factor analyses

Appendix 2

20-Item Cognitive Flexibility Inventory (CFI)

Please use the scale below to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements.

 

Strongly disagree

Disagree

Somewhat agree

Neutral

Somewhat agree

Agree

Strongly agree

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

  1. 1.

    I am good at “sizing up” situations.—(47)Footnote 8

  2. 2.

    I have a hard time making decisions when faced with difficult situations.—(19)

  3. 3.

    I consider multiple options before making a decision.—(29)

  4. 4.

    When I encounter difficult situations, I feel like I am losing control.—(40)

  5. 5.

    I like to look at difficult situations from many different angles.—(20)

  6. 6.

    I seek additional information not immediately available before attributing causes to behavior.—(14)

  7. 7.

    When encountering difficult situations, I become so stressed that I can not think of a way to resolve the situation.—(43)

  8. 8.

    I try to think about things from another person’s point of view.—(8)

  9. 9.

    I find it troublesome that there are so many different ways to deal with difficult situations.—(26)

  10. 10.

    I am good at putting myself in others’ shoes.—(12)

  11. 11.

    When I encounter difficult situations, I just don’t know what to do.—(36)

  12. 12.

    It is important to look at difficult situations from many angles.—(41)

  13. 13.

    When in difficult situations, I consider multiple options before deciding how to behave.—(18)

  14. 14.

    I often look at a situation from different viewpoints.—(28)

  15. 15.

    I am capable of overcoming the difficulties in life that I face.—(50)

  16. 16.

    I consider all the available facts and information when attributing causes to behavior.—(31)

  17. 17.

    I feel I have no power to change things in difficult situations.—(30)

  18. 18.

    When I encounter difficult situations, I stop and try to think of several ways to resolve it.—(16)

  19. 19.

    I can think of more than one way to resolve a difficult situation I’m confronted with.—(2)

  20. 20.

    I consider multiple options before responding to difficult situations.—(6)

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Dennis, J.P., Vander Wal, J.S. The Cognitive Flexibility Inventory: Instrument Development and Estimates of Reliability and Validity. Cogn Ther Res 34, 241–253 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-009-9276-4

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