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Need for Cognition

  • By: Ya Hui Michelle See & Richard E. Petty
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

Need for cognition refers to an individual's tendency to engage in and enjoy activities that require thinking (e.g., brainstorming puzzles). Some individuals have relatively little motivation for cognitively complex tasks. These individuals are described as being low in need for cognition. Other individuals consistently engage in and enjoy cognitively challenging activities and are referred to as being high in need for cognition. An individual may fall at any point in the distribution, however.

Background and History

The term need for cognition was originally introduced by Arthur Cohen and his colleagues in the 1950s and was brought back into popularity by John Cacioppo and Richard Petty in the 1980s. In Cohen's original work, need for cognition was defined as the need to make sense of the world. Therefore, ...

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