In my own little study I am trying to describe the personalities of different persons I know personally, by adding traits to them.

Among other traits, I am looking for those who have a high need for cognition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_for_cognition).

My challenge is: Those 3 people that I know have high NFC are all introverts, who don't tell others much of their thoughts. This means you need to know them very well or for a long time in order to recognize their NFC. This again implies that I don't really know for sure if anyone else I know have high NFC....

This makes me question 2 things:

  1. Is there any correlation between NFC and extraversion?
  2. Is there any way to recognize or measure people on NFC, without asking them questions? Maybe some kind of typical behavior or attitude for these people?
  • $\begingroup$ An introvert with high need for cognition reminds me of an Myers-Briggs INTP or INTJ personality type. Those types share the NT (rational) archetype that can be recognized quite easily by looking at a choice of vacation (ex: engineers, scientists, computer guys are much more likely to be NT type than teachers and nurses). Men are twice as likely to be the thinking type than women. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    May 22, 2015 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ True, but "more likely" doesn't cut it for me. Speaking of MBTI, that system doesn't tell you who are high-NFC and who are "just" N - because those are not the same thing. I'm looking for something closer to a proof that a specific person has high NFC. Like, maybe high-NFC read more non-fiction books than low-NFC? I don't know $\endgroup$ May 22, 2015 at 17:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would distinguish two types of NFC: 1) interest in in asking Questions 2) need for Answers. They are opposite. The second one is motivated by ego fears (finding the "right answer"), the first by genuine enjoyment of life (curiosity). $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Sep 20, 2016 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


Assessing someone's personality without questionnaires can be done, an interesting "manual" is the book "Snoop" by Sam Gosling. Note, though, that Gosling limits himself to the Big 5, so he teaches how to recognize Openness to Experience (from someone's room: variety of topics in bookcase) but does not explicitly address Need for Cognition. But Gosling's book would be a decent place to start if you want to learn to assess personality factors without questionnaires.

Another book I'd recommend is Daniel Nettle's book "Personality", since terms like "introversion" mean different things to different people. For Nettle (and I guess mainstream psychology) introversion is relatively straightforward: it is basically (relatively) low sensitivity to positive emotions. However, 'laypeople' may consider a person an introvert if he or she is shy - but shyness is usually more related to neuroticism than to introversion. And an author like Susan Cain ("Quiet") seems to define introversion as what Nettle would call a combination of "true" introversion, neuroticism (shyness) and openness to experience/need for cognition. So if one would follow Cain's description, one would naturally link need for cognition to introversion, while 'scientific' psychology would not proclaim that.

That being said, personality factors tend to interact - extraverts may go to parties more often, so have less time to read books, and may therefore 'know less', causing others to underestimate their Need for Cognition.

Personally, if I would want to try to assess someone's need for cognition, I'd probably look at Openness, possibly substracting for supernatural beliefs like astrology or crop circles being caused by aliens, and for strict dogmatism/unquestioning deference to authority. If I can have a long debate with someone about a topic, without the other person saying things like 'because I say so' or 'that is obvious', or 'it is true since my intuition says so', or 'this (topic) is irrelevant', I'd guess the other would be relatively high on Need for Cognition. That being said, until the day that we can precisely define Need for Cognition as a sum of genes or the amplitude of a certain brainwave or the relative size of say the anterior cingulate cortex, there's always the risk that NfC itself is some kind of mixture of curiosity, enjoyment of thinking, culture of the parental home etcetera and assessment is skewed by for example the mood that the other person happens to be in.

So on your questions:

  1. As far as I know, there is no relation between extraversion and Need for Cognition.

  2. One may be able to guess a very approximate level of NfC if one has information about a person (level of education, political preference, interior of office, hobbies, the level of detail he/she discusses things in, width of interests) but if someone is a painfully shy and private person it may simply not be possible; I doubt you can read NfC from the shape of one's nose or such...

  • $\begingroup$ This answer is true because it is absurd. I mean, because I said so! : ) $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Sep 20, 2016 at 14:11

Like IQ, one's NFC is primarily judged by psychometric self-evaluation rather than behavior. The way in which we recognize NFC from a behavioral standpoint is to recognize the ways in which they seem to produce behaviors that a NFC psychometric test would evaluate.

In other words, if you want to recognize high NFC in others, you might want to familiarize yourself with the questions and traits that psychometric tests associate with high NFC. For example, this test asks questions that are representative of high NFC. So if you were to recognize someone who might answer 'yes' to "I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally", or "I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours", then you could most likely recognize someone with high NFC.

Other behaviors may be less subtle. For example:

[Those with high need for cognition] like to engage in complex, inquisitive, and analytical thoughts. They feel intrinsically motivated to devote effort to cognitive endeavors, striving to understand objects, events, and individuals. These individuals are less inclined to be biased by superficial factors, such as the appearance of speakers or social comparisons. In addition, they are more inclined to enjoy some experience if their expectations were low.

Interestingly, both need for cognition, as well as need for affect--the motivation to experience strong emotions--increase the likelihood that people will become transported into these narratives (Thompson & Haddock, 2012). If need for cognition is elevated, people contemplate the tales more extensively, and appreciate the complexity of narratives, both of which facilitate transportation. If need for affect is elevated, people enjoy the emotions that transportation can evoke. The implication of this possibility is that need for cognition can, in some instances, increase the susceptibility of people to messages. For example, if an advertisement presents a narrative, need for cognition can facilitate transportation and thus diminish the likelihood of counterarguments. In contrast, if an advertisement presents a series of facts, instead of a narrative, transportation is precluded, and need for cognition could increase the likelihood of counterarguments.

Insofar as NFC and extraversion is concerned, there appears to be a positive correlation between need for cognition, openness, and conscientiousness. Thus, it is represented by openness to new and novel ideas and a willingness to engage in effortful thought (Verplanken, Hazenberg, & Palenewen, 1992). It does not appear to be linked to extroversion.


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