Cognitive Flexibility Inventory (CFI)

The Cognitive Flexibility Inventory (CFI) is a 20-item self-report measure to monitor how often individuals engaged in cognitive behavioural thought challenging interventions (Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010). Cognitive flexibility enables individuals to think adaptively when encountering stressful life events, and is a core skill that helps individuals avoid becoming stuck in maladaptive patterns of thinking. The CFI measures two aspects of cognitive flexibility:

  1. Alternatives – the adaptive ability to perceive multiple alternative explanations for life occurrences and the ability to generate multiple alternative solutions to difficult situations.
  2. Control – having an internal locus of control, or the tendency to perceive difficult situations as somewhat controllable.

Individuals with high cognitive flexibility are more likely to react adaptively in response to difficult life experiences, while cognitively inflexible individuals are more susceptible to experiencing pathological reactions. The CFI has been shown to differentiate between a clinical group (anxiety and depression) and a non-clinical sample (Johnco, Wuthrich, & Rapee, 2014), with a clinical group showing significantly lower CFI total and subscale scores than the non-clinical group.

When administered multiple times during a course of cognitive behavioural therapy the scale can be useful in indicating treatment response.

Psychometric Properties

The 20-item CFI showed high test-retest reliability for the full score (r = .81), Alternatives subscale (r = .75), and Control subscale (r = .77; Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010). Cronbach’s alpha ranged from good to excellent, for the Alternatives subscale (alpha = .91), Control subscale (alpha = .86), and the full score (alpha = .90; Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010). Furthermore, evidence was obtained for the convergent construct validity of the CFI and its two subscales via their associations with other measures of cognitive flexibility, depressive symptomatology, and coping (Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010).

In a sample of 196 university students (Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010), the mean scores where as follows:

  • CFI total – 102.98 (SD = 13.91)
  • Alternatives Subscale – 67.59 (SD = 9.41)
  • Control Subscale 35.35 (SD = 7.02)

Scoring and Interpretation 

Scores consist of a total CFI score and two subscale scores. The total score ranges between 20 and 140, where higher scores indicate more cognitive flexibility.

A normative percentile for the total score and subscales are calculated, comparing the respondents scores to a sample of university students (Dennis & Vander Wal, 2010). Percentiles help contextualise how the respondent scored in relation to a typical pattern of responding. For example, a percentile of 50 indicates the individual has more cognitive flexibility than 50 percent of the normal population. i.e. is average.

Percentiles below approximately 25 represent clinically significant inflexibility, which would be important to target within cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). According to the CBT framework, cognitive inflexibility underpins the development and maintenance of depression and anxiety.

A graph is presented of average scores (between 1 and 7), indicating the typical response on the likert scale and normalising scores between subscales.

The two subscales measuring important aspects of cognitive flexibility are:

  • Alternatives: measuring the ability to perceive multiple alternative explanations for life occurrences and human behaviour and the ability to generate multiple alternative solutions to difficult situations.
    Range = 13 to 91
    Sum items 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16,18, 19, 20
  • Control: measuring the tendency to perceive difficult situations as controllable.
    Range = 7 to 49
    Sum items 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17

Note that items 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, & 17 are reverse scored.


Dennis, J. P., & Vander Wal, J. S. (2010). The cognitive flexibility inventory: Instrument development and estimates of reliability and validity. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 34(3), 241–253.


Johnco, C., Wuthrich, V. M., & Rapee, R. M. (2014). Reliability and validity of two self-report measures of cognitive flexibility. Psychological Assessment, 26(4), 1381–1387.