The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire
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About the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire
The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) is used in ergonomics research to measure behavioral problems associated with attentiveness and memory in everyday life.
As a self-report questionnaire, the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) was initially devised to measure perception, memory, and motor lapses in daily life. CFO scores have been found to correlate with some psychiatric symptoms associated with stress; hence, high scores on the CFQ are considered by some as an indicator of increased vulnerability to stress.
Attempts to identify a stable factor structure for the CFQ. have produced different results. However, there is a measure of agreement concerning the presence of a “general cognitive” factor that includes loadings from most items and accounts for the lion’s share of the variance. Not enough is known about the performance of the CFQ in clinical populations to use it as a measure of change.
Scoring the Scale
The CFQ was developed by Broadbent et al. (1982) — yes, the same Broadbent who proposed the filter theory of attention — to assess the frequency with which people experienced cognitive failures, such as absent-mindedness, in everyday life — slips and errors of perception, memory, and motor functioning. The most straightforward way to score the scale is simply to sum up the ratings of the 25 individual items, yielding a score from 0-100.
Scores on the scale predict episodes of absent-mindedness in both the laboratory and everyday life, including slow performance on focused attention tasks, traffic and work accidents, and forgetting to save one’s data on the computer.
A study by Rast et al. (2008) indicates that the CFQ items load on three different factors. Summing scores across the relevant items will yield subscale scores representing these dimensions of forgetfulness:
- Forgetfulness (Items 1, 2, 5, 7, 17, 20, 22, and 23): “a tendency to let go from one’s mind something known or planned, for example, names, intentions, appointments, and words”.
- Distractibility (Items 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 19, 21, and 25): “mainly in social situations or interactions with other people such as being absentminded or easily disturbed in one’s focused attention”.
- False Triggering (Items 2, 3, 5, 6, 12, 18, 23, and 24): “interrupted processing of sequences of cognitive and motor actions”.
- Broadbent, D.E., Cooper, P.F., FitzGerald, P., & Parkes, K.R. (1982). The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) and its correlates. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 21, 1-16.
- Wallace, J. Craig; Kass, Steven J.; Stanny, Claudia J. Rast, P., Zimprich, d., Van Boxtel, M., & Jolles, J. (2008). Factor structure and measurement invariance of the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire across the adult life span. Assessment, in press.
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