Does Student’s Cognitive Flexibility Decrease During Pandemic? A New Approach to Measure Cognitive Flexibility




cognitive flexibility, performance measurement, emotional word, COVID-19, vulnerability, fear, perceived risk


The aim of this study is to examine the cognitive flexibility before and during the COVID-19 pandemic through a different performance measurement suitable for online application. In the study, three different data collected in 2019 (T19), 2020 (T20) and 2021 (T21) were compared with both within-and between-subject designs. One-hundred-and-twenty-three university students were included in the study for within-subjects, 239 for between-subject. According to the findings of the study, the cognitive flexibility of the students who continue formal education in T19 is higher than the students who continue distance education in T20 according to both within-subject and between-subject design. Besides, in both designs, fewer total words were produced in T19 than in T20. The sentences created by the students who continue their distance education in pandemic stay around less categories and contain more words. According to the within-subject findings obtained at T20 and T21, the cognitive flexibility and total words produced at T20 were greater. In other words, the scores of the students decreased over time during the pandemic period. In T21, cognitive flexibility is not related to vulnerability, perceived risk, and fear of COVID-19. However, according to the regression results, vulnerability at T21 was predicted by the total word and total emotional word in T20. Accordingly, producing more total words in T20 reduced vulnerability in T21; however, using more emotional words in T20 increased vulnerability in T21. In addition, the number of siblings was negatively associated with vulnerability. Lastly, cognitive flexibility test was found to be reliable.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Hüseyin Zahid Cambaz, Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, Psychology Department, Ankara, Turkey

Research Assistant


Afshari, A., Hashemikamangar, S., & Hashemikamangar, S. S. (2021). The correlation of perceived stress and professional concerns during COVID-19 pandemic among Iranian dentists: the mediating role of cognitive flexibility. Dentistry 3000, 9(1).

Almeida, L. S., Prieto, L. P., Ferrando, M., Oliveira, E., ve Ferrándiz, C. (2008). Torrance Test of Creative Thinking: The Question of Its Construct Validity. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 3(1), 53-58.

Aucejo, E. M., French, J., Araya, M. P. U., & Zafar, B. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey. Journal of Oublic Economics, 191, 104271.

Barbey, A. K., Colom, R., & Grafman, J. (2013). Architecture of cognitive flexibility revealed by lesion mapping. Neuroimage, 82, 547-554.

Bilgin, M. (2009). Developing a cognitive flexibility scale: Validity and reliability studies. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 37(3), 343-353.

Bond, F. W., & Flaxman, P. E. (2006). The ability of psychological flexibility and job control to predict learning, job performance, and mental health. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 26(1-2), 113-130.

Byrnes, Y. M., Civantos, A. M., Go, B. C., McWilliams, T. L., & Rajasekaran, K. (2020). Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical student career perceptions: a national survey study. Medical Education Online, 25(1), 1798088.

Cambaz, H. Z., & Ünal, G. (2021). The Effect of Abstract and Concrete Boundaries on Cognitive Flexibility. Hacettepe University Journal of Faculty of Letters.

Chen, E., Kaczmarek, K., & Ohyama, H. (2020). Student perceptions of distance learning strategies during COVID-19. Journal of dental education.

Ciarrochi, J., Bilich, L., & Godsell, C. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a mechanism of change in acceptance and commitment therapy. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Assessing mindfulness and acceptance processes in clients: Illuminating the theory and practice of change (p. 51–75). Context Press/New Harbinger Publications.

Coman, L., & Richardson, J. (2006). Relationship between self-report and performance measures of function: a systematic review. Canadian Journal on Aging/La Revue Canadienne du Vieillissement, 25(3), 253-270. Retrieved from

Dawson, D. L., & Golijani-Moghaddam, N. (2020). COVID-19: Psychological flexibility, coping, mental health, and wellbeing in the UK during the pandemic. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 17, 126-134.

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.

Fernandez Lynch, H., Dickert, N. W., Zettler, P. J., Joffe, S., & Largent, E. A. (2020). Regulatory flexibility for COVID-19 research. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 7(1), lsaa057.

Fatani, T. H. (2020). Student satisfaction with videoconferencing teaching quality during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Medical Education, 20(1), 1-8.

Grubic, N., Badovinac, S., & Johri, A. M. (2020). Student mental health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for further research and immediate solutions. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(5), 517-518.

Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill

Gülüm, I. V., & Dağ, İ. (2012). The Turkish adaptation, validity and reliability study of the Repetitive Thinking Questionnaire and the Cognitive Flexibility Inventory. Anatolian Journal of Psychiatry, 13(3).

Hill, K., & Fitzgerald, R. (2020). Student perspectives of the impact of COVID-19 on learning. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, 12(2).

Hulin, C., Netemeyer, R., & Cudeck, R. (2001). Can a reliability coefficient be too high? Journal of Consumer Psychology, 55-58.

Ionescu, T. (2012). Exploring the nature of cognitive flexibility. New Ideas in Psychology, 30(2), 190-200.

Jafari, A. (2020). Comparing Cognitive Flexibility, Psychological Capital and Coping Strategies with Pain between Individuals with COVID-19 Responding and Non-Responding to Home Treatment. Journal of Counseling Research, 19(74), 4-35.

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.

Jung-Beeman, M., Bowden, E. M., Haberman, J., Frymiare, J. L., Arambel-Liu, S., Greenblatt, R., ... & Kounios, J. (2004). Neural activity when people solve verbal problems with insight. PLoS Biol, 2(4), e97.

Kalia, V., Knauft, K., & Hayatbini, N. (2020). Cognitive flexibility and perceived threat from COVID-19 mediate the relationship between childhood maltreatment and state anxiety. PloS One, 15(12), e0243881.

Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 865-878.

Kim, J. (2020). Learning and teaching online during Covid-19: Experiences of student teachers in an early childhood education practicum. International Journal of Early Childhood, 52(2), 145-158.

Kongs, K.S., Thompson, L.L., Iverson, G.L. ve Heaton, R.K. (2000). Wisconsin card sorting test-64 card version (WCST-64). Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa.

Kroska, E. B., Roche, A. I., Adamowicz, J. L., & Stegall, M. S. (2020). Psychological flexibility in the context of COVID-19 adversity: Associations with distress. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 18, 28-33.

Lehto, J. E., Juujärvi, P., Kooistra, L., & Pulkkinen, L. (2003). Dimensions of executive functioning: Evidence from children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21(1), 59-80.

Liu, C. H., Pinder-Amaker, S., Hahm, H. C., & Chen, J. A. (2020). Priorities for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on college student mental health. Journal of American College Health, 1-3.

Ma, H., & Miller, C. (2020). Trapped in a double bind: Chinese overseas student anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Communication, 1-8.

Matheson, G. J. (2019). We need to talk about reliability: making better use of test-retest studies for study design and interpretation. PeerJ, 7, e6918.

McCracken, L. M., & Morley, S. (2014). The psychological flexibility model: a basis for integration and progress in psychological approaches to chronic pain management. The Journal of Pain, 15(3), 221-234.

Murray, N., Sujan, H., Hirt, E. R., & Sujan, M. (1990). The influence of mood on categorization: A cognitive flexibility interpretation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(3), 411.

Pakenham, K. I., Landi, G., Boccolini, G., Furlani, A., Grandi, S., & Tossani, E. (2020). The moderating roles of psychological flexibility and inflexibility on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Italy. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 17, 109-118.

Park, J., & Moghaddam, B. (2017). Impact of anxiety on prefrontal cortex encoding of cognitive flexibility. Neuroscience, 345, 193-202.

Qadir, J., & Al-Fuqaha, A. (2020). A student primer on how to thrive in post-COVID-19 engineering education.

Raaper, R., & Brown, C. (2020). The Covid-19 pandemic and the dissolution of the university campus: Implications for student support practice. Journal of Professional Capital and Community.

Rietzschel, E. F., De Dreu, C. K., & Nijstad, B. A. (2007). Personal need for structure and creative performance: The moderating influence of fear of invalidity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(6), 855-866.

Scott, W. A. (1962). Cognitive complexity and cognitive flexibility. Sociometry, 405-414.

Seiter, J. S., & Curran, T. (2021). Social-distancing fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic: a mediation analysis of cognitive flexibility, fatigue, depression, and adherence to CDC guidelines. Communication Research Reports, 1-11.

Snyder, H. R., Friedman, N. P., & Hankin, B. L. (2020). Associations Between Task Performance and Self-Report Measures of Cognitive Control: Shared Versus Distinct Abilities. Assessment, 1073191120965694.

Webster, J. D. (2019). Self-report wisdom measures: Strengths, limitations, and future directions. In R. J. Sternberg & J. Glück (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of wisdom (p. 297–320). Cambridge University Press.

Whiting, D. L., Deane, F. P., Simpson, G. K., McLeod, H. J., & Ciarrochi, J. (2017). Cognitive and psychological flexibility after a traumatic brain injury and the implications for treatment in acceptance-based therapies: A conceptual review. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 27(2), 263-299.

Yıldırım, M., Geçer, E., & Akgül, Ö. (2021). The impacts of vulnerability, perceived risk, and fear on preventive behaviours against COVID-19. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 26(1), 35-43.

Yu, Y., Yu, Y., & Lin, Y. (2020). Anxiety and depression aggravate impulsiveness: the mediating and moderating role of cognitive flexibility. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 25(1), 25-36.



How to Cite

Cambaz, H. Z., & Ünal, G. (2021). Does Student’s Cognitive Flexibility Decrease During Pandemic? A New Approach to Measure Cognitive Flexibility. International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering and Education, 9(1), 13–22.