cognition, cognitive therapy, cognitive ability, cognition after tbi, cognitive

Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility, or flexible thinking, is the ability to shift our thoughts or actions to respond to given situations. It allows us to problem solve and adapt to new situations. Examples of cognitive flexibility are: 

  • Taking a different route to work instead of your usual one due to road closures  
  • Eating eggs for breakfast instead of cereal due to running out of milk  
  • Calling someone to ask where they are if they don’t answer the doorbell 

Individuals with impaired cognitive flexibility would experience cognitive rigidity, which is the inability to shift your thoughts or behaviors to adapt to new situations. This would create inefficient and rigid thinking or behavior patterns. Cognitive rigidity may lead to: 

  • Inability to accommodate for change 
  • Feeling “stuck” due to being unable to develop new strategies 
  • Persistence with using incorrect methods/strategies and not being receptive to feedback 
  • Repeating same topic over and over again and returning to that topic when doing something else 

Examples of cognitive rigidity are: 

  • Difficulty finding alternative ways of transportation when your car is unavailable for use 
  • Inability to adapt to your new work schedule and feeling frustrated 
  • Constantly thinking you failed a class due to incompetence and being unable to acknowledge other potential reasons 

Strategies to help improve cognitive flexibility are: 

  • Making small changes to your everyday routine so you can get accustomed to these changes 
  • Trying new things and seeking new experiences 
  • Practice divergent thinking (generating different or creative ideas about a topic)  
  • Identify signs of frustration and rigid thinking or behavior  




For more TBI Glossary Terms, click here. 


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