The cognitive reflection test is robust to multiple exposures

Behav Res Methods. 2018 Oct;50(5):1953-1959. doi: 10.3758/s13428-017-0963-x.


The cognitive reflection test (CRT) is a widely used measure of the propensity to engage in analytic or deliberative reasoning in lieu of gut feelings or intuitions. CRT problems are unique because they reliably cue intuitive but incorrect responses and, therefore, appear simple among those who do poorly. By virtue of being composed of so-called "trick problems" that, in theory, could be discovered as such, it is commonly held that the predictive validity of the CRT is undermined by prior experience with the task. Indeed, recent studies have shown that people who have had previous experience with the CRT score higher on the test. Naturally, however, it is not obvious that this actually undermines the predictive validity of the test. Across six studies with ~ 2,500 participants and 17 variables of interest (e.g., religious belief, bullshit receptivity, smartphone usage, susceptibility to heuristics and biases, and numeracy), we did not find a single case in which the predictive power of the CRT was significantly undermined by repeated exposure. This occurred despite the fact that we replicated the previously reported increase in accuracy among individuals who reported previous experience with the CRT. We speculate that the CRT remains robust after multiple exposures because less reflective (more intuitive) individuals fail to realize that being presented with apparently easy problems more than once confers information about the task's actual difficulty.

Keywords: CRT; Cognitive reflection test; Dual-process theory; Intuition; Reflection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychological Tests*