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With cognitive flexibility, we refer to the brain’s ability to easily adapt our behavior and thinking to change. It also deals with new and unexpected concepts and situations, or the mental capacity to think about several ideas simultaneously.

Cognitive flexibility indicates the ability of cognitive fluidity, as opposed to stiffness. It is described extensively, as the possibility of adjusting the thought process used

in old situations to new situations. If one can overcome previously accepted beliefs or habits, they would be considered cognitively flexible.

It involves the management of changing strategies in an intelligent way, which allows us to adapt to unexpected situations. As well as, thinking without rigidity and freeing ourselves from inefficient automatisms.

Related to our ability to solve problems and generate alternatives, cognitive flexibility is a guarantee of mental balance and coping with all kinds of everyday situations.

Also, as we commented in the beginning, it is the mental capacity to think of two simultaneous concepts of an object, idea, or situation. Games such as sorting cards based on the color of the objects and the type of objects on the card are there for children to train this skill.

People with a deficit in this flexibility may have certain complications during learning. Some disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), may indicate that the person has reduced cognitive flexibility.

Factors that contribute to cognitive flexibility:

Reasoning without rigidity: 

The development of this flexibility can be facilitated by using analogies and metaphors. And by posing open problems, allowing different decision-making options, or naturally assuming errors in the learning process.

Fluid intelligence

Cognitive flexibility is, according to researchers, a component of the executive brain function that involves the ability to control one’s thinking. This flexibility is related to skills such as job planning, memory, organization, ease of using strategies, emotional stability, etc. It is essential to be able to suppress some irrelevant stimuli that reach our brain. And focus our attention on what is important.

Early development: 

Multiple classifications, which is, classifying different objects in several ways at once, is a game that is widely used with children to develop their cognitive flexibility. (by classifying objects based on their type and color). According to research cognitive flexibility correlates to one’s fluid intelligence and reading comprehension skills.

An essential role in learning and the ability to solve complex problems. It helps us obtain information from our environment and respond accordingly, adjusting our behavior to the changes and demands of the situation. We need fluent reasoning ability to solve problems in new situations. People with the ability to be cognitively flexible have been shown to have a more exceptional ability. Ability to think simultaneously about what they hear and what it means. So, which in turn increases their thinking fluency and reading comprehension.

There are two more directions. 

Social cognitive flexibility

This is the ability to quickly change between perspectives as different individuals embody different visions. This skill entails the ability to switch easily between peoples’ different perspectives. These perspectives can vary from person to person, group to group, or even between cultures and nationalities.

Philosophical cognitive flexibility

Philosophical cognitive flexibility is the ability to change between theoretical perspectives, dogmas, and theorems quickly. This ability is potent in testing and defending ideas or hypothesis and for the art of questioning. To know what questions to ask, a person needs philosophical cognitive flexibility.

Some results obtained:

● People with higher cognitive flexibility are capable of generating alternative responses to solve problems.

● Cognitive flexibility helps us tolerate and manage the changes that can happen without disturbing us easily. And allows us to adapt to these changes quickly. (resilient)

● It helps to have a selective focus. And to focus less on the possible factors that produce stress or anxiety.

● People with mental flexibility deal with mistakes and plan changes better. They have an easier time putting themselves in another person’s shoes, and quickly reach collective agreements.

●It also allows us to think about several concepts at the same time. Or to perform several tasks at the same time.

How to develop cognitive flexibility in ourselves:

Cognitive flexibility is a mental ability that has its process of brain development and maturation. Like any other cognitive skill, cognitive or psychological flexibility skills can be improved and trained.

The use of multiple perspectives in educational programs is an example of one of the most important recommendations of this theory.

● A vital demand made by the Cognitive Flexibility Theory is to reuse educational material at different times. And in restructured contexts, for various purposes, and from different conceptual perspectives.

● Different interactive exercises help us improve our cognitive flexibility.

Why the risk of cognitive flexibility is lack of identity?

True freedom only goes with limitations of choice. Therefore, when being overly flexible in terms of thinking, the question arises about the person’s preferences, opinions, and visions. Those individual choices constitute an identity necessary for real life. So the risk of cognitive flexibility is lack of identity. Whereas the fear of losing one’s identity can cause a person to show a certain stubbornness. Or closeness in one’s thinking, a person finding himself on the opposite side of the spectrum should probably work on his own identity.

True freedom only goes with limitations of choice. So when being very flexible in terms of ways of thinking, the question arises to the person’s preferences and opinions and vision. Those individual choices constitute an identity necessary for real life. So the risk of cognitive flexibility is lack of identity. Whereas the fear of losing one’s identity can cause a person to show a certain stubbornness or closeness in one’s thinking. A person finding himself on the opposite side of the spectrum should probably work on his own identity.

Cognitive flexibility, deficiency, or stiffness.

Several methods have been developed to measure people’s cognitive flexibility.

Studies conducted with people of various ages and with particular deficiencies have revealed how this flexibility develops and changes within the brain.

Magnetic resonance imaging has shown that during multiple tasks, some areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the posterior parietal cortex are activated.

Decreased flexibility has been observed in some neuropsychiatric disorders. Such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or disorders such as anorexia nervosa, ADHD, or autism.

Each of these disorders exhibits various aspects of cognitive inflexibility.

For example, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience difficulty changing their focus of attention and inhibiting automatic responses. People with addictions can also be considered to have limited cognitive flexibility, as they cannot respond flexibly to certain stimuli.

Aging of the brain and mental flexibility

Older adults often experience impaired cognitive flexibility. Brain ageing undergoes physical and functional changes that include a decline in processing speed, central sensory function, white matter integrity, and brain volume.

Different interactive exercises can have positive effects and help us improve and maintain cognitive ability.

Many of the people who decide to go to therapy have problems with rigid and adaptive thoughts. These blocks can cause pictures of stress, anxiety, depression, or simply do not allow them to achieve their goals.

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