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Cognitive Distortion Scales

John Briere, PhD

Assesses negative thinking patterns that interfere with optimal functioning
Paper and pencil
Age range:
18 years to 91 years
10–15 minutes; 5 minutes to score
Qualification level:
A degree from an accredited 4-year college or university in psychology, counseling, speech-language pathology, or a closely related field plus satisfactory completion of coursework in test interpretation, psychometrics and measurement theory, educational statistics, or a closely related area; or license or certification from an agency that requires appropriate training and experience in the ethical and competent use of psychological tests. Close

The CDS is a 40-item self-assessment of cognitive distortions for adults ages 18 years and older.

Features and benefits

The CDS scales reflect five types of cognitive distortion:

  • Self-Criticism (SC)—Low self-esteem and self-devaluation as expressed in the tendency to criticize or devalue oneself.
  • Self-Blame (SB)—Extent to which the respondent blames himself or herself for negative, unwanted events in his or her life, including events outside the respondent's control.
  • Helplessness (HLP)—Perception of being unable to control important aspects of one's life.
  • Hopelessness (HOP)—Extent to which the respondent believes that the future is bleak and that he or she is destined to fail
  • Preoccupation With Danger (PWD)—Tendency to view the world, especially the interpersonal domain, as a dangerous place.

Test structure

  • CDS materials include the professional manual, the test booklet, and the profile form. The professional manual provides information on administration, scoring, interpretation, psychometric characteristics, normative data on the standardization sample, as well as data from subsamples of psychotherapy outpatients.
  • The carbonless test booklet can be administered in 10-15 minutes to individuals or groups. Respondents use a 5-point scale to rate the frequency of occurrence of each item during the previous month. Hand-scoring takes only 5 minutes.
  • The CDS profile form allows conversion of raw scale scores to T scores based on the gender of the respondent. A profile graph can be drawn to portray the respondent's scores relative to the scores of the general population.
  • The CDS requires only minimal (5th grade) reading level.

Technical information

  • The normative sample included 611 individuals from the general population.
  • The CDS has demonstrated construct, convergent, and discriminant validity in both the general population and in clinical samples. Studies suggest that individuals with a history of child abuse or later personal trauma are especially likely to score in the clinical range on the CDS scales.
  • Data presented in the CDS Professional Manual support use of this instrument in clinical and nonclinical contexts with adults who have no significant trauma history and those who have been traumatized.