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Need for closure

Dr. Simon Moss


Need for closure reflects an aversion to ambiguity and uncertainty as well as a preference towards firm, definitive answers to questions (e.g., Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). Interestingly, individuals who prefer firm, definitive answers and seek clarity are more inclined to follow rules and accept authoritarian leaders, but less inclined to embrace diversity.

Consequences of need for closure

Attitudes towards diversity

Empirical evidence indicates that need for closure, sometimes called need for cognitive closure, might diminish receptivity to diversity. Individuals with a strong need for closure prefer teams or workgroups with homogenous--rather than diverse--values, attitudes, and demographic characteristics (e.g., Kruglanski, Shah, Pierro, & Mannetti, 2002) and thus reject unique perspectives. That is, Kruglanski, Shah, Pierro, and Mannetti (2002) showed that time pressure, which tends to amplify need for closure, increases the probability that participates liked only the individuals with whom they shared similar values and characteristics. Thus, compared to their counterparts who embrace ambiguity, these individuals are more likely to demonstrate a bias towards their own work, social, or ethnic groups (Shah, Kruglanski, & Thompson, 1998), sometimes manifested as prejudice and racism (e.g., Van Hiel, Pandelaere, & Duriez, 2004).

Individuals who experience a need for closure feel that other ethnicities or creeds merely compromise the sense of clarity of clarity they seek. These individuals feel uneasy, or even incensed, by divergent attitudes or distinct values (Shah, Kruglanski, & Thompson, 1998). They feel disdain towards other creeds, religions, and cultures

Indeed, according to Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, and De Grada (2006), a need for closure can explain many prejudices. Specifically, when people experience a need for closure, they seek clarity and certainty immediately. They want to know which behaviors they are expected to enact. Consequently, individuals gravitate to groups in which the norms and standards are unambiguous.

Many of the hallmarks or manifestations of a need for closure seem to reflect this proclivity towards unambiguous norms and stable groups. For example, when need for closure is elevated, individuals prefer autocratic leaders, reject practices that deviate from group norms, resist change, and adopt conservative values. All these behaviors reinforce the group and, therefore, clarify the norms that individuals are supposed to follow.

Attitudes towards rules

Because of this preference towards homogenous values and attitudes, they seek autocratic leaders, who they feel could cultivate their desired uniformity and clarity (Pierro, Mannetti, De Grada, Livi, & Kruglanski, 2003). That is, when need for closure is elevated, individuals seek a sense of clarity-an understanding of how they should behave. Because they eschew careful contemplation, they seek someone to impose this understanding and clarity. Autocratic leaders often fulfill this role.

Similarly, need for closure also reduces the likelihood that individuals would manipulate anyone else or violate societal regulations (Van Kenhove, Vermeir & Verniers, 2001). Because they prefer clarity and certainty, they would like society to follow rules and conventions. As a consequence, they tend to comply with all regulations and traditions themselves. In other words, they tend to adopt traditional, conservative beliefs - such as "People should be treated with respect" and "Rules should not be broken." They are also more inclined to return money when they receive more change from a shop assistant than perhaps they deserve.


Need for closure has also been shown to be associated with a combative and competitive orientation during conflicts (Golec & Federico, 2004). That is, a need for closure is associated with a preference for competitive, rather than cooperative, responses to political disputes (Golec & Federico, 2004). If individuals identify with a hostile collective, such as an extremist political party, this relationship between need for closure and preference for competition is especially pronounced.

In short, when individuals report a need for closure, their prevailing orientations are most likely to dictate their behavior, especially during stressful contexts. If they identify with a hostile collective, these distrusting perceptions will be activated during conflicts, compromising their capacity to cooperate (Golec & Federico, 2004).


Need for closure tends to curb flexibility, reducing the likelihood of compromise, during negotiations (DeDreu, Koole, & Oldersma, 1999). This rigidity is especially pronounced if these individuals perceive their opponent to be experienced in business and competitive in nature.

That is, because need for closure curbs careful analysis, these individuals do not consider their opponent carefully. Instead, they tend to apply stereotypes to judge other individuals. If someone else seems experienced in business, they will apply the stereotype that commercial employees tend to be competitive. They will, therefore, themselves act competitively rather than cooperatively (DeDreu, Koole, & Oldersma, 1999).

Need for closure can also compromise the capacity of individuals to adapt effectively when they move to another country, particularly if they arrive or live with someone from their own nation. That is, these individuals, because they do not think as carefully, adopt the same perspective as anyone in their immediate environment. If they live with someone from their own culture, they will tend to adopt the same values and perspectives of this person, and hence will not embrace the attitudes and rituals of their host country (Kosic, A., Kruglanski, A. W., Pierro, A., & Mannetti, L. (2004).

Attitudes to art

A need for closure is related to preferences towards art. In particular, a need for closure, characterized by a preference in people to perceive their surroundings as predictable and unambiguous, corresponds to an aversion to plays with ambiguous endings and abstract paintings.

This possibility was substantiated by Wiersema, van der Schalk, and van Kleef (2013). In one study, participants rated the degree to which they like a series of paintings, only half of which were abstract. Half the participants were also told to evaluate each painting within 3 seconds, and this time pressure was shown to increase need for closure. A time limit was not imposed on the other participants. Time pressure, and thus need for closure, decreased the extent to which participants liked the abstract art. Another study showed that need for closure is negatively associated with the degree to which people like plays with ambiguous endings.

Fundamental attribution error

Several studies have examined whether need for closure amplifies or inhibits the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error represents an inclination, prevalent throughout society, to ascribe behavior to characteristics of the person rather than features of the situation (Gilbert & Malone, 1995& Jones, 1979& Ross, 1977). When someone commits an error at work, colleagues might assume the person is incompetent, overlooking other factors such as defects in their equipment or mistakes in the instructions.

The relationship between need for closure and this fundamental attribution error has generated considerable controversy. Webster (1993) pioneered this exploration, showing that need for closure is indeed positively associated with the fundamental attribution error. In this study, a person read an essay, presented over video. This person, apparently, had been instructed to espouse the opinion they championed--an opinion that contradicted the attitudes of most participants. Participants were then instructed to express their impressions of this person.

Participants tended to rate this person as undesirable, overlooking the constraints that were imposed on this individual, especially if they reported an elevated need for closure. In other words, if individuals like to form opinions rapidly and maintain these attitudes, they tend to ascribe behavior to dispositions of the person rather than features of the context.

Nevertheless, several limitations might compromise the validity of this study. The instruction to form "impressions" of the reader, according to Stelder (2009), might have oriented attention towards the person instead of the situation. Second, the study did not entail a condition in which a person presented an essay that aligned with the opinions of participants. Hence, whether the essay or some other factor governed the ratings cannot be established. Indeed, a few subsequent studies failed to replicate this finding (e.g., Chiu, Morris, Hong, & Menon, 2000).

Stalder (2009) conducted a study that resolved these inconsistencies. In particular, Stalder argued that one facet of need for closure, need for structure, which comprises discomfort with ambiguity, preference for order, and preference for predictability, is positively related to the fundamental attribution error. In contrast, another facet, decisiveness, is negatively related to this error.

Specifically, in this study, the question-contestant paradigm (e.g., Ross, Amabile, & Steinmetz, 1977) was utilized to establish the fundamental attribution error (for critiques, see Gawronski, 2003). Participants observe two individuals. One individual constructs, and then asks, questions that assess general knowledge. The other individual, the contestant, attempts to answer these questions. This person, however, can answer only 3 of the 10 questions correctly. Typically, participants assume the person who constructed the questions must be more knowledgeable, disregarding the unfair advantage that is afforded to this person.

In this study, individuals who reported a high, rather than low, need for structure were more inclined to perceive the contestant as less knowledgeable than was the person who constructed and asked the questions. Individuals who reported high, rather than low, decisiveness were, in contrast, more inclined to perceive the contestant as knowledgeable (Stalder, 2009).

According to Stalder (2009), need for structure increases the inclination of participants to accept the conclusions they have formed rather than challenge their assumptions, called freezing. Individuals who exhibit need for structure, therefore, will rapidly ascribe the deficient performance to the limited knowledge of this contestant--and then fail to consider alternative perspectives.

In contrast, decisive individuals form very rapid conclusions or judgments, called seizing. In contrast, indecisive individuals ruminate over the information extensively. As they ruminate, they become more inclined to consider extraneous information. This extraneous information might actually divert their attention from the actual state of affairs--the advantage that was afforded to the person who constructed the questions. Indecisive individuals might, therefore, become more inclined to exhibit the fundamental attribution error.

Response to anger

When individuals experience an elevated need for closure, sometimes called an epistemic motivation, they may be more sensitive to the anger of other people. Specifically, according to emotions as social information model (e.g., Van Kleef, 2009, 2010), during social interactions, the emotional expression of one person influences the emotional state and inferential processes of the other person. To illustrate, if one person seems angry, the other individuals infer their progress is inadequate, enhancing persistence and ultimately progress.

However, if individuals do not experience a need for closure, they are not as motivated to derive inferences from the emotional expression of other people. The anger of one person, thus, does not enhance persistence or progress in the other person.

Consistent with this account, Van Kleef, Anastasopoulou, and Nijstad (2010) showed that need for closure does indeed moderate the association between the anger of one person and the subsequent creativity of another person. In this study, participants first completed a measure of personal need for structure, sometimes regarded as a subset of need for closure. Then, participants completed a task that demands creativity. Next, they received feedback from another person about their performance. This person either seemed angry or unemotional when they communicated this feedback. Finally, they completed another creative task--to identify as many uses of a brick as possible.

If participants reported a high need for closure, angry feedback, compared to unemotional feedback, was more likely to promote original answers to the task of identifying uses of bricks. They also persisted on this task and seemed more engaged. If participants reported a low need for closure, however, angry feedback did not enhance creativity& indeed, angry feedback compromised originality.

Accordingly, in contexts that promote a need for closure, such as time pressure or noise, anger or dissatisfaction from managers can enhance persistence in employees. Nevertheless, managers should not direct this anger or dissatisfaction to employees directly but just imply the situation is unsatisfactory.

Social networks

Individuals who report a need for closure often assume that two people who both know someone else must also know each other, called transitivity. Furthermore, if individuals report a need for closure, they assume that two people of the same ethnicity or race are more likely to know each other than two people of different ethnicities or races.

This pattern of observations was confirmed by Flynn, Reagans, and Guillory (2010). In one study, participants were students, enrolled in the same class. They were first asked to list the colleagues to whom they would approach to seek assistance. They were also asked to list the colleagues who seek help from them. Next, they were asked to specify which colleagues would approach other classmates to seek this assistance. Finally, they completed a measure of need for closure.

If participants reported an elevated need for closure, they often committed errors on this task. In particular, they often assumed that two people who both help or seek help from the same person also must help or seek help from each other. In other words, they presupposed, often incorrectly, that colleagues who have formed a strong relationship with the same classmate must have formed a strong relationship with each other.

Thus, when individuals experience a need for closure, they prefer transitivity, in which they assume that two people who both know someone else must also know each other. Presumably, when transitivity operates, knowledge tends to be more evenly distributed across the network. Hence, the knowledge of each person can be more readily predicted, satisfying the need for closure and clarity.

In the second study, participants were exposed to a series of photographs of various people. Eight of these people were European American students, four of these people were African American students, and four of these people were Asian American students. Next, participants were told that 30 relationships had been formed amongst these 16 students. They were asked to guess which students knew each other. If they had reported an elevated need for closure, they were more inclined to assume that people of different races had seldom formed strong relationships (Flynn, Reagans, & Guillory, 2010).

When individuals experience a need for closure, they become more inclined to categorize people into groups. These categorizations ensure they feel they can predict the behavior of people. Indeed, favoritism towards people within their group--and derogation of people outside their group--become more pronounced. Hence, different ethnicities or races become more salient.

Determinants of need for closure

Previous research has uncovered several contextual factors that mitigate this need for closure. Specifically, factors that diminish the costs, or amplify the benefits, of additional deliberation and analysis will tend to temper this need for closure (for a review, see Kruglanski & Webster, 1996).

Time pressure, for example, increases the cost of reflection and analysis (e.g., Kruglanski & Freund, 1983). That is, when individuals feel they must complete a task, or form a judgment, within a limited duration, they recognize they must reach a decision before the deadline has elapsed. Careful deliberation, therefore, could incur a steep cost, and thus time pressure augments the need for closure (for a review of evidence, see Kruglanski, 2004& Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, & De Grada, 2006& Pierro, Mannetti, De Grada, Livi, & Kruglanski, 2003).

In addition to time pressure, events that underscore the mortality of individuals could also augment the costs that accrue from deliberation and analysis. Graphic depictions of fatal accidents and similar images, for example, highlight this mortality. According to terror management theory, when individuals contemplate their own mortality, they experience an existential anxiety (see Greenberg, Pyszczynski, Solomon, Rosenblatt, Veeder, Kirkland, & Lyon, 1990). To alleviate this affective experience, they strive to integrate themselves with an enduring entity, such as a broader social collective, to cultivate a form of immortality.

Two processes facilitate this integration with this immortal entity (see also Pyszczynksi, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). First, they attempt to perceive this social collective as uniform and predictable in which all members share the same values and principles. Second, they strive to fulfill these values, conceptualizing themselves as a model member of this social collective (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). Careful deliberation of issues could uncover discrepancies between their own attitudes and the opinions of this broader society. After mortality is contemplated, therefore, need for closure tends to increase (see also Schimel, Simon, Greenberg, Pyszczynski, Solomon, Wazmonsky, & Arndt, 1999).

Furthermore, noise (e.g., Kruglanski & Webster, 1991), fatigue (Nelson, Klein, & Irvin, 2003), and inebriation (see Kruglanski et al., 2006) have been shown to attenuate the benefits of reflection and analysis. Both noise and inebriation retard or hinder analytic processes, detracting from the benefits of deliberation and consideration. As these benefits decline, individuals become more likely to eschew careful analysis, and the need for closure thus escalates.

Exposure to fictional stories

After people read a series of fictional short stories, rather than nonfictional essays, their need for closure tends to subside, especially if they tend to read widely. While people read fiction, they contemplate a variety of events, but without the urgency to reach decisions, inhibiting neural circuits that underpin a need for closure. In addition, while they read, they are also inclined to adopt the thinking styles of the protagonists--thinking styles that differ from their own tendencies. Accordingly, individuals become willing to entertain a diversity of thoughts rather than invoke entrenched tendencies, also manifesting as a decrease in need for closure.

These possibilities were proposed and validated by Djikic, Oatley, and Moldoveanu (2013). In their study, participants first completed the author recognition test, in which they needed to indicate which writers, from a list 140 names, 40 of which are foils, they recognize. Next, they read either a short story or nonfictional essay, before rating the level of interest and artistry of this work. Finally, they completed a series of questionnaires, including a measure of need for closure. Compared to participants who read a nonfictional essay, participants who read a fictional short story reported diminished levels of need for closure, especially a reduced need for order and discomfort with ambiguity. This effect was most pronounced in participants who recognized either fictional or nonfictional writers.

Dimensions of need for closure

In particular, as posited by Webster and Kruglanski (1994), individuals who experience a need for closure demonstrate five distinct, but related, tendencies. First, they exhibit discomfort with ambiguity and they feel uneasy when uncertain about some event or issue-an emotion that dissipates once they receive clarity. Second, to ensure clarity, they demonstrate a preference for predictability and prefer settings in which they can anticipate the events that are likely to unfold. Third, because of this preference, they report a preference for order and seek environments that are organized and ordered, governed by consistent rules, policies, and practices. Fourth, because of their aversion to ambiguity, they reach decisions rapidly, without deliberation or delay, referred to as decisiveness. Finally, to fulfill this goal, they seldom consider other sources of information, such as the advice of experts, before they reach these decisions, designated as close mindedness. Some researchers, however, exclude decisiveness, because this subscale does not correlate positively with the other dimensions (e.g., Pierro, Mannetti, De Grada, Livi, & Kruglanski, 2003).

According to other researchers (e.g., Moneta & Yip, 2004& Stalder, 2009), need for closure entails two distinct dimensions. The first dimension, need for structure, comprises three factors: discomfort with ambiguity, preference for order, and preference for predictability. Need for structure mainly relates to the freezing process--the inclination of individuals to accept the judgments they form rather than evaluate alternatives. When this conceptualization is applied, close mindedness tends to be excluded (ow correlations with other facets (e.g., Neuberg, West, Judice, & Thompson, 1997& Stalder, 2007& Van Hiel, Pandelaere, & Duriez, 2004).

The second dimension relates to only one of the factors that underpins need for closure: decisiveness. Decisiveness mainly relates to the seizing process--the inclination of individuals to form rapid decisions or judgments.

Implications of need for closure

Attention residue

The discovery that time pressure increase the need to reach cognitive closure has advanced the research into attention residue. Specifically, at work, individuals tend to undertake a series of tasks. They might first need to perform some accounting task and then evaluate a series of job applicants, for example. Unfortunately, when individuals proceed to the second activity, such as the evaluation of job applicants, some of their attention and thoughts still revolve around the first task--called attention residue.

Attention residue might include ruminations about the previous activity, which are critical, repetitive thoughts that individuals entertain about themselves, evoked by failure or other problems (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). Attention residue, however, also comprises a broader array of reflections, such as alternative solutions (Leroy, 2009).

Leroy (2009) uncovered two factors that diminish this attention residue. First, and most obviously, when individuals feel they have completed some task--that is, when they feel their goals or targets have been fulfilled--they are less distracted on subsequent tasks. The level of attention residue declines. Specifically, incomplete goals tend to remain salient or activated (Klinger, 1975). The level of activation is not appreciably related to the cues or signals in the environment (Martin & Tesser, 1996). As a consequence, even when individuals shift to another activity, in a different environment, the goals that are related to the previous task might remain salient.

To substantiate this possibility, Leroy (2009) conducted a pair of studies in which participants undertook two consecutive tasks: a verbal activity, which lasted five minutes, and then an evaluation of resumes. Some of the participants were assigned very steep targets on the verbal activity. These participants did not usually fulfill these targets when they proceeded to the next activity. Other participants were assigned modest targets on the verbal activity and thus satisfied these goals.

Compared to participants who had fulfilled their targets, participants who had not fulfilled their targets were more likely to entertain thoughts about the verbal activity while completing the subsequent task. That is, immediately after completing the verbal activity, they recognized words associated with this task, such as solve or finish, more rapidly than did other participants on a lexical decision task (Leroy, 2009). That is, they could rapidly ascertain whether or not these items were indeed legitimate words--a procedure that is often used to evaluate the accessibility of some concept (e.g., Moskowitz, 2002). Furthermore, if participants had fulfilled their targets, their performance on a subsequent activity was more proficient. They could remember the contents of each resume more effectively.

Nevertheless, as Leroy (2009) emphasized, even after individuals complete some activity, and feel like they have fulfilled some goal, they still occasionally contemplate this task. Leroy (2009) applied some of the insights of cognitive closure to uncover another factor that might curb attention residue. Specifically, Leroy (2009) recognized that time pressure tends to promote a need to reach cognitive closure, which could thus temper attention residue. That is, when participants experience a sense of time pressure or haste, they consider only the primary alternatives rather than deliberate over every possible course of action. Because they confine their attention to a limited array of alternatives, they are less inclined to experience a sense of regret (Iyengar, 2000)--that is, they do not feel as attached to the courses of action they rejected. Accordingly, a sense of confidence ensues (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000)--which enables individuals to orient their attention to other activities.

To examine this proposition, Leroy (2009) manipulated the level of time pressure that individuals experienced. Some participants were informed that most individuals feel the target is difficult to reach in the allotted time--to evoke a sense of time pressure. Other participants were informed the target is manageable. Time pressure did indeed curb attention residue. Participants were less inclined to reflect upon the previous activity, as gauged by a lexical decision task. They also felt more confident about their performance on this activity.

Social tuning

According to Bechtoldt, De Dreu, Nijstad, and Choi (2010), some individuals experience a strong motivation to seek understanding, called epistemic motivation, epitomized by a need for closure. Individuals can derive this information and knowledge from many sources. If these individuals are communal and agreeable, they will be more sensitive to information that enhances the harmony and progress of their friendships or collectives. They will, therefore, become particularly aware of the norms and standards of these groups.

The social tuning hypothesis offers a similar account (Lunn, Sinclair, Whitchurch, & Glenn, 2007). According to this hypothesis, if individuals experience a strong epistemic motivation--if they strive to uncover information to improve their understanding and overcome confusion--they seek opinions and knowledge from their social environment. This tendency is especially pronounced in people with more communal, affiliative motives.

To illustrate, in many Western nations, original and unique ideas are valued, because individualism is cherished. Need for closure, coupled with a communal or agreeable demeanor, increases the likelihood that individuals conform to these norms and thus generate more original, novel, appropriate, and creative solutions. In contrast, in many Eastern nations, individuals are more inclined to conform than to uncover unique solutions or perspectives. In this instance, need for closure, together with a communal or agreeable demeanor, also increases the probability that individuals conform to these norms and thus generate fewer original, novel, appropriate, and creative solutions.

Bechtoldt, De Dreu, Nijstad, and Choi (2010) undertook a series of studies to confirm this account. Dutch participants, in which the culture generally values originality rather than conformity, were engaged in a brainstorming task to identify better ideas about how to improve teaching. Time pressure was manipulated to increase or decrease epistemic motivation. Agreeableness was also measured.

Consistent with the hypotheses, time pressure, or epistemic motivation, was positively associated with the extent to which members of these groups expressed disagreement, discussed alternatives, challenged the solutions that other people offered. Consequently, time pressure increased the likelihood that participants offered original ideas. However, these benefits of epistemic motivation was observed in agreeable participants only.

Bechtoldt, De Dreu, Nijstad, and Choi (2010) undertook some additional studies that were similar, apart from a few amendments. For example, in one study, rather than assess agreeableness, participants were granted rewards that depended on individual or group performance, to prime an egocentric or communal orientation respectively. In addition, to prime an epistemic motivation, some participants were asked to comment on the strategies they utilized. The same pattern of results emerged: Epistemic motivation enhanced originality, but only if a communal orientation was elicited.

In a third study, if participants were exposed to words that related to originality, within the context of a sentence unscrambling task, the same pattern of results emerged. If participants were exposed to words that relate to efficiency, instead of originality, a different pattern emerged. Epistemic motivation, coupled with a communal orientation, curbed originality, presumably because a different norm had been primed. In short, if originality represents the prevailing norm, conformity to this norm can actually enhance creativity.

Related constructs

Personal need for structure

Personal need for structure is highly related to need for closure. Like need for closure, personal need for structure represents a preference towards clear, stable, and unambiguous knowledge rather than novelty and change (Neuberg & Newsom, 1993).

Low need for closure, however, differs marginally from low need for structure. That is, low need for closure, but not low need for structure, tends to reflect a preference to engage in careful thought and analysis--something akin to need for cognition.

Both personal need for structure, as measured by the instrument developed by Thompson, Naccarato, Parker, and Moskowitz (2001) and need for closure are positively related to dogmatism, authoritarianism, and intolerance towards ambiguity--but inversely associated with openness to experience (see Neuberg & Newsom, 1993). Personal need for structure and need for closure also predicts the reliance on stereotyping (Neuberg & Newsom, 1993) as well as formation of spontaneous inferences of traits from limited information (Moskowitz, 1993). Hence, they overlap empirically.

Indeed, some researches maintain that need for closure entails two main facets: need for structure and decisiveness (e.g., Moneta & Yip, 2004& Stalder, 2009). Conceivably, the facet called need for structure and the scale called personal need for structure might be equivalent.

Jumping to conclusions

A concept that is often discussed in the literature on psychosis and delusions, called jumping to conclusions, is related to need for closure. In particular, some people form conclusions rapidly. Other people, in contrast, seek extensive information before they form conclusions.

As many studies show, jumping to conclusions is associated with delusional thinking. In one study, conducted by Lee, Barrowclough, and Lobban (2011), participants completed a task that gauges jumping to conclusions. In this task, participants were instructed to imagine their character was assessed by 100 people. One of these respondent had expressed 80 positive comments and 20 negative comments about the participant. Another respondent had expressed 20 positive comments and 80 negative comments about the participant. Participants were then exposed to the comments of one of these respondents in sequence. Their task was to determine whether these comments were derived from the more positive or more negative respondent. If people derive a conclusion from only a few comments, they are assumed to jump to conclusions.

In addition, participants completed a questionnaire that assesses their propensity to entertain delusional thoughts. They received 21 items, such as "Do you ever feel as if there is a conspiracy against you?" In addition, they indicated the degree to which they perceive these thoughts as distressing, prevalent, and definite.

If individuals exhibited a tendency to jump to conclusions, they were likely to entertain delusional thoughts. Presumably, before they generate conclusions rapidly, they may not accumulate enough information to challenge these thoughts.

Furthermore, as Lee, Barrowclough, and Lobban (2011) demonstrated, positive affect tends to curb this jumping to conclusions. That is, participants who had received positive, instead of neutral, feedback after completing a test of creativity were not as likely to jump to conclusions. Presumably, positive affect, such as joy, enthusiasm, and interest, tend to increase the motivation of individuals to explore and to acquire more information.

Dialectical thinking

Dialectical thinking is a cognitive style in which individuals embrace contradictions. They accept ambiguity and recognize, for example, that objects can be simultaneously good and bad or right and wrong. Individuals with dialectical thinking endorse items like "Things that seem irrelevant with each other are often actually associated".

Tong, Yao, Lu, and Wang (2013) showed that dialectical thinking can enhance initial learning but not the degree to which this learning is transferred to the workplace. In this study, participants completed leadership training. The training comprised 16 exercises that differed on the degree to which they are cognitive or experiential, deductive versus inductive, and comprising significant interaction or no interaction with other people. They also completed a measure of cognitive style to gauge dialectical thinking. Furthermore, after the training, participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they were motivated to change after this workshop as well as the degree to which the program was helpful to their work. Finally, months later, participants indicated the degree to which they had actually changed and improved their performance after the training. Dialectical thinking increased the degree to which participants were motivated to change after this workshop and perceived this workshop as helpful, regardless of the training method. But dialectical thinking was unrelated to actual changes in behavior months later.

The second study was similar, except dialectical thinking was manipulated experimentally. That is, half the participants completed three exercises, designed to foster dialectical thinking. First, the instructor highlighted the benefits of dialectical thinking. Second, the instructor presented a case study that illustrates these benefits--in which a person purchases and sells TVs, sometimes profiting and sometimes losing money, showing that most events are dialectical rather than good or bad. Finally, participants were asked to reflect upon the role of dialectical thinking in their life. The dialectical thinking intervention enhanced subsequent the degree to which people felt they changed as a consequence of the training, even months later.

Dialectical thinking may enable people to update and refine their schemas and tendencies more readily. Dialectical thinking could also facilitate versatility: People who adopt this style accept a wide range of learning styles, for example, and therefore can adapt to the circumstances more effectively. People low in dialectical thinking may initially reject new information but, after contemplation over time, may accept an alternative approach completely.


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