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Need for closure is a psychological term used to describe an individual’s desire for a definite cognitive closure as opposed to enduring ambiguity.
Need for closure scale
The need for closure varies across individuals, situations, and cultures. A person with a high need for closure prefers order and predictability and is decisive and close minded. This person also feels discomfort from ambiguity (Hiel & Mervielde 2003). Someone rating low on need for closure will express more ideational fluidity and emit more creative acts (Chirumbolo et al., 2004).
The Need for Closure Scale (NFCS) was developed by Arie Kruglanski, Donna Webster, and Adena Klem in 1993. Items on the scale include statements such as “I think that having clear rules and order at work is essential to success.” and “I do not like situations that are uncertain”. Items such as “Even after I’ve made up my mind about something, I am always eager to consider a different opinion.” and “I like to have friends who are unpredictable” are reversed scored (Kruglanski, Webster, and Klem, 1993). This scale is composed of 42 items and has been used in numerous research studies and has been translated into multiple languages. In 2007, Roets and Van Hiel revised the scale to resolve the psychometric problems (see Neuberg et al., 1997) and obtain a stable, one-dimensional scale.
The Need for Closure scale exhibits low to moderate association with the following: “authoritarianism, intolerance of ambiguity, dogmatism, need for cognition, cognitive complexity, impulsivity, need for structure, and fear of invalidity, while retaining considerable distinctiveness from those various constructs” (Webster & Kruglanski, 1994). It does not appear to be related with the intelligence level nor social desirability concerns.
Individuals scoring high on need for closure are likely to quickly grasp closure by relying on early cues and the first answer they come across (Chirumbolo, et al., 2004). The need for closure is also said to lead to a very narrow information search and a higher tendency to use cognitive heuristics when it comes to finding a solution to a question (Van Hiel and Mervielde, 2003).
In studies on creativity, individuals rating low on need for closure produced a larger frequency of novel solutions that motivated and inspired others in their group. Low need for closure members were more productive and outcomes of projects were rated as more creative (Chriumbolo et al., 2004).
Some researchers have reached the conclusion that a desire for simple structure is the true cause of cognitive closure (Neuberg, et al., 1997). Others predict that stressors such as time pressure lead to a tendency to stick with a given strategy because of a heightened need for closure (Kruglanski, et al., 1997).
- Need for cognition
- Allocution: an opportunity or legal requirement for someone being convicted of a crime to attempt to make amends verbally.
- Twelve-step program
- Zero-risk bias
- Chirumbolo, A., Livi, S., Mannetti, L., Pierro, A., Kruglanski, A. (2004) Effects of Need for Closure on Creativity in Small Group Interactions. European Journal of Personality, 18, 265-278.
- Kruglanski, A. W., Webster, D. M., & Klem, A. (1993). Motivated resistance and openness to persuasion in the presence or absence of prior information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65 (5), 861-876
- Neuberg, S., Judice, T., & West, S (1997). What the need for Closure Scale measures and what it does not: Toward differentiating among related epistemic motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1396-1412.
- Roets, A., & Van Hiel, A. (2007). Separating ability from need: Clarifying the dimensional structure of the need for closure scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 266-280.
- Van Hiel, A., Mervielde, I. (2003) The Need for closure and the Spontaneous Use of Complex and Simple Cognitive Structures. The Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 559-568.
- Webster, D., Kruglanski, A. (1994) Individual differences in need for cognitive closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1049-1062.