Individual Differences in Need for Cognitive Closure

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DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.67.6.1049 · Source: PubMed
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Abstract
This article introduces an individual-difference measure of the need for cognitive closure. As a dispositional construct, the need for cognitive closure is presently treated as a latent variable manifested through several different aspects, namely, desire for predictability, preference for order and structure, discomfort with ambiguity, decisiveness, and close-mindedness. This article presents psychometric work on the measure as well as several validation studies including (a) a "known-groups" discrimination between populations assumed to differ in their need for closure, (b) discriminant and convergent validation with respect to related personality measures, and (c) replication of effects obtained with situational inductions of the need for closure. The present findings suggest that the Need for Closure Scale is a reliable and valid instrument of considerable potential utility in future "motivated social cognition" research.
PERSONALITY PROCESSES AND INDIVIDUAL
DIFFERENCES
Individual Differences in Need for Cognitive Closure
Donna M. Webster and Arie
W.
Kruglanski
This article introduces an individual-difference measure of the need for cognitive closure. As a dis-
positional construct, the need for cognitive closure is presently treated as a latent variable manifested
through several different aspects, namely, desire for predictability, preference for order and structure,
discomfort with ambiguity, decisiveness, and close-mindedness. This article presents psychometric
work on the measure as well as several validation studies including (a) a "known-groups" discrimi-
nation between populations assumed to differ in their need for closure, (b) discriminant and con-
vergent validation with respect to related personality measures, and (c) replication of effects obtained
with situational inductions of the need for closure. The present findings suggest that the Need for
Closure Scale is a reliable and valid instrument of considerable potential utility in future "motivated
social cognition" research.
In this article, we describe a dimension of individual differ-
ences related to persons' motivation with respect to information
processing and judgment. This motivation is referred to as the
need for
cognitive
closure.
As used here, the term
need
denotes
a motivated tendency or a proclivity rather than a tissue deficit
(for a similar use see Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). In previous the-
ory and research (Kruglanski, 1989,
1990b;
Kruglanski
&
Web-
ster, 1991) "need for closure" was defined in terms of
a
desire
for "an answer on a given topic, any answer, . . . compared to
confusion and ambiguity" (Kruglanski, 1990b, p. 337). Such
need was referred to as "nonspecific" and was contrasted with
needs for "specific
closure,"
that
is,
for particular
(e.g.,
ego-pro-
tective or enhancing) answers to one's questions.
The need for (nonspecific) cognitive closure is assumed to be
proportionate to the perceived benefits of possessing closure,
the perceived costs of lacking
closure,
or
both.
For instance, clo-
sure affords predictability and a base for action. Thus, need for
closure may arise where predictability or action seem
important.
Similarly, the absence of
closure
may seem costly in various
circumstances. Thus, under time pressure the absence of clo-
sure may imply the danger of missing an important deadline.
Hence, time pressure should elevate the need for closure. A
different cost of lacking closure may stem from perceived labors
of further information processing. Where processing is seen as
Donna M. Webster and Arie W. Kruglanski, Department of Psychol-
ogy, University of Maryland, College Park.
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health
Grant 5R01MH 4612-02. We wish to thank Alan Heaton for his assis-
tance in the early development of the scale and Tom Ford for his assis-
tance with data analyses.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Donna M. Webster, who is now at the Department of Psychology, Uni-
versity of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
32611.
effortful or otherwise costly, the need for closure may
be,
there-
fore,
elevated. The need for closure may also be aroused when
the judgmental task appears intrinsically dull and unattractive
to the individual. Under such circumstances, closure may serve
as a means of escaping an unpleasant (hence, a subjectively
costly) activity.
Functionally opposite to the need for closure is the need to
avoid closure. Those two needs are conceptualized as ends of a
continuum ranging from strong strivings for closure to strong
resistance of closure (Kruglanski, 1989). The need to avoid clo-
sure may stem from the perceived costs of possessing closure
(e.g., envisioned penalties for an erroneous closure or perceived
drawbacks of actions implied
by
closure) and the perceived ben-
efits of lacking closure (e.g., immunity from possible criticism
of any given closure).
The foregoing discussion suggests that need for closure may
vary as a function of the situation. Indeed, situational induc-
tions of need for closure have often been used in past research.
Thus,
Kruglanski and Freund (1983) found that elevating the
need for closure through time pressure increased subjects' ten-
dency to succumb to primacy effects in impression formation,
render stereotypically driven
judgments,
and anchor judgments
on initial estimates, all presumed to represent various effects of
the need for closure on the judgmental process. Similar time-
pressure effects were obtained in research by Freund, Kruglan-
ski,
and Schpitzajzen (1985), Heaton and Kruglanski (1991),
Jamieson and Zanna
(1989),
and Sanbomatsu and
Fazio
(1990).
Webster (1993) manipulated the need for closure through
varying the perceived attractiveness of an attitude-attribution
task (Jones & Harris, 1967). When the task was perceived as
unattractive (rendering extensive processing of relevant infor-
mation costly), subjects were more likely to exhibit the "corre-
spondence bias" than when the task was perceived as moder-
ately attractive. Furthermore, when the task was perceived as
highly attractive (reducing the perceived costs of information
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1994,
Vol.
67, No. 6, 1049-1062
Copyright 1994 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-3514/94/S3.00
1049
1050
DONNA M. WEBSTER AND ARIE W. KRUGLANSKI
processing), the tendency to exhibit the correspondence bias
was
all but eliminated.
Heightened need for closure may dispose persons to react
negatively to individuals who disrupt closure (e.g., to opinion
deviates in a group). Indeed, Kruglanski and Webster (1991)
found that in proximity to the decision deadline, or in the pres-
ence of environmental noise, both assumed to enhance the de-
sirability of closure, group members tended more to reject opin-
ion deviates, and to be more evaluatively positive toward con-
forming individuals who made special efforts on behalf of the
consensual opinion.
Need for Closure as an Individual-Difference Dimension
Though need for closure may vary as a function of the situa-
tion, it may also represent a dimension of stable individual
differences. This possibility is explored in the present research.
The development of an individual-difference measure of the
need for closure promises to offer three distinct advantages.
First, it affords a desirable cross validation of our previous, sit-
uational, inductions of this motivation. Theoretically, individu-
als who score high on our personality measure of
the
need for
closure should exhibit similar judgmental patterns to those put
under need for closure through such situational manipulations
as time pressure, environmental noise, or task attractiveness. A
comparison of results from a personality measure and situa-
tional inductions represents a rigorous test of
the
need for clo-
sure construct.
Secondly, a development of an individual-difference measure
allows a richer exploration of the various subjective manifesta-
tions of the need for closure. In previous studies, assessment
of need for closure often amounted to "manipulation checks"
designed to tap whether the intended experimental conditions
(e.g., of task attractiveness or unpleasant noise) were created.
Construction of a specific personality scale affords the opportu-
nity for a more differentiated and complex conceptualization of
ways in which the need for closure may be subjectively experi-
enced. Beyond its methodological significance then, an individ-
ual-difference measure represents an opportunity for theoreti-
cal refinement.
Finally, an individual-difference measure of the need for cog-
nitive closure enables the allocation of individual variance to a
personality main effect and to the person-situation interaction,
reducing error variance and enhancing the statistical power for
assessing situational effects (cf. Eysenck, 1954).
In the following paragraphs, we describe a program of re-
search in which an individual-difference measure of the need
for closure is developed and tested. We first describe the item
selection process and the basic psychometric work on the scale.
Subsequently,
we
report on discriminant validation of the scale
against alternative personality measures.
We
then report a vali-
dation of the scale through the "known-group" method and a
series of experiments examining the relation of the scale scores
to a variety of cognitive measures. This last set of studies at-
tempts to replicate by means of our individual-difference mea-
sure a variety of previous
findings
obtained through situational
inductions of the need for closure.
Study
1:
Psychometric Properties of the Need for
Closure Scale (NFCS)
In developing the NFCS, our initial item-generation process
attempted to capture a broad sense of
the
construct. In accor-
dance with the underlying theory (Kruglanski, 1989, 1990a,
1990b),
we
reasoned that the need for closure may express itself
in various
ways.
Thus,
we
treated it
as
a latent variable manifest
through different aspects (Carver, 1989). In particular,
we
iden-
tified five major such aspects assumed to broadly represent the
universe of the construct and generated diverse items corre-
spondent with those aspects.
Theoretically, persons with a high need for closure should de-
sire definite order and structure in their lives and abhor uncon-
strained chaos and disorder. Accordingly, one subset of items
we
have selected assessed the extent to which individuals professed
a preference for
order
and
structure
in their environment (e.g.,
"I think that having clear rules and order at work
is
essential for
success"). We included in this group
five
items (namely, NFCS
items 6, 10, 32, 33, and 35) from a previous instrument based
on the
lay
epistemic theory (Kruglanski,
1989)
referred
to as
the
Personal Need for Structure Scale (M. Thompson, Naccarato,
Parker, & Moskowitz, 1993). A second item subset pertained
to the affective
discomfort
occasioned by
ambiguity,
that is, an
absence of closure (e.g., "I'd rather know bad news than stay in
a state of uncertainty"). We assumed that individuals with a
high need for closure would experience as aversive situations
devoid of closure, in which their motivation is frustrated. A
third subset of
items
tapped the urgency of
striving
for closure
in judgment and decision making (e.g., "I usually make impor-
tant decisions quickly and confidently"). We assumed that per-
sons with a high need for closure would experience an urgent
desire to reach closure, reflected in a
decisiveness
of their judg-
ments and choices. Three items in this group (namely, NFCS
items 15, 22, and 37) were taken from M. Thompson, Nacca-
rato,
Parker, and Moskowitz's
(1993)
Personal Fear of Invalidity
Scale.
The fourth and fifth item subsets pertained to the desire for
secure or stable knowledge, assumed to increase under high
need for closure. A secure knowledge is one that can be relied
on across circumstances and is unchallenged by exceptions or
disagreements. Specifically, the fourth item subset tapped the
trans-situational-consistency implication of secure knowledge,
affording
predictability
to future contexts (e.g., "I don't like to
go
into a situation without knowing what
I
can expect from it").
This subset too contained several items (namely NFCS items
3,
5, and 19) from the Personal Need for Structure Scale (M.
Thompson, Naccarato, Parker, & Moskowitz, 1993). The fifth
subset tapped the
close-mindedness
that the desire for secure
closure may induce, that is, an unwillingness to have one's
knowledge confronted
(hence,
rendered insecure) by alternative
opinions or inconsistent evidence
(e.g.,
"I do not usually consult
many different opinions before forming my own view").
Items in all the foregoing categories were intended to tap di-
verse assumed manifestations of the need for closure. As our
theoretical interest
was
in this latent construct
as
such,
its
extent
was assessed additively across the different item categories
(Carver, 1989).
The 42 items composing the NFCS are presented in Krug-
NEED FOR CLOSURE
1051
lanski, Webster, and Klem (1993). Subjects indicate the extent
to which they endorse each item by responding to a
6-point
Likert scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree)
to 6 (strongly
agree).
Items 2, 5, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 27, 28, 34,
37,
38, and 42 were designed to tap respondents' need to avoid
closure; hence, these items are reverse scored. Items tapping the
need for closure were negatively correlated with those tapping
the need to avoid closure (r = -.4566, n =
281,
p < .01), sup-
porting a bipolar conceptualization of the need for closure con-
struct (Kruglanski, 1989). Respondents' composite need for
closure score is calculated by summing across each of the indi-
vidual items (after reverse scoring the appropriate items).
The original form of the scale included a total of 57 items.
On the basis of various item analyses, 15 of those items were
dropped, leaving 42 items that make up the revised composite
scale. The specific analyses, on which basis the original scale
was revised, are described next.
The NFCS was administered to two independent, divergent
groups of individuals. The
first
group, henceforth referred to as
the student sample, consisted of psychology undergraduates.
The second group, referred to as the library
sample,
consisted
of adults at public libraries. Our purpose was to examine
whether the psychometric properties of the scale replicate
across different subject populations, and hence whether they
may be considered of general utility.
Student Sample
Our student sample consisted of 146 female and 135 male
undergraduates in an introductory psychology course at the
University of Maryland at College Park. They participated in
the study to fulfill a course requirement. These students com-
pleted the 57-item form of
the
NFCS at the start of
a
14-week
semester. Mean composite scale scores did not differ signifi-
cantly for the two gender groups (M for men = 154.9; M for
women = 153.94). To provide a means of assessing the test-
retest reliability of the
scale,
a
subgroup
(n
= 49) of the original
sample returned after a 12-13-week interval and completed the
(revised) scale a second time.
Item Selection
Exploratory
factor
analysis.
As part of the item selection
process,
we
began by conducting an exploratory factor analysis
(SPSSX, varimax rotation).
We
expected greater interitem cor-
relation within groups of items belonging to the same subset.
Hence, a pattern of factor loadings consistent with a five-factor
solution was expected. The scree plot presented in Figure
1
de-
picts the pattern of
eigenvalues.
As noted by the rapid drop in
magnitude of eigenvalues after the fifth factor, five factors ac-
count for a substantial amount of the variance (38%) and the
remaining factors appear less capable of accounting for vari-
ance.
Furthermore, the configuration of loadings on each of the
five factors supports the predicted pattern, such that loadings of
most items were relatively high on the factor correspondent to
the predicted subset and low or zero on the remaining factors.
In accordance with the simple structure criterion (Thurstone,
1942),
items loading .30 or higher on more than one factor were
eliminated. The resultant factor loadings are presented in
Table 1.
Reliability. Cronbach's alpha
was
recalculated for the com-
posite scale after removing each item in turn and dropping
items that substantially reduced internal consistency. As noted
earlier, 15 items in all were dropped from the original scale on
the basis of this and the earlier item analyses.
Additional analyses indicated that the revised, 42-item scale
possesses high internal consistency (Cronbach's a = .8405) as
well as high test-retest reliability (r = .8611). Cronbach's alpha
for each of the item subsets ranged from .62 to .82 and are pre-
sented in Table 2.
Factor
structure.
Our theory predicts that the need for cog-
nitive closure is a unitary latent variable, potentially manifest
in various
ways.
Thus, we expected that a confirmatory factor
analysis would support a single-factor model as the best fit to
our data. However, because items were generated as part of five
general domains, we expected greater interitem correlation
within each of
those
facets. This expectation is consistent with
results of
the
exploratory factor analysis. Hence, the model we
hypothesized as providing the best fit to our data was a one-
factor model that included a specification of correlated errors,
that is, shared domain-specific variance within each of
the
five
facets.
In other
words,
we expected to find support for a model
specifying a single coherent construct with
five
facets.
The hypothesized model was evaluated through a confirma-
tory factor analysis (through LISREL, SPSSX) where compari-
sons were made between the hypothesized model and models
specifying alternative structural relationships among the scale
items.
In particular,
we
were interested in whether the hypothe-
sized model would provide a better fit to the data than a model
specifying five correlated or
five
orthogonal factors that corre-
sponded to the
five
domains within which items
were
generated.
Thus,
model comparisons
were
conducted between the hypoth-
esized model and each of the two
five-factor
models. Further-
more,
we
compared the hypothesized single-factor model with a
single-factor model that did not include correlated
errors
within
item domains.
Table 3 summarizes tests of goodness of fit for each of the
four competing models. According to goodness-of-fit indexes,
the hypothesized model seems to provide the best fit to the data
among the four competing models. Results of chi-square
difference tests between the competing models also indicate the
hypothesized model provides
a
significantly better
fit
to the data
than any of
the
other competing models. Taken together, those
results support our hypothesis that the NFCS assesses a single
latent variable, potentially manifest in various ways.
Library Sample
Our second group of respondents consisted of 77 male and 95
female adults recruited at three different public libraries in the
suburban Maryland area and who volunteered to participate in
the study. As with the first group, the mean composite scale
scores did not differ significantly for the two gender groups (M
for men =
156.78;
M for women = 153.35). Subjects ranged in
age from 24 to 56 years and were not affiliated with the Univer-
sity of
Maryland.
They all completed the 42-item revised form
of the NFCS.
1052
DONNA M. WEBSTER AND ARIE W. KRUGLANSKI
9.130
4.900
3 .090
2.161
1.592
1.359
1.144
.975
.733
.524
.350
.177
* * * *
*****
*******
Figure
1.
Scree plot for original Need for Closure Scale.
Reliability. Reliability analyses replicate the earlier finding
that the revised, 42-item scale has high internal consistency
(Cronbach's a = .8413). Cronbach's alpha for each of the item
subsets ranged from
.63
to .80 and are presented in Table 2.
Factor
structure.
A confirmatory factor analysis (through
LISREL, SPSSX) was performed on data from this group, and
the model comparisons conducted for the student sample were
repeated. The results replicate our earlier findings. According
to goodness-of-fit
indexes,
the hypothesized single-factor model
with correlated errors within domains
seems
to provide the best
fit to the data among the four competing
models.
Results of
chi-
square difference tests between the competing models also indi-
cate that the hypothesized model provides a significantly better
fit to the data than any of the other competing models. Those
results are presented in Table 3.
In summary, the results from our
two
samples of respondents
suggest that the NFCS reliably
assesses
the need for closure con-
struct. In addition, it seems to capture the single latent variable
proposed by lay epistemic theory. Furthermore, the high test-
retest reliability observed over a 12-13-week period indicates
that the personality construct tapped by the scale is relatively
stable. Finally, gender does not seem to affect one's score on the
NFCS.
Study 2: The NFCS and Other Relevant Tests
The purpose of our second study
was
to examine the associa-
tion between the NFCS and other relevant measures to ascer-
tain whether the NFCS taps a unique variable distinct from al-
ternative relevant constructs. Essentially the latter constructs
fell into three
categories:
(a)
overly inclusive
constructs that be-
side tapping aspects of the need for closure also tapped other
unrelated variables, (b)
overly exclusive
constructs that tapped
only some but not other aspects of the need for closure, and (c)
constructs seemingly unrelated to the need for closure, yet
whose pervasive relevance to various sociocognitive phenom-
ena suggested the advisability of empirically probing their re-
lations to this variable.
The overly inclusive category contained scales measuring au-
thoritarianism, dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, cognitive
complexity, and impulsivity.
As we
elaborate later, some aspects
of those concepts are partially related to the need for closure,
whereas other aspects are not.
The overly exclusive category contained scales measuring the
need for structure and the fear of
invalidity.
Those scales, also
derived from the lay epistemic theory, tap some aspects of the
need for closure construct but not others. Finally, the category
of unrelated constructs of general relevance included scales
measuring social desirability, need for cognition, and
intelligence.
Method
Subjects. One hundred fifty-seven male and female introductory
psychology students at the University of Maryland participated in the
study to fulfill a course requirement
NEED FOR CLOSURE
1053
Table 1
Factor Loadings for Need for Closure Scale:
Exploratory Factor Analysis
Items
Factor loadings
(n = 281)
Factor
1:
Preference for Order
Item 33
Item 35
Item 32
Item 06
Item
20
(reversed)
Item 25
Item 01
Item 27 (reversed)
Item 42 (reversed)
Item 10
.7462
.7139
.6712
.6512
.6358
.5930
.4810
.4781
.4388
.3847
Factor
2:
Preference for Predictability
Item
19
(reversed)
Item 41
Item 25
Item
05
(reversed)
Item 26
Item
18
(reversed)
Item
11
Item
07
.7244
.6203
.5712
.5509
.5286
.5204
.4638
.3727
Factor
3:
Decisiveness
Item 22 (reversed)
Item
17
(reversed)
Item 16
Item 37 (reversed)
Item 13
Item
15
(reversed)
Item
12
(reversed)
.7828
.7283
.6771
.6021
.5343
.5178
.4806
Factor
4:
Discomfort With Ambiguity
Item 30
Item 36
Item 08
Item 31
Item 14
Item 29
Item 21
Item 39
Item 03
.5730
.5493
.5186
.4672
.4402
.4341
.3977
.2262
.5559
Factor
5:
Closed-Mindedness
Item
28
(reversed)
Item 24 (reversed)
Item
38
(reversed)
Item 40
Item 02 (reversed)
Item
34
(reversed)
Item 04
Item 09
.7141
.6207
.6119
.4940
.4698
.4486
.2290
.2020
Procedure. Ninety-seven subjects working in small groups that
ranged in size from 3 to 12 subjects completed a packet of question-
naires including the NFCS; the F Scale, form 40 (Sanford, Adomo,
Frenkel-Brunswik, & Levinson, 1950); the Dogmatism Scale, form E
(Rokeach, 1960); the Social Desirability Scale (Crowne & Marlowe,
1964);
the Need for Cognition Scale (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982); the In-
Table 2
Cronbach
's
Alpha for Need for Closure Scale and Facets
Facet
Group
1
(« = 281)
Group 2
= 172)
Total 42-item scale
Facet
1
(Structure)
Facet
2
(Predictability)
Facet
3
(Decisiveness)
Facet 4 (Ambiguity)
Facet
5
(Closed Mind)
.8405
.8216
.7867
.7001
.6656
.6152
.8413
.7725
.7181
.7882
.8002
.6166
tolerance of Ambiguity Scale (Eysenck, 1954); the Personal Need for
Structure Scale (Neuberg
&
Newsom,
1993;
M. Thompson, Naccarato,
Parker, & Moskowitz, 1993); and the Personal Fear of Invalidity Scale
(M.
Thompson, Naccarato, Parker, & Moskowitz, 1993). Subjects re-
ceived one of four possible packets, each including a different random-
ized order of
tests.
A second group of tests was administered to 60 other subjects. First,
the Quick Test (QT; Ammons & Ammons, 1962), which is a measure
of
intelligence,
was administered to subjects individually. In addition,
subjects worked in groups ranging from
1
to
10
persons and completed
the Modified Bieri REP Test (Bieri, 1966), which assesses cognitive
complexity, and the Control (vs. Impulsiveness) subscale of the Multi-
dimensional Personality Questionnaire (Tellegen, 1982). The order in
which subjects received each of the three tests was determined ran-
domly. Correlations of each of the aforementioned measures with the
NFCS are summarized in Table 4.
Table 3
Goodness-of-Fit Indexes (GFIs) and Chi-Square Difference
Tests From Confirmatory Factor Analyses of the
Need for Closure Scale
Test
Group
1
(n = 281)
Group
2
(n=172)
Test of
1-factor
model/correlated errors
within facets
x
2
df
GFI
Test of
5-correlated
factor model
x
2
df
GFI
Test of
5-orthogonal
factor model
x
2
df
GFI
Test of
1-factor
model/uncorrelated errors
within facets
x
2
df
GFI
X
2
difference for
1-factor
model/correlated
errors and
5-correlated
factor model"
x
2
difference for
1-factor
model/correlated
errors and
5-orthogonal
factor model"
x
2
difference for
1-factor
model/correlated
errors and
1-factor
model/
uncorrelated errors*
1,097.00
661
.868
1,731.85
809
.796
2,025.31
824
.761
2,793.24
819
.177
634.85
928.31
1,696.24
1,335.40
661
.755
1,813.85
809
.670
1,924.66
824
.650
2,797.18
819
.501
478.45
589.26
1,461.78
" All x
2
differences are significant atp < .001.
1054
DONNA M. WEBSTER AND ARIE W. KRUGLANSKI
Table 4
Correlations
of
the
Need for
Closure Scale (NFCS) and Facets
With
Other Relevant Personality Measures
Personality measure
Dogmatism Scale
F Scale (authoritarianism)
Intolerance of Ambiguity Scale
Fear of Invalidity Scale
Need for Structure Scale
Need for Cognition Scale
Bieri REP Test (cognitive
complexity)
MPQ Control Subscale
(impulsivity)
Social Desirability Scale
Quick Test (intelligence)
NFCS
.2870**
.2660*
.2877**
-.2109*
.2355**
-.2831*
-.2952*
.2683
-.0181
-.1710
Order
.3376**
.2929**
.3553**
.0379
.2763**
-.3092**
-.3256*
.2349
.0713
-.2747
Predictability
.2621*
.2312*
.2261*
-.1406
.2737**
-.1420
-.1771
.1507
.0326
-.1213
Decisiveness
.2743*
-.1158
-.2230
-.3867**
-.2156
.1048
-.0750
.2471
.0522
.0726
Ambiguity
.3268**
.4028**
.3579**
.0202
.1316
-.1291
-.1923
.1429
-.1022
-.0248
Closed-
Mindedness
.1917
.0979
.0841
-.1447
.0362
-.3219**
-.3061*
.1968
-.1887
-.0097
Note. Order = Preference for Order; Predictability = Preference for Predictability; Ambiguity = Discomfort With Ambiguity; MPQ = Multidi-
mensional Personality Questionnaire.
*P<.05.
**p<m.
Results
Authoritarianism and
need
for
closure.
Several aspects of
authoritarianism as characterized by Sanford et al. (1950) ap-
pear to relate in part to the need for closure (e.g., rigidity, con-
ventionalism, and intolerance of those who violate conven-
tional norms), whereas other aspects of authoritarianism seem
to be relatively unrelated to the need for closure (e.g., exagger-
ated assertion of
power,
superstition, projectivity, and preoccu-
pation with sexual "goings-on").
We
assumed that need for clo-
sure and authoritarianism represent distinct concepts encom-
passing a few common and many divergent elements.
Consequently, we expected a low, positive correlation between
scores on the NFCS and the F
Scale.
As expected, the observed correlation between need for clo-
sure and authoritarianism was low and positive (r = .2660).
Those
results are given
in
Table
4.
Our findings
thus
suggest that
need for
closure
and authoritarianism are conceptually distinct.
Intolerance
of ambiguity and need for
closure.
The concept
of intolerance of ambiguity was first discussed by Frenkel-
Brunswik (1949), and a scale was later created (Eysenck, 1954)
to measure this construct. Conceptually, need for closure is re-
lated to one's tolerance for ambiguity because uncertainty
threatens cognitive closure. The theoretical importance of this
relation is evidenced by items generated as part of our general
subset termed
discomfort with
ambiguity.
However, the Intoler-
ance of Ambiguity Scale (Eysenck, 1954) includes several items
that seem to address issues other than intolerance of ambiguity
(e.g., religious philosophy and perception of appropriate gender
roles).
Furthermore,
we
have hypothesized that discomfort with
ambiguity is only one of several major surface manifestations
of the need for closure. Consequently,
we
expected correlations
between the NFCS and the Intolerance of Ambiguity Scale to
be low and positive.
This expectation
was
confirmed: The correlation between the
NFCS and the Intolerance of Ambiguity
Scale was low
and pos-
itive (r
=
.2877). As might be expected, items belonging to the
Discomfort With Ambiguity subset exhibited a slightly higher
positive correlation with intolerance of ambiguity (r
=
.3579).
The remaining subsets exhibited low positive or nonsignificant
correlations with intolerance of ambiguity. Those results are
summarized in Table 4. They seem to justify the conclusion
that the NFCS and the Intolerance of Ambiguity Scale tap dis-
tinct phenomena.
Dogmatism
and
need for
closure.
The extent to which one's
belief systems are open or closed has been termed dogmatism
(Rokeach, 1960). A need for closure may foster closed belief
systems because openness to conflicting information might
threaten a state of closure. Hence, need for closure and dogma-
tism appear to be conceptually related. However, the instru-
ment designed to measure dogmatism
seems to
tap several other
constructs unrelated to the need for closure (e.g., the adequacy
of
self,
power and status, and alienation of
people).
Hence, we
expected low, positive correlations between the NFCS and the
Dogmatism Scale. Indeed, as noted in Table 4, the correlation
between the NFCS and dogmatism was low and positive (r =
.2870),
suggesting that the NFCS and the Dogmatism Scale as-
sess
distinct concepts.
Cognitive
complexity and need for
closure.
Cognitive com-
plexity has been described as a capacity to interpret social be-
havior in a multidimensional way or to use a greater number of
dimensions in making judgments (Bieri, 1966; Kelly, 1955).
One widely used measure of
cognitive
complexity is the Modi-
fied Bieri REP Test, which
was
developed on the basis of Kelly's
(1955) theory of personal constructs. This test requires the re-
spondent to judge
10
role types (persons relevant to the respon-
dent) on 10 dimensions provided by the experimenter. The
score for cognitive complexity is derived by comparing the rat-
ing
given to each individual on a particular dimension with rat-
ings given
to that individual on the other dimensions.
We expected that cognitive complexity would be negatively
related to need for
closure
because a simplistic cognitive system
for interpreting the environment may provide secure or stable
closure noncontingent on specific circumstances, and hence be
general across
situations.
Conversely, the presence
or absence
of
NEED FOR CLOSURE
1055
cognitive complexity may depend on several factors other than
the need for
closure,
that
is,
the enjoyment of thinking, an aes-
thetic value placed on complexity or simplicity, or the intellec-
tual capability
to develop
complex cognitive structures
(Bar-Tal,
in press). Thus, the relationship between cognitive complexity
and need for closure was expected to be small to moderate and
negative. As expected, the correlation between the NFCS and
the Modified Bieri REP Test was small and negative (r =
-.2952).
Impulsivity and need for
closure.
Impulsivity has been re-
ferred to as a tendency to be impulsive, spontaneous, and care-
less as opposed to controlled, reflective, and cautious (Tellegen,
1982).
As such, it may be positively related to need for closure.
Specifically, a heightened need for closure may increase the im-
mediacy with which closure is desired. This may increase the
readiness to accept and act on the
first
idea that comes to mind,
that is, the tendency to be impulsive. However, impulsivity is
known to depend on several factors other than need for closure
such as hyperactivity (e.g., Cantwell & Baker, 1992) or psycho-
pathology (e.g., Bregman, Leckman & Ort, 1988; Ron, 1989).
Consequently, we predicted a low, positive correlation between
impulsivity and need for closure.
Impulsivity was measured using the Control (vs. Impulsive-
ness) Subscale of the Multidimensional Personality Question-
naire (Tellegen, 1982). As expected, a low, positive correlation
between impulsivity and need for closure
was
found
(r =
.2683),
suggesting the constructs are related but distinct.
Need for
structure
and need for
closure.
The Personal Need
for Structure Scale (Neuberg
&
Newsom,
1993;
M. Thompson,
Naccarato, Parker, & Moskowitz, 1993) is an instrument de-
signed to assess one's desire to structure and organize the envi-
ronment.
As
noted
earlier,
like the
NFCS,
the questionnaire was
designed on the basis of the lay epistemic theory
(e.g.,
Kruglan-
ski,
1989). The scale seems to tap two aspects of the need for
closure construct: preference for order and preference for pre-
dictability. In fact, those two factors were identified by Miku-
lincer, Yinon, and Kabili (1991) as accounting for the prepon-
derance of the variance in the Personal Need for Structure
ques-
tionnaire. Consequently, as detailed above, we incorporated
appropriate items from the Personal Need for Structure Scale
when creating the Preference for Order and the Preference for
Predictability subsets of the NFCS. We therefore expected a
moderate positive correlation between the Personal Need for
Structure Scale and both the Preference for Order subset and
the Preference for Predictability subset of NFCS
items.
Further-
more, because these two preferences represent only two of the
five major hypothesized surface manifestations of the need for
closure construct, we expected a low, positive correlation be-
tween the Personal Need for Structure Scale and the composite
NFCS.
These expectations were confirmed. As shown in Table 4, a
low, positive correlation was obtained between the NFCS and
the Personal Need for Structure Scale (r = .2355). Also as ex-
pected, the Preference for Predictability and Preference for Or-
der
subscales
exhibited slightly
higher,
positive correlations with
the Personal Need for Structure Scale (r
=
.2763 and r = .2737,
respectively). The remaining subscales exhibited nonsignificant
correlations with the Personal Need for Structure
Scale.
On the
basis of
these
data, it seems fair to conclude that the Need for
Closure and Personal Need for Structure Scales, though par-
tially related, tap distinct phenomena.
Fear
of
invalidity and
need for
closure.
The Personal Fear
of
Invalidity Scale
(M.
Thompson, Naccarato, Parker,
&
Moskow-
itz,
1993) is an instrument designed to assess one's decision-
making style and fear of making judgmental errors. Like the
Personal Need for Structure
Scale,
this questionnaire
was
based
on the lay epistemic theory. The scale seems to tap one specific
aspect of the need for closure construct: indecisiveness. Accord-
ingly, as noted earlier, we incorporated (in reverse-scored form)
several items from the Personal Fear of Invalidity Scale when
creating the Decisiveness subset of the NFCS. We, therefore,
expected a moderate, negative correlation between the Personal
Fear of Invalidity Scale and items composing the Decisiveness
subset of the NFCS. However, because decisiveness represents
only one of the hypothesized surface manifestations of the need
for closure, we expected low, negative correlations between the
Personal Fear of Invalidity Scale and the composite NFCS.
This prediction was supported. As shown in Table 4, a low,
negative correlation was obtained between the NFCS and the
Personal Fear of Invalidity Scale
(r =
-.2109).
Also as
expected,
the Decisiveness subset of the NFCS exhibited a slightly higher,
negative correlation with the Personal Fear of Invalidity Scale (r
= -.3867). All other subsets exhibited nonsignificant corre-
lations with the
Personal Fear of Invalidity
Scale.
It thus
appears
that fear of invalidity and need for closure, though partially re-
lated, tap substantially different constructs.
Need for
cognition
and need for
closure.
The need for cog-
nition refers to the extent to which one "engages in and enjoys
thinking" (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982, p. 1). Individuals high (vs.
low) in need for cognition, on the one hand, have been found
to process information in a more elaborative, effortful manner
(Cacioppo, Petty, & Morris, 1983). Hence, the need for cogni-
tion
seems
to exert a quantitative influence on cognitive activity
(e.g., affecting how much thought one engages
in).
The need for
closure, on the other hand, refers
to
a desired cognitive end state
that might be obtained by either extensive processing or
by
lim-
ited processing. Hence, the relation between need for closure
and need for cognition is not simple or straightforward.
We
ex-
pected that whenever possible, individuals high in the need for
closure would engage in limited processing in pursuit of a quick
closure. However, in other cases (e.g., when initial processing
fails to provide closure), high
(vs.
low) need for closure individ-
uals may engage in more extensive processing to reach the de-
sired cognitive end state (Kruglanski, Peri, & Zakai, 1991).
Consequently,
we
predicted a
low,
negative correlation between
need for closure and need for cognition.
As shown in Table 4, the observed correlation between need
for closure and need for cognition was indeed low and negative
(r = —.2831). Similarly, the NFCS subsets exhibited low, nega-
tive or nonsignificant correlations with need for cognition.
Hence, it seems unlikely that the NFCS and the Need for Cog-
nition Scale reflect the same underlying construct.
Intelligence
and need for
closure.
Because individuals high
in need for closure often limit their information-processing ac-
tivities, this may suggest a negative relationship between intelli-
gence and need for closure. However, need for closure may
1056
DONNA M. WEBSTER AND ARIE W. KRUGLANSKI
sometimes promote extensive information processing where
closure is lacking. Thus, the relationship between need for clo-
sure and intelligence
is
not readily apparent. Our general expec-
tation was that intelligence and need for closure would be
largely uncorrelated.
To obtain an IQ score for each subject, the QT (Ammons &
Ammons,
1962) was
administered to subjects individually. This
test has been shown to correlate very well with scores on the
1937 Stanford Binet as well as various forms of the Wechsler
tests of
intelligence.
The QT requires the experimenter to pre-
sent the respondent with a series of pictures and a set of words.
The respondent is then asked to select the picture that is most
relevant to each of the
words.
On this measure, higher
IQ
scores
are indicated
by a
greater number of correct
matches.
As
shown
in Table 4, the observed correlation between intelligence and
need for closure is low and negative (r = —.1710) but not
significant.
Social
desirability
and need for
closure.
As expected, the
NFCS and each of its subscales exhibited no correlation with
the Crowne-Marlowe Social Desirability Scale.
Discussion
In summary, the NFCS appears to possess acceptable dis-
criminant and convergent validity with respect to other relevant
psychological measures. Admittedly, the set of constructs in ref-
erence to which we validated the NFCS is not exhaustive. For
instance, for technical reasons (related to the scoring of pro-
jective measures) we have excluded here Sorrentino's "uncer-
tainty orientation" (Sorrentino
&
Short, 1986). Both
certainty-
and
uncertainty-oriented
individuals strive to have cognitive
closure; however, whereas the former do so through a closed-
minded attitude toward new information, the latter enjoy the
process of attaining closure through open-mindedly
coping with
informational novelty and inconsistency. On balance, one
might expect a low, negative correlation between the need for
closure and uncertainty orientation. This particular prediction
could be investigated in subsequent research.
The need for closure did exhibit the predicted pattern of
re-
lations with a number of other relevant
measures.
Specifically, it
manifested low to moderate association with authoritarianism,
intolerance of ambiguity, dogmatism, need for cognition, cog-
nitive complexity, impulsivity, need for structure, and fear of
invalidity, while retaining considerable distinctiveness from
those various constructs. Finally, as expected, it did not appear
to be related to respondents' intelligence or their concerns re-
garding social desirability. These
findings
attest to the construct
validity of our scale.
Study 3: The NFCS and Known-Groups Validity
To test the known-groups validity of the NFCS we sought to
identify groups of individuals assumed a priori to differ on their
need for closure. In doing so, we used a theory of
careers
pro-
posed by Holland (1985) and designed to explain vocational
behavior.
His work provides evidence
that particular personality
variables predict vocational
choice.
The six personality "types"
relevant to Holland's theory include Realistic, Investigative,
Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. The two types
most relevant to the need for closure construct are the Conven-
tional and Artistic types. Holland's conceptualization implies
that these two personality types vary considerably in their need
for closure. Specifically, the Conventional type is described as
preferring explicit, ordered, and structured
tasks;
and as having
aversion to ambiguous, free, exploratory, or unstructured ones.
This type is described by the adjectives inhibited, conforming,
unimaginative, inflexible, and orderly, all of which depict a per-
sonality likely to be characterized by a relatively high degree of
the need for closure.
In contrast, the Artistic type
is
described
as
preferring ambig-
uous,
free, and unstructured activities and as holding an aver-
sion to explicit, structured, and ordered
activities.
It
is
described
by the adjectives
disorderly,
nonconforming, original, and open.
Holland's description of the Artistic personality type portrays a
personality likely to be characterized by a low dispositional
need for closure.
For the present study
we
selected advanced students who had
chosen a career in either the Conventional or the Artistic do-
main. Specifically, we recruited advanced accounting majors
(representing the Conventional type in Holland's classification)
and advanced studio-art majors (representing the Artistic type)
to constitute our two comparison groups. On the basis of our
earlier discussion, we expected that, overall, accounting majors
would attain higher scores on the NFCS than would studio-art
majors. Additionally, we expected each individual item of the
NFCS to significantly discriminate between the two groups of
subjects.
Method
Subjects. Sixty-three advanced accounting majors and
fifty-one
ad-
vanced studio-art majors at the University of Maryland volunteered to
participate in our study.
Procedure. The experimenter visited
classes
taken exclusively by ei-
ther advanced accounting or advanced studio-art majors and adminis-
tered the NFCS as part of a lesson on personality and career
choice.
She
then delivered a brief lecture describing Holland's work on personality
and vocational choice. Finally, she explained the hypotheses of the cur-
rent study, answered any questions students had, and thanked them for
their participation.
Results and Discussion
Simple one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were con-
ducted on each item to ascertain whether it discriminated be-
tween the accounting majors and the studio-art majors. The re-
sults
of these
tests
indicated that on all
items,
accounting majors
exhibited substantially higher scores than did studio-art majors
(p < .05 in all cases). Additionally, on the average, composite
NFCS scores were higher for accounting (M = 173.3) versus
studio-art majors (M = 139.22),
F(
1,
112) =
101.09,
p
<
.001.
In summary, those individuals assumed to possess a high dis-
positional need for closure, namely accounting majors, in fact
exhibited significantly higher scores on the separate NFCS
items and obtained higher composite NFCS scores than indi-
viduals assumed to possess a
low
dispositional need for closure,