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The Need for Certainty as a Psychological Nexus for Individuals and Society

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Abstract

The Need for Cognitive Closure and Group CentrismNeed for Closure and the Response to TerrorismNeed for Closure and ExtremismReferences
... But why do people hold misplaced certainty? Misplaced certainty may qualify as a tempting shortcut to obtain certainty in an uncertain world [24,25]. Supporting this possibility, research indicates that misplaced certainty originates from participants' strong wants and desires, for example, wanting to attain specific life goals. ...
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We examine conspiracy beliefs in the context of misplaced certainty—certainty that is unsubstantiated by one’s own or others’ skepticism. A conspiracy theory held with misplaced certainty may entail, for instance, “knowing” or feeling certain that secret actors are plotting against society yet acknowledging that this claim lacks evidence or is opposed by most other people. Recent work on misplaced certainty suggests that such certainty predicts and results in antisocial outcomes, including fanatical behavior in terms of determined ignorance, aggression, and adherence to extreme groups. As such, introducing the concept of misplaced certainty to theory and research on conspiracy theories may help identify when and why conspiracy theories lead to deleterious behavioral outcomes. (113 words)
... We term this social cognitive structure-discordant knowing-felt knowledge or certainty about something that one perceives as opposed by the majority of other people, for instance, in terms of being judged as unknowable or inaccurate. Potentially, people adopt this isolating epistemic structure in an effort to satiate desires for certainty, control, and uniqueness (e.g., Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2019;Hofstede, 1991;Imhoff & Lamberty, 2017;Kruglanski & Orehek, 2012;Webster & Kruglanski, 1994;Whitson & Galinsky, 2008). ...
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Examining the epistemic and social-cognitive structures underlying fanaticism, radicalization, and extremism should shed light on how these harmful phenomena develop and can be prevented. In nine studies (N = 3,277), we examined whether discordant knowing-felt knowledge about something that one perceives as opposed by most others-underlies fanaticism. Across multifaceted approaches, experimentally manipulating participants' views to fall under this framework (e.g., "I am certain about X, but most other people think X is unknowable or wrong") heightened indicators of fanaticism, including aggression, determined ignorance, and wanting to join extreme groups in the service of these views. Additional analyses found that this effect occurs via threat-based mechanisms (Studies 1-7), can be intervened on to prevent fanaticism (Study 2), is conditional on the potency of opposition (Study 3), differs from effects on extremism (Study 4), and extends to mental representations of the self (Study 5). Generalizing these findings to real-world contexts, inducing participants with discordant knowledge about the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and the morality of abortion heightened fanaticism regarding these topics (Studies 6 and 7). Additionally, antivaccine fanatics and followers of a real-world fanatical religious group exhibited greater discordant knowing than nonfanatical individuals (Studies 8 and 9). Collectively, the present studies suggest that a specific epistemic structure-discordant knowing-underlies fanaticism, and further, highlight the potential of investigating constructs like fanaticism from an epistemic social cognitive perspective. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... To do so, we examined the potential cognitive and behavioral outcomes of future certainty during two societal events of uncertainty-the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Given the lack of available information and people's desire for information and knowledge during these uncertain events (e.g., Kruglanski & Orehek, 2012), future certainty should play a particularly important role in individuals' cognition and behavior in these contexts. ...
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Past research has independently examined the concepts of certainty and future thought. Here we combine these concepts by examining the cognitive and behavioral outcomes of certainty about the future during periods of societal uncertainty. Three studies (N = 1218) examined future certainty, defined as feeling certain about some future event or outcome, during two major societal events of uncertainty—the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. In Study 1, certainty about positive or negative futures of COVID-19 (e.g., the pandemic will end soon; the pandemic will never end) predicted poorer information seeking—ignorance of medical experts, adherence to conspiratorial thinking, and lower objective knowledgeability about COVID-19. Building on these findings, in Study 2, future certainty predicted antisocial health behaviors, including failing to social distance. Study 3 extended these findings to the political domain—the 2020 Presidential Election. Future certainty that one's preferred candidate would win the election predicted poor information seeking and antisocial behaviors in terms of claiming that the election was rigged, endorsing violence if one's candidate lost, and, among Trump supporters, identifying with Capitol insurrectionists. These findings suggest that future certainty is linked to intellectual blindness and antisocial behaviors during important periods of societal uncertainty.
... Anticipated stress is defined as an aversive psychological response to potential adverse work experiences, especially experiences that are uncertain or beyond the employee's control (Beehr & Bhagat, 1985;Hart & Cooper, 2001). Given that the need for predictability and control is a fundamental human need (Kruglanski & Orehek, 2012;Stevens & Fiske, 1995), people are likely to be negatively affected when they are confronted with unpredictability. Being unable to predict how someone would act in a situation is an aversive and alarming experience that reduces one's sense of control and increases anticipated stress. ...
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Supervisors often have to manage conflicting and contradictory demands in increasingly dynamic work environments. In the process of doing so, they may express emotional ambivalence observed by subordinates. Drawing on emotions as social information (EASI) theory and research on unpredictability and stress, we examine when and why supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence influence subordinate outcomes. In two studies, we find that supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence is indirectly related to subordinate task engagement via supervisor unpredictability (Studies 1 and 2). In addition, supervisor unpredictability and anticipated stress serially mediate the effect of supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence on task engagement (Studies 3 and 4). Furthermore, the target of supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence moderates this indirect effect, such that the negative indirect effect is stronger for a subordinate when supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence is directed toward him/her as opposed to another subordinate (Study 4). We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.
... Shared reality allows people to achieve the sense of certainty quickly and effortlessly. However, it is also related to the derogation of any individual or group who disrupt it (Kruglanski & Orehek, 2012). Hence, the negative social consequences of religiosity, like prejudice or aggression, may be the result of undermining one's sense of certainty. ...
Chapter
In this chapter, we analyze religion through the lens of the 3N (Need, Narrative, Network) model of ideological involvement. Particularly, we assume that people’s religiosity stems from two fundamental needs, i.e., the epistemic need to know and the need for personal significance. We further analyze the factors responsible for the ability of religion to satisfy the two needs in question by referring to the Narrative and Network components. Narrative relates to the belief system one endorses, and thus identifies the goals to pursue in order to satisfy one’s needs and the means of their attainment. Network validates the narrative, rewards behavior in line with it and punishes deviants. We argue that religious narratives and networks possess characteristics that make them particularly suitable for satisfying epistemic and significance needs. The proposed model answers the questions of why people believe, what they believe in, and how religious involvement is sustained.
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This article considers the implications of the mainstreaming of ‘right-wing extremism’ for what, and whom, we understand as ‘extreme’. It draws on ethnographic research (2017-2020) with young people active in movements routinely referred to in public and academic discourse as ‘extreme right’ or ‘far right’. Based on interviews, informal communication and observation, the article explores how actors in the milieu understand ‘extremism’ and how far this corresponds to academic and public conceptualisations of ‘right-wing extremism’, in particular cognitive ‘closed-mindedness’. Emic perspectives are not accorded privileged authenticity. Rather, it is argued, critical engagement with them reveals the important role of ethnographic research in gaining insight into, and challenging what we know about, the ‘mind-set’ of right-wing extremists. Understanding if such a mind-set exists, and if it does, in what it consists, matters, if academic research is to inform policy and practice to counter socially harmful practices among those it targets effectively.
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Toxic leaders are one of the main threats to the wellbeing of people in the workplace and in society in general, and followers play a critical role in constructing and maintaining toxic leaders. In this narrative review, we draw on Bourdieu's concept of illusio and incorporate it with the social and cognitive psychology approaches in an attempt to frame the dynamic system that sustains toxic leadership through continued support of the followers. More specifically, as we introduce the illusio perspective in a process‐relational context to the toxic leadership discussion, we (i) address the allure of toxic leaders as an incentive for followers to join the toxic illusio as a way to cope with their high personal uncertainty and (ii) illustrate the mechanisms and processes that motivate followers of toxic leaders to remain in the toxic illusio once they join. In this context, we also briefly discuss and differentiate between the ethical and moral dimensions of toxic leadership.
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Toxic leaders are one of the main threats to the wellbeing of people in the workplace and in society in general, and followers play a critical role in constructing and maintaining toxic leaders. In this narrative review, we draw on Bourdieu's concept of illusio and incorporate it with the social and cognitive psychology approaches in an attempt to frame the dynamic system that sustains toxic leadership through continued support of the followers. More specifically, as we introduce the illusio perspective in a process-relational context to the toxic leadership discussion, we (i) address the allure of toxic leaders as an incentive for followers to join the toxic illusio as a way to cope with their high personal uncertainty, (ii) illustrate the mechanisms and processes that motivate followers of toxic leaders to remain in the toxic illusio once they join. In this context, we also briefly discuss and differentiate between the ethical and moral dimensions of toxic leadership.
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Two research objectives underlay the present research. First, we tested how frustrated psychological needs caused by the refugee‐influx influence the endorsement and selection of refugee‐relevant information. Second, we tested how information selection processes contribute to the development of exclusionary attitudes that counteract the integration of refugees into host countries. In a laboratory study (n = 181), frustrated psychological needs decreased participants’ endorsement of a refugee‐friendly essay (vs. a control essay). Additionally, frustrated needs led to a biased selection of refugee‐hostile over refugee‐friendly information and such selection biases, in turn, predicted higher levels of ingroup defense and prejudice toward refugees. The findings imply that host societies’ receptiveness to refugees is influenced by the maintenance of basic psychological needs.
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This paper examines the impact of dispositional Need for Cognitive Closure (NFC) on different political attitudes and on the “person blame” and the “system blame” dimensions. Two hundred and thirty-four psychology students completed a questionnaire containing the Italian version of the Need for Closure scale, a measure of political and ideological attitudes, a measure of the person-system blame dimensions, and a measure of past voting. Results showed that high NFC individuals (vs. low NFCs) reported having voted for a right-wing party and holding more conservative attitudes. High NFCs (vs. low NFCs) turned out to have stronger anti-immigrant attitudes, to be more nationalistic, to prefer an autocratic leadership and a centralized form of political power. High NFCs also value religiosity more highly than low NFCs. High NFCs (vs. low NFCs) scored lower on pluralism and multiculturalism. Furthermore, high NFCs (vs. low NFCs) revealed a tendency to blame individuals for social problems, but no significant difference was found with regard to the system blame dimension. Results are discussed in the light of the motivated social cognition approach (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003).
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Four studies explored the relation between members' need for cognitive closure and their feelings toward groups. It was found that high (vs. low) need for closure individuals liked in-groups and out-groups more as function of the degree to which their membership was perceived as homogeneous (Studies 1-4), provided it was also self-similar (Studies 3 and 4). These results are discussed in terms of the relation between need for closure and homogeneous (vs. heterogeneous) groups' apparent potential as "closure providers.".
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Two studies investigated need for cognitive closure effects on group interaction. In both, participants in four-person groups role-played the members of a corporate committee dividing a monetary reward among meritorious employees. The entire interaction sequence was videotaped and content-analyzed by independent observers. Study 1 investigated need for closure as both a dispositional and a situational variable (induced via time pressure). Bales' (1970) interaction process analysis (IPA) yielded that both forms of this need were positively related to the preponderance of task-oriented responses and negatively related to the preponderance of positive social–emotional acts. Study 2 compared groups composed of members high on a dispositional need for closure with those composed of members low on this need. In the discussions of high (vs low) need for closure groups, there were greater conformity pressures and a less egalitarian participation. Need for closure thus appears to affect both the contents of member responses in a group context and the process whereby group interaction may unfold. ௠ 1999 Academic Press Order of authorship was determined alphabetically and does not reflect relative contribution.
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The investigations described in this series are concerned with the conditions of independence and lack of independence in the face of group pressure. The abstract temper of present-day theory and investigation in this region rests to a considerable degree on a neglect of the cognitive and emotional experiences that are part of the individual's psychological field. The understanding of social influences will require the study of a wide range of conditions and of the interrelated operations of different psychological functions. A group of seven to nine individuals was gathered in a classroom to take part in what appeared to be a simple experiment in visual discrimination. The subjects were all male, white college students, ranging in age from 17 to 25; the mean age was 20. For certain purposes a large number of critical subjects was required for the present experiment. The present report is based on a total of 123 subjects. The task consisted of the comparison of a standard line with three other lines, one of which was equal in length to the standard. We investigated some of the conditions responsible for independence and lack of independence in the face of arbitrary group pressure. To this end we produced a disagreement between a group and one individual member about a clear and simple issue of fact. The interview, which followed the experimental session, provided qualitative evidence concerning the effects produced by the majority, The particular properties of the experimental situation and their relation to more usual social contradictions were described.
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Two experiments investigated the joint effect of need for cognitive closure (induced by mental fatigue) and similarity of perspective on empathic responding. Results indicated that when participants felt similar to a distressed target, no differences in empathy emerged across fatigue conditions. When they felt dissimilar, participants in the high (vs. low) mental fatigue condition were less likely to accept the target's response as appropriate and reported less empathic concern for the target. Furthermore, when motivated to learn more about the target because of an outcome dependency manipulation (introduced in Experiment 2) the reduced empathy observed under fatigue was corrected. The results imply that fatigue-induced need for cognitive closure acts as a motivational boundary condition of empathic responding.
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A key assumption of communication theory is that successful communicators tailor their messages to the knowledge of their audience. This study examined the extent to which such adjustments depend on a communicator’s need for cognitive closure. Participants high or low in the need for closure created descriptions of abstract figures either for themselves or for another student. After several weeks, participants tried to match their own and others’ descriptions to the correct figures. Descriptions written by participants high (vs. low) in the need for closure were shorter, more figurative, and less likely to be successfully identified by others. Furthermore, the differences in length, content, and identifiability between descriptions written for oneself and for others were generally smaller for high (vs. low) need for closure participants. These results suggest that audience design is not a fixed aspect of interpersonal communication but depends on variables affecting the knowledge construction process at large.
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The relationship between dispositional need for cognitive closure (NFC) and the use of heuristics in negotiation was investigated. In Study 1 (N = 147), negotiators with high NFC were more influenced by focal points when setting limits and making concessions than were negotiators with low NFC. In Study 2 (N = 74), negotiators with high NFC were more influenced by stereotypic information when making concessions than were negotiators with low NFC. Study 3 examined whether results could be attributed to a correlation between NFC and social value orientation —the dispositional tendency to approach the negotation in a prosocial or more selfish way. In three different samples, no such relationship was found. The use of heuristics in negotiation is moderated by need for cognitive closure, and this effect is most likely due to the fact that negotiators with low need for closure are less likely to seize and freeze on information.
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The effects of expecting to convey one's impression of a person to another on the tendency to use traits in person description were examined when the expected recipient of the impression was an expert in peon assessment, a peer, or a grade school child. The communication expectancy set was induced either before or after exposure to impression formation information. Results showed lessened use of traits when subjects expected to report to the expert. Tuning-set timing effects included increased reporting of specific behaviors in the preimpression condition and reduced trait use with the exert in the postimpression condition, but only on a recognition measure. Results have implications for factors affecting the general trait categorization process and for Kruglanski's lay epistemic model of motivational factor in construct formation.