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Need for Closure and Political Orientation Among German University Students

Authors:
The Journal of Social
Psychology,
1997, 137{6), 787-789
Replications ond Refinements
Under this heading are brief reports of studies providing
data that substantiate, disprove, or refine what we think we
know. These Notes consist of a summary of the study's pro-
cedure and as many details about the results as space allows.
Additional details concerning the results can be obtained by communi-
cating directly with the author.
Need for Closure and Political Orientation
Among German University Students
MARKUS KEMMELMEIER
Department of Psychology
University of Heidelberg
EVER SINCE THE PUBLICATION of The Authoritarian Personality^ by
Adorno, Frenckel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950), there has been a
debate over whether general political orientation is associated with differences in
cognitive functioning. Although the original hypothesis of a positive and linear
association between right-wing orientation and measures of cognitive function
has received some support (e.g., Tetlock, 1983), other theorists have argued that
individuals at both ends of the political spectrum exhibit greater levels of dog-
matism than those in the political mainstream do (e.g., Taylor, 1960). Most
recently, Sidanius (1984, 1985) proposed another curvilinear model regarding
the relationship between political orientation and cognitive functioning. Accord-
ing to this model, individuals at both ends of the political spectrum show greater
sophistication in political thinking than those in the political mainstream because
they face a dominant mainstream ideology.
In the present study, I reexamined these varying hypotheses in a German
sample. The participants were 93 students at the University of Mannheim, 32
Address correspondence to M. Kemmelmeier, Department of Psychology, University of
Michigan, 525 E. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Ml 48109-1109; or via the Internet at
markusk @ umich. edu.
787
788 The Jounial of Social
Ps\choloi>
men and 61 women with a mean age of 24.2 years. The participants completed a
version of the Need for Closure Scale (NfC), a German adaptation of a 42-item
individual-difference measure that assesses the content-independent motivation
to reach cognitive closure (Webster & Kruglanski, 1994). Experimental evidence
for the validity of the need for closure construct is ample. For example, individ-
uals high in NfC generate smaller numbers of hypotheses when facing ambigu-
ous situations, show stronger primacy effect in person judgment, and evidence a
greater correspondence bias (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996, for an overview). The
internal consistency of the German NfC scale was a = .75.
I assessed political orientation through self-ratings on a 7-point scale on four
dimensions: right wing, conservative, left wing, and socialist. I combined the rat-
ings to create a political orientation index (POI) reflecting an individual's loca-
tion on a left-right continuum (a = .75). In addition, the participants marked
down the party they would vote for if there were elections on the following day.
Twelve participants (13%) chose not to commit to any party. All of the five major
political parties in Germany were mentioned, arranged here along the left-right
dimension: the Party of Democratic Socialism {n = 8), the Green Party (n = 20),
the Social-Democratic Party {n = 16), the Free-Democratic Party (n = 10), and
the Christian-Democratic Party (n = 27). The POI means ofthe parties' support-
ers were 6.86, 9.40, 10.69, 15.89, and 18.89, respectively. An analysis of variance
(ANOVA) showed that the means increased significantly from the left to the
right, F(4, 79) = 37.27, p <
.0001.
An omnibus ANOVA comparing NfC scores by party preference was not
significant, F(4, 80) = 1.18, p > .32. However, a trend analysis revealed that NfC
increased with the right-wing orientation ofthe party, 18.48, 21.65, 21.79, 21.99,
and
23.03,
respectively, 7(33.3) = 2.26, p < .034. No curvilinear trend was iden-
tified, Ts (38.1) < 1. The correlation between NfC and POI was r
=
.29, p < .01.
The present data do not support either curvilinearity hypothesis; however,
they do support the original hypothesis of Adomo et al. (1950) of a linear asso-
ciation between cognitive functioning and political orientation. The findings are
in contrast to those of researchers who reported a curvilinear association but
examined reasoning about political issues rather than content-nonspecific cogni-
tion (Sidanius, 1985; Taylor, 1960). This result may be attributable to the inher-
ent ambiguity of seemingly rigid thinking about political issues, possibly the
result of general rigidity in thinking as well of thoughtful examination ofthe ide-
ological essence of an issue. Future researchers should address when linear or U-
shaped associations of cognitive functioning with political orientation can be
expected and clarify the underlying psychological mediators.
REFERENCES
Adorno, T. W., Frenckel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D. J., & Sanford, R. N. (1950j. The
authoritarian
personality.
New York: Harper.
Kemmelmeier 789
Kruglanski, A, W., & Webster, D. M. (1996). Motivated closing of the mind: ''Seizing"
and "freezing" Psychological Review, 103, 263-283.
Sidanius, J. (1984). Political interest, political information search, and ideological homo-
geneity as a function of sociopolitical ideology: A tale of three theories. Human Rela-
tions, 37, 811-828.
Sidanius, J. (1985). Cognitive functioning and sociopolitical ideology revisited. Political
Psychology, 6, 637-662.
Taylor, I. A. (1960). Similarities in the structure of extreme social attitudes. Psychologi-
cal Monographs, 74, 1-36.
Tetlock, P. E. (1983). Cognitive style and political ideology. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 45, 118-126.
Webster, D. M., & Kruglanski, A. W. (1994). Individual differences in need for cognitive
closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1049-1062.
Received July 18, 1996
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A theoretical framework is outlined in which the key construct is the need for (nonspecific) cognitive closure. The need for closure is a desire for definite knowledge on some issue. It represents a dimension of stable individual differences as well as a situationally evocable state. The need for closure has widely ramifying consequences for social-cognitive phenomena at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group levels of analysis. Those consequences derive from 2 general tendencies, those of urgency and performance. The urgency tendency represents an individual's inclination to attain closure as soon as possible, and the permanence tendency represents an individual's inclination to maintain it for as long as possible. Empirical evidence for present theory attests to diverse need for closure effects on fundamental social psychological phenomena, including impression formation, stereotyping, attribution, persuasion, group decision making, and language use in intergroup contexts.
The ciirtlioritclricin per~~niiciliry
  • T W Adorno
  • E Frenckel-Brunswik
  • D J Levinson
  • R N Sanford
Adorno, T. W., Frenckel-Brunswik. E., Levinson, D. J., & Sanford, R. N. (19501. The ciirtlioritclricin per~~niiciliry. New York: Harper. Downloaded by [Washington State University Libraries ] at 22:03 25 November 2014 Keminelmeier 789