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Closure (psychology)

Closure (psychology)

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Closure or need for closure is a popular psychology
Popular psychology
The term popular psychology refers to concepts and theories about human mental life and behavior that are purportedly based on psychology and that attain popularity among the general population...

 term used to describe an individual's desire for a definite cognitive closure as opposed to enduring ambiguity. It is a need usually provoked after experiencing an emotional conclusion to a traumatic life event, such as the breakdown of a close interpersonal relationship
Interpersonal relationship
An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the...

 or the death of loved one.

The term became popular in the 1990s due to its use in the popular media. The term cognitive closure has been defined as "a desire for definite knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 on some issue and the eschewal of confusion and ambiguity." Need for closure is a phrase used by psychologists to describe an individual’s desire for a firm solution as opposed to enduring ambiguity.

Need For Closure Scale (NFCS)

The need for closure varies across individuals, situations, and cultures. A person with a high need for closure prefers order and predictability, is decisive and closed-minded, and is uncomfortable with ambiguity. Someone rating low on need for closure will express more ideational fluidity and emit more creative acts.

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 reverse scored. Composed of 42 items, the scale has been used in numerous research studies and has been translated into multiple languages. In 2007, Roets and Van Hiel revised the scale, their objective being to resolve some psychometric problems, and thus to make of it a stable, one-dimensional metric.

The Need for Closure Scale
Scale (social sciences)
In the social sciences, scaling is the process of measuring or ordering entities with respect to quantitative attributes or traits. For example, a scaling technique might involve estimating individuals' levels of extraversion, or the perceived quality of products...

 exhibits low to moderate association with the following: “authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

, intolerance of ambiguity, dogmatism, need for cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

, cognitive complexity, impulsivity
Impulse (psychology)
An impulse is a wish or urge, particularly a sudden one. It can be considered as a normal and fundamental part of human thought processes, but also one that can become problematic, as in a condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder....

, need for structure
Structure is a fundamental, tangible or intangible notion referring to the recognition, observation, nature, and permanence of patterns and relationships of entities. This notion may itself be an object, such as a built structure, or an attribute, such as the structure of society...

, and fear of invalidity, while retaining considerable distinctiveness from those various constructs”. It does not appear to be related to intelligence level nor to social-desirability concerns.


Individuals scoring high on the NFCS are correspondingly more likely to attempt to draw closure at the earliest perceived opportunity, relying on incipient cues, and the first-encountered apparent fit. The need for closure is also said to predispose a very narrow or shallow information search, along with a higher tendency to use cognitive heuristic
Heuristic refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution, where an exhaustive search is impractical...

s, when seeking solutions. (Van Hiel and Mervielde, 2003)

In studies on creativity
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

, those individuals with low need-for-closure ratings had inversely higher scores in creativity. They more frequently produced novel solutions that motivated and inspired others in their groups, and the outcomes of the projects in which they participated were rated as correspondingly more productive.

Some researchers have reached the conclusion that a desire for simple structure is what underlies (need for) cognitive closure. Others predict that stressor
Stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, an external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism. An event that triggers the stress response may include for example:...

s such as time pressure lead to a tendency to stick with a given strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 because of a heightened personal need for closure.

Collective psychology

The term may also be applied to the supposed collective psyche
Psyche (psychology)
The word psyche has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and has been one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older...

 of a society. It rose to worldwide prominence in this sense when calls to achieve 'closure' were used to curtail the process of recounting
Florida election recount
The Florida election recount of 2000 was a period of vote re-counting that occurred following the unclear results of the 2000 United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, specifically the Florida results. The election was ultimately settled in favor of George W. Bush when...

 votes in the United States presidential election, 2000
United States presidential election, 2000
The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush , and Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Vice President....


See also

  • Dogmaticism
  • Need for cognition
    Need for cognition
    The need for cognition, in psychology, is a personality variable reflecting the extent to which people engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities....

  • Heuristics
  • Catharsis
    Catharsis or katharsis is a Greek word meaning "cleansing" or "purging". It is derived from the verb καθαίρειν, kathairein, "to purify, purge," and it is related to the adjective καθαρός, katharos, "pure or clean."-Dramatic uses:...

  • Allocution
    Generally, to allocute in law means "to speak out formally." In the field of apologetics, allocution is generally done in defense of a belief. In politics, one may allocute before a legislative body in an effort to influence their position on an issue...

    : an opportunity or legal requirement for someone being convicted of a crime to attempt to make amends verbally.
  • Twelve-step program
    Twelve-step program
    A Twelve-Step Program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems...

  • Grief
    Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions...

  • Zero-risk bias
    Zero-risk bias
    Zero-risk bias occurs when individuals value complete elimination of a risk, however small, to a reduction in a greater risk. That is, individuals may prefer small benefits that are certain to large ones that are uncertain, regardless of the size of the "certain" benefit.An example is the Delaney...

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