What Is Cognitive Closure in Psychology?


Jane Flores

Cognitive closure is a psychological term used to describe the tendency of individuals to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs and values, while disregarding or rejecting information that contradicts those beliefs. This phenomenon can occur at both the individual and collective level, and can have significant impacts on decision-making processes and social interactions.

Origins of Cognitive Closure

The concept of cognitive closure has its roots in social psychology, where it was first introduced by Leon Festinger in his theory of cognitive dissonance. Festinger argued that when individuals encounter information that conflicts with their existing beliefs, they experience an unpleasant state of psychological tension or dissonance. This discomfort motivates them to reduce the dissonance by either changing their beliefs or discounting the new information.

Over time, researchers have expanded on this idea to explore how cognitive closure operates in various contexts, including political ideology, religious belief, and intergroup relations. Studies have shown that people are more likely to seek out like-minded individuals and media sources that reinforce their existing views, leading to increased polarization and intolerance towards those who hold different opinions.

Characteristics of Cognitive Closure

One of the key features of cognitive closure is a preference for certainty over ambiguity. Individuals who exhibit high levels of cognitive closure tend to view the world in black-and-white terms, with little room for nuance or complexity. They are also more likely to rely on heuristics or mental shortcuts when making judgments or decisions, rather than engaging in critical thinking or weighing multiple perspectives.

Another hallmark of cognitive closure is a resistance to change. When presented with new information that challenges their beliefs, individuals may become defensive or dismissive, rather than considering alternative viewpoints. This can manifest as confirmation bias, where people actively seek out evidence that supports their preconceptions while ignoring contradictory evidence.

  • Impact on Decision Making

Cognitive closure can have significant implications for decision-making processes, as individuals may be more likely to stick with their initial choices even when presented with new information that suggests a different course of action. This can lead to poor outcomes in situations where flexibility and adaptability are crucial, such as in business or politics.

Overcoming Cognitive Closure

While cognitive closure can be a difficult bias to overcome, there are steps that individuals can take to mitigate its effects. One approach is to seek out diverse perspectives and opinions, including those that challenge one’s existing beliefs. This can help broaden one’s perspective and promote critical thinking.

Another strategy is to cultivate a growth mindset, which emphasizes the importance of learning and personal development. By embracing the idea that change is possible and even desirable, individuals may be more open to considering new information and revising their beliefs.

Finally, it is important to recognize that cognitive closure operates at both the individual and societal level. To promote greater tolerance and understanding across groups with differing viewpoints, it may be necessary to create spaces for dialogue and exchange that encourage respectful communication and mutual learning.


Cognitive closure is a common bias that affects how individuals process information and make decisions. By understanding the origins and characteristics of this phenomenon, we can begin to develop strategies for overcoming its negative effects. Ultimately, promoting greater openness and flexibility in our thinking can help us navigate an increasingly complex and diverse world.