Openness to Experience and Need for Closure (NFC) are dispositional variables related to social-cultural right-wing attitudes. The present study investigated their joint effects. Factor analysis revealed an ‘experiential’ dimension with high loading openness items, and a ‘cognition’ dimension with high loadings for most NFC items and about a quarter of the openness item set. The experiential openness items were weakly related to right-wing attitudes, demonstrating little predictive value. Conversely, the cognitive openness and NFC items were powerful predictors of right-wing attitudes, and also played an important role in integrative models, both as a predictor of authoritarianism-based racism and as a mediator of age related increments in right-wing attitudes. It is concluded that right-wing attitudes should be primarily understood in terms of (motivated) cognition, and to a smaller extent in terms of experiential openness. The distinction between ‘experiential’ and ‘cognitive’ openness is critically assessed, and it is asserted that because cognition is a multifaceted construct openness contains more than one cognitive dimension. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.