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The closed mind: ‘Experience’ and ‘cognition’ aspects of openness to experience and need for closure as psychological bases for right-wing attitudes

Authors

  • Emma Onraet,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
    • Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium.
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  • Alain Van Hiel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
    • Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium.
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  • Arne Roets,

    1. Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
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    • Arne Roets is a post-doctoral researcher granted by the National Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders (Belgium).

  • Ilse Cornelis

    1. Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
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    • Ilse Cornelis is a post-doctoral researcher granted by the Special Research Fund from Ghent University.


Abstract

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.

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