In anticipation of the upcoming U.S. election, the New York Times released a short “opinionated documentary” featuring START Researcher Arie Kruglanski. The video, “The Price of Certainty,” focuses on Kruglanski’s theory of cognitive closure and how people’s politics are driven by their psychological needs.
“The need for closure, is the need for certainty. To have clear-cut knowledge,” Kruglanski says in the video. “You feel that you need to stop processing too much information, stop listening to variety of viewpoints and zero in on what to you appears to be the truth.”
This quest for closure can play out during an election year. Kruglanski says that especially during times of change and chaos, everybody’s need for closure increases and people gravitate toward leaders who offer certainty.
This need also can explain why two people reading the same news article about a candidate can interpret it so differently, and why terrorist propaganda can be so successful.
“The need for closure tricks your mind to believe that you have the truth even though you haven’t examined the evidence very carefully,” Kruglanski says.