Politics and the need for closure – In what sense are people with a higher need for closure more flexible?  

Harsányi S., Csanádi A.
First author's affiliation: University of Szeged and ELTE University, Budapest, Szeged, Hungary

Cognitive style is a theory that explains how and in what ways we organize the pieces of information we have about society and the people living around us. Rokeach, the originator of the theory identified two styles of information processing: an open approach, capable of individual consideration, and a closed one, characterized by less flexibility and refinement. This theory was amended by Kruglanski, who pointed out that cognitive closure is situation dependent and that the motivational background of the individual should be taken into account. Over the last few decades, several authors have found connections between political conservativism and closed thinking, while others argued that a high need for closure is equally present in the political Left. We asked 330 university students to answer the survey we created by translating Kurglanski's original Need for Clousure Scale survey to Hungarian. The survey provides a statistically reliable means of measurement, making it a possible first Hungarian version. In addition, close to half of the respondents (N=150) were asked about their political party preference, level of commitment, and specific ideologies. Our hypothesis was that a higher need for closure is present in proponents of both the political Left and Right. This assumption is partially based on the fact that political parties in Hungary do not have such well defined camps of voters as do the parties in more developed democracies. Our results show that there is no significant difference between conservative and socialist voters in terms of the need for closure, while liberals achieved remarkably lower scores. Another interesting result is that those respondents who have changed their party preference since the last elections (two years ago) showed a higher need for closure than those who have not changed their preference.