Open-Minded Cognition and Political Thought
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
Dogmatic or closed-minded cognition is directionally biased; a tendency to select, interpret, and elaborate upon information in a manner that reinforces the individual’s prior opinion or expectation. Open-minded cognition is directionally unbiased; a tendency to process information in a manner that is not biased in the direction of the individual’s prior opinion or expectation. It is marked by a willingness to consider a variety of intellectual perspectives, values, attitudes, opinions, or beliefs—even those that contradict the individual’s prior opinion. In the research described in the present article, open-minded cognition is assessed using measures that specifically focus on the degree to which individuals process information in a directionally biased manner. Open-minded cognition can function as an individual difference characteristic that predicts a variety of social attitudes and political opinions. These include attitudes toward marginalized social groups (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities), support for democratic values, political ideology, and partisan identification. Open-minded cognition also possesses a malleable component that varies across domains and specific situations. For example, open-minded cognition is higher in the political domain than religious domain. In addition, open-minded cognition is prevalent in situations where individuals encounter plausible arguments that are compatible with conventional values, but is less evident when individuals encounter arguments that are extremely implausible or that contradict conventional values. Open-minded cognition also varies across social roles within a given situation. Because political novices possess limited political knowledge, social norms dictate that they should listen and learn in an open-minded fashion. In contrast, because political experts possess extensive knowledge, social norms dictate that they are entitled to adopt a more dogmatic cognitive orientation when listening to a political communication.