Information Processing


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Open-minded cognition


Open-minded cognition

Social psychological research often emphasizes directional bias in cognition. This includes attitude research that indicates cognition can be biased in the direction of prior attitudes (Eagly, Chen, Chaiken, & Shaw-Barnes, 1999; Fazio & Towles-Schwen, 1999; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Petty & Wegener, 1991); social cognition research that documents biases when perceivers select, encode, interpret, and retrieve information (e.g., Bodenhausen, 1988; Wyer & Srull, 1989); as well as research that focuses on motivated cognition (e.g., Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). We define open-minded cognition as directionally unbiased information processing; a tendency to select, interpret, retrieve, weigh, and elaborate upon information in a manner that is not biased by the individual’s prior opinion or expectation (Ottati, Wilson, & Price, 2015; Price, Ottati,Wilson, & Kim, 2015). Closed-minded or dogmatic cognition is defined as directionally biased; a tendency to process information in a manner that reinforces the individual’s prior opinion or expectation (Ottati et al., 2015; Price et al., 2015; see also Nickerson, 1998; Samuelson & Church, 2014a; Samuelson & Church, 2014b; Stanovich &West, 2007). Although cultural norms place a positive value on open-mindedness, open-minded cognition varies across individuals and situations (Ottati et al., 2015). For example, closed-mindedness is associated with a predisposition to experience psychological insecurity (Rokeach & Kemp, 1960; Tosi, Fagan, & Frumkin, 1968; see also Vail, Arndt, Motyl, & Pyszczynski, 2012), and increases when individuals encounter morally objectionable viewpoints (e.g., communications advocating discrimination; Ottati et al., 2015).

In examining the determinants of open-minded cognition, this line of research focuses on the role of group norms in open-minded cognition. Previous research has documented unethical behavior in and by groups (see Mannix, Neal, & Tenbrunsel, 2006, for a review). In situations where individuals behave cooperatively, groups often defect from such behavior to protect or enhance the group (Wildschut, Pinter, Vevea, Insko, & Schopler, 2003; Morgan & Tindale, 2002). Thus, groups are likely to use the group’s welfare to guide their moral compass and behave in ways consistent with their self-interest even when it violates typical norms of ethics (Cohen, Gunia, Kim-Jun, & Murnighan, 2009). We argue that this group tendency stems from the group enhancement/protection norm (Tindale, 2008), which leads groups to behave in ways that enhance/protect the group even when members may find such behavior ethically suspect. Thus, we expect group norms large role in open-minded cogition.


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Jeremy R. Winget
Graduate Research Assistant & Lecturer
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