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Mental rigidity, an intolerant and hurried jailer

The expression “being closed-minded” has been integrated into popular language for a long time. It is that expression that we use when someone we know is mentally rigid, that is, they do not understand or do not want to understand a point of view different from their own. Or on the contrary, the one who, in order to be right, loses his nerve a little when trying to convince us of our error.

So we could say that, conventionally, When we talk about someone “closed-minded”, we think of a person who discards different approaches, ideas or perspectives, to accommodate and “close” in their own ideas and mental schemes. In short, one who tries to fit the world into his own head and not the other way around.

This expression, like many others that have also become popular, has its nuances when we refer to it from psychology. Thus, we could say that The expression of “being closed-minded” has had different variants within psychology. as discipline. We will focus on two of them, due to their proximity at the level of meaning.

Mental rigidity

Mental rigidity implies a lack of flexibility and mental openness to see approaches from different perspectives, to endure criticism about something we take as true and to live instead of survive. As a term, it has been frequently used in clinical psychology, whether as a phenomenon, symptom or personality trait. These are some examples:

As a clinical phenomenon, Psychoanalysis used mental rigidity as a patient’s resistance to change or to some content you want to avoid. This definition makes a lot of sense and is even more related to the expression we use every day. An example would be the patient’s mental rigidity in the face of love or commitment, complicating work on these issues.

It has also been seen The concept of the “comfort cone” is closely associated with this rigidity. In it, mental rigidity acts by cutting those wings necessary for imagination, improving and expanding our comfort zone, exploring new places. As a symptom, we can see this mental rigidity in disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome, senile dementia or obsessive compulsive disorder. Always with the meaning that we have mentioned before. Although, really, The most widespread the concept of mental rigidity is as a “personality trait.” This means that generally in clinical psychology, mental rigidity is talked about as a set of mental, emotional and behavioral characteristics (although fundamentally mental) that occur together in a stable manner. Thus, we can speak of a continuum with two opposite poles: high and low rigidity.

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The need for cognitive closure

This second meaning of the term gives a little twist to those closed-minded friends. The need for cognitive closure refers to the need to eliminate the uncertainty that some thought or situation poses to us. This need would be set in motion by motivating the person to give a simple response. The greater the need for closure, the more energy will be used in accepting the response and defending it.

Although this does not imply that the answer is good, true, genuine or simply healthy. But what does this have to do with the closed-minded? Very simple. Let’s imagine that one day ash begins to fall from the sky. Something inexplicable in principle, there is no volcano nearby, nor anything that can produce ash on such a large scale.

What a close-minded person, or someone who has a high need for cognitive closure, would say is that it is not ash. It’s snow. And that’s it, I wouldn’t give it any more thought. As we said, The greater the need for closure, the more urgency in a response, even if this is not true..

Now let’s imagine that this situation does involve the person emotionally. Let’s say a family member has died. The person with a high need for closure – let’s not forget the individual differences – will try to respond to the great uncertainty that is death in a blunt and possibly more painful way if possible. He will blame the doctors, channeling his hatred or feel guilt for his mistakes with the deceased.

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The possible scenarios are many, but they all share the characteristic of immediacy and impetus, when there are times when these factors do not help. This is the characteristic that the need for cognitive closure shares with the expression “being closed-minded.” This is immediacy and low tolerance for uncertainty, which pushes us to respond and not to look for a new alternative response. .

Are you closed minded?

The answer to this question can be divided into two parts.

Let’s review… We have talked about rigidity as a mostly cognitive personality subtrait and as the need for mental closure as a mechanism to overcome uncertainty.

Starting with the first, We have to be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves If we are more about looking for explanations or giving them. If we let our friends finish when they speak, if we allow curiosity to win from time to time over the temptation to stick with the first alternative answer or if we are able to live with questions, we are probably far from being closed-minded.

As we can already guess, Whether or not to be rigid is a personal question. And, therefore, obviously, it loses meaning to say things like “I am less rigid than you”, when the scale is determined by each person.

On the other hand, regarding the need for closure, we must say that, despite there being scales and tests to measure it (Webster and Kruglanski, 1994), in the end, in terms of walking around the house, the reality is that we are. . We need closure.

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And it is that There is nothing more human than seeking mental efficiency and avoiding the discomfort of not understanding something. Even more so if our emotions are involved in that something. Who could blame the family member in the example for his feelings about death?

In conclusion, we cannot forget the key to this article. Everything can be placed on a continuum, limited by two poles. It is difficult to be or not to be rigid. Have or not have a need for closure. At the end of the day, although we can measure these factors, the core of the problem is only handled by us.

So, Perhaps our job does not lie so much in being more or less closed, but in understanding why we are so and to what extent it harms us.

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