How Cognitive Closure Affects Your Decision Making

How Cognitive Closure Affects Your Decision MakingI’m a list person. I make lists of the things I have to do, stuff I want to buy, and goals I’d like to achieve. I’ve been doing this as far back as I can remember.

My mom loves to tell the story of how I showed her my “life timeline” as a kid (Remember the 90s, when printer paper was one long perforated sheet? My timeline took up like six sheets, lol).

This timeline included every single milestone I planned to reach, from graduating college to having a kid to publishing my first book.

That timeline helped me set some concrete goals and work toward them, which is why my mom was proud of me. I didn’t just make the list for inspiration, though.

Even as a kid, I needed to know exactly what I was doing with my life. I couldn’t just enjoy the ride.

What Is Cognitive Closure?

Lists, timelines, and organization  help me because my mind is constantly pulled in different directions, yet I also have a strong need for something called cognitive closure. In fact, we all have this need.  Cognitive closure is our “aversion toward ambiguity” and our desire to  arrive at definite conclusions (sometimes irrationally).”

In other words, it’s our need to know everything to feel a sense of control. It’s coming up with a giant timeline of events, struggling to predict the future, because I’m averse to not knowing. It’s when you want answers more than you want the right answers. 

I first read about this concept in Charles Duhigg’s book (which, I know, I’ve mentioned a zillion times already), Smarter Faster Better. In it, Duhigg explains how it can have a profound impact on decision making. Here’s how it works in the first place, though:  read more…

How Cognitive Closure Affects Your Decision Making

Cognitive closure is our “aversion toward ambiguity” and our desire to arrive at definite conclusions (sometimes irrationally).” It’s a desire for answers, sometimes even if they're wrong. There are advantages to a strong need for cognitive closure, but it can mess with your mind, too. Here's how it affects decision making, for example. read more

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kristinwong

I'm Kristin Wong. I write about money, travel, and lots of other stuff. I love exploring new topics and places. I also love helping people figure out their finances so they can make their money work for them (instead of the other way around). Want to know more? Start here.

What You're Saying

  • JGC: Interesting post. I’m a retired educator and spent half of my long career as a licensed counselor. The...
  • Anna Weisend: Oh my goodness. This has my brain spinning. There is a lot to consider in this post. I can’t...
  • Done by Forty: This is some timely stuff, as I’ve definitely been in a funk since the election. There’s...
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