Effects of Epistemic Motivation on Conservatism, Intolerance, and Other System Justifying Attitudes

By John T. JostArie W. KruglanskiLinda Simon
1998| Working Paper No. 1482

In this chapter, we investigate the cognitive and motivational underpinnings of attitudes toward social and organizational systems. Specifically, we draw on the theory of lay epistemics to address individual and situational variations in the manner and extent to which people are motivated to possess knowledge that is secure, stable, and permanent (Kruglanski, 1989). One independent variable in particular, the need for cognitive closure, has been found to predict reliance on social stereotypes, biases in person perception, resistance to persuasive influence, and rejection of opinion deviates (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). In other words, this cognitive style, which is responsive to environmental demands and situational variations, seems to be associated with the preservation of existing social arrangements. Building on past research on the need for cognitive closure, we present new correlational and experimental evidence that connects epistemic motivational tendencies to “seize” and “freeze” upon information that is readily accessible to the formation of system justifying attitudes.