Trusting Others and The Need for Closure

Trusting others remains the glue that keeps societies together. The problem is, of course, when and how to do so.

As it turns out, trusting others begins in the brain and ends with the person you may be trusting. In other words, trusting involves a social-cognitive interaction. Moreover, some individuals, who have a high “need for closure,” tend not to trust others as much as individuals without this cognitive tendency.

So, what does it mean to have a “need for closure”?

Needing closure can be defined as “a chronic or temporary tendency to avoid or to feel the need to resolve uncertainty and ambiguity.” In other words, individuals with this cognitive tendency are more in need of fast answers, want less “gray” and more “black or white,” and have little tolerance for nuance.

Needing closure is also marked by a tendency to “seize and freeze” information.

“. . . [S]eizing relates to the inclination of individuals with needs for closure to urgently settle on judgments implied by readily available and/or inconclusive information in order to attain closure immediately when faced with ambiguity or uncertainty,” writes the authors of the recently published study titled “Trusting Others: The Polarization Effect of Need for Closure.” Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014, the authors continue: “. . . [F]reezing is characterized by rigidity of thought, which permanently protects the judgment made in the first phase.”

What’s more, individuals with a high need for closure are also more likely to rely on “stereotypic information” to draw conclusions about a particular situation that they happen to be in.

Need for closure is strongly associated with how an individual trusts.

“[H]igh need for closure will lead to a quick and firm trust judgment in the Seizing phase, which will then become crystallized, rigid, and protecting by the Freezing phase,” write the authors of the aforementioned study. “It is likely that people with high need for closure will, to a greater extent than those with a low need for closure, seize and then freeze on any firm trust judgments to remove uncertainty about their interaction patterns’ future behavior.”

In other words, this is how need for closure is formed. Those with a high need for closure will quickly “seize” on any available information and then “freeze” on it in order to draw quick conclusions. All of this, in turn, reduces the need to rely on ambiguous or uncertain information.

Finally, as what is referred to as a “complexity-reducing tool,” need for closure influences the level of trust individuals will place on others. Although more research is needed before any one researcher can draw definitive answers about the nature of need for closure and how it works exactly, what can be said, however, is that perhaps some people need to reduce their need for closure in order to trust others more readily.


Acar-Burkay, S., et al. (2014). Trusting Others: The Polarization Effect of the Need for Closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 719 – 735.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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