Another type of motivational goal that can influence our thinking comes from our cognitive style, or how we approach solving problems. Examples include a need for closure and the inability to tolerate ambiguous situations. People with a high need for closure pre­fer order and predictability, are uncomfortable with ambiguity, are closed-minded, and prefer quick and decisive answers (Kruglanski et al., 1997; Neuberg et al., 1997). Empirical research on this construct has resulted in the development of well-validated questionnaires such as the Need for Closure scale (Webster & Kruglanski, 1994) and the Personal Need for Structure scale (Thompson et al., 1992).

The question is whether cognitive resources or need for closure are implicated in biased judgments. As we discussed earlier, situations that require sub­stantial cognitive resources (i. e., require a lot of effort in cognitive processing such as processing informa­tion under time pressure) result in an increase in inaccuracies and biases in how we represent social information (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). However, biased judgments can also be caused by motivational differences such as an increase in need for closure. In fact, research using need for closure instruments suggests that high need for closure and/or structure is related to attributional biases, the tendency to make stereotyped judgments, the formation of spontaneous trait inferences, and the tendency to assimilate judgments to primed con­structs (Schaller et al., 1995).

It may also be the case that limited cognitive resources and motivational differences are both age – related and influence social judgments in interaction

with each other. Hess and colleagues (Hess, Follett, & McGee, 1998) argue that changes in resources with aging (as in the declines we observed in working memory in Chapter 6) may lead to an increase in a need for closure with age. This can lead to biases in the way in which older adults process social information. In a recent study Hess, Waters, and Bolstad (2000) found that a high need for clo­sure did not influence susceptibility to emotional priming influences on neutral stimuli of young and middle-aged adults. However, priming effects increased with higher need for structure in older adults. In other words, older adults with a high need for closure could not inhibit the affects of an emo­tional prime (e. g., a subliminally presented negative word) on their subsequent behavior (e. g., whether they liked or disliked an abstract figure). Because of age-related changes in personal resources (social and cognitive), motivational factors such as coming to quick and decisive answers to conserve resources become important to the aging adult.

Concept Checks

1. What is SOC and how does it influence processing goals?

2. What is the positivity effect?

3. What is need for closure, and how does it influence social judgments?