Does inconsistency always lead to negative affect? The influence of need for closure on affective reactions to cognitive inconsistency

Daniela Di Santo, Marina Chernikova, Arie W. Kruglanski, Antonio Pierro
Published Online:
09 Jan 2020

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We present an experiment showing that need for closure (NFC)—defined as the epistemic desire for certainty—can moderate individuals' affective reactions to cognitive inconsistency. Informed by Kruglanski and colleagues' new theory, that cognitive inconsistency elicits negative affect particularly under certain circumstances, we find that NFC (i.e. the desire for certain, stable and unambiguous knowledge) influences the strength of consistency effects and resulting negative affect. More specifically, we find that individuals who are high on NFC experience more negative affect upon encountering an inconsistent (vs. consistent) cognition. However, when individuals are low on NFC, inconsistency is irrelevant, and their affect depends on whether the ultimate outcome of the cognition is positive or negative. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of this research.

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