Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
This is the first of a two part series on the subject of Open Mindedness. Part II will appear in next week’s issue of The Career Mentor.
Open-mindedness involves being receptive to a wide variety of ideas, arguments, and information. Being open-minded is generally considered a positive quality. It is necessary in order to think critically and rationally.
This doesn’t mean that being open-minded is easy. Being open to new ideas and experiences can sometimes lead to confusion and cognitive dissonance when we learn new things that conflict with existing beliefs. Being able to change and revise outdated or incorrect beliefs is an important part of learning and personal growth.
This article discusses what open-mindedness means, the benefits of having an open mindset, and how you can work on building this ability.
What Is Open-Mindedness?
In everyday use, the term “open-minded” is often used as a synonym for being non-prejudiced or tolerant. From a psychological perspective, the term is used to describe how willing people are to consider other perspectives or to try out new experiences.
Open-mindedness can also involve asking questions and actively searching for information that challenges your beliefs. It also encompasses the belief that other people should be free to express their beliefs and arguments, even if you do not necessarily agree with those views.
Open-Minded vs. Close-Minded
The opposite of being open-minded is being closed-minded or dogmatic. People who are more closed-minded are usually not receptive to other ideas. They are only willing to consider their own viewpoints.
Even if you consider yourself a fairly open-minded person, there are probably certain topics on which you take a much harder stance: Experiences that you are passionate about or social issues, for example.
Having convictions can be great, but strong belief does not negate an open mind. Being open-minded means having the ability to consider other perspectives and trying to be empathetic to other people, even when you disagree with them.
Of course, open-mindedness has its limits. It does not imply that you must sympathize with every ideology. But making an effort to understand the factors that might have led to those ideas can be helpful in finding ways to persuade people to change their minds.
Characteristics of Open-Minded People
In general, open-minded people tend to:
Open-mindedness refers to being receptive to other ideas and new experiences. Close-mindedness involves much more rigid thinking and a refusal to consider other possibilities.
Factors That Influence Open-Mindedness
Some of the factors that go into determining how open-minded you are might be inborn characteristics. Others can be cultivated to help develop a more open mindset.
In the five-factor model of human personality, openness to experience is one of the five broad dimensions that make up human personality. This personality trait shares many of the same qualities with open-mindedness, such as being willing to consider new experiences and ideas and engaging in self-examination.
Research suggests that people expect experts to be more dogmatic about their area of expertise. When people feel that they are more knowledgeable or skilled in an area than other people, they are less likely to be open-minded.
Researchers have found that giving participants false positive or false negative feedback about their performance on a task influenced how closed-minded they were about considering an alternative political opinion.
Comfort With Ambiguity
People have varying levels of comfort when dealing with uncertainty. Too much ambiguity leaves people feeling uncomfortable and even distressed.
Dogmatism is sometimes an attempt to keep things simpler and easier to understand. By rejecting alternative ideas that might challenge the status quo, people are able to minimize uncertainty and risk—or at least their perception of risk.
Older research does support this idea, suggesting that people who are closed-minded are less able to tolerate cognitive inconsistencies. More recent research challenges these ideas, however, and suggests that the need for structure doesn’t necessarily mean that people are close-minded.
Benefits of Being Open-Minded
Being more open-minded means enjoying some useful and powerful benefits.
Open-mindedness helps you:
If you are not open to other ideas and perspectives, it is difficult to see all of the factors that contribute to problems or come up with effective solutions. In an increasingly polarized world, being able to step outside your comfort zone and consider other perspectives and ideas is important.
Being open-minded has a number of benefits. In addition to helping you learn new things and grow as a person, it can help you become more optimistic and resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
Advice, Open Mindedness