According to Kruglanski and Freund’s interesting article, the notion of “need for closure” refers to “the need to have some knowledge on a given topic, any knowledge as opposed to confusion and ambiguity” (450; emphasis mine). What they claim is nothing new because we human beings, by default, tend to avoid ambiguity. The authors’ contribution is two-fold. First, they have given it a label (“need for closure”) so that we can talk about the phenomenon. Secondly, their work reminds us that we not only tend to avoid confusion but also go so far as to accept any knowledge or answer if that means we do not have to deal with the ambiguity or inconsistency at hand.
So, it begs the question: Is it helpful?
I do not believe it is. I can think of its one deleterious effect: the desire for closure can lead us to various biases. The world is a complex place. Confusions, conflicts, and ambiguities are thus a natural part of our lives. When conflicts or misunderstandings emerge, our deeply-rooted desire for closure keeps us from being willing to be open and work together to navigate through our differences. The result? As the authors warn in their paper, a high desire for closure will make us seek “stereotype-consistent information,” not dispassionate and balanced one.
The same is true when we try to get our head around the Apostle Paul and his relationship with Second Temple Judaism. I wonder, among the current few perspectives on Paul and Judaism, which group(s) has fallen victim to a strong desire for closure.
Kruglanski, A. W., and T. Fruend. “The Freezing and Unfreezing of Lay Inferences: Effects of Impressional Primacy, Ethnic Stereotyping and Numerical Anchoring.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 19 (1983) 448-68.