Cognitive closure

1cognitive-closureI have recently read an article that was trying to explain the terrifying results of our election with the need, which becomes acute in times of crisis, for cognitive closure: people simply felt they couldn’t process too many details, too much information—they wanted a simple message that they could subscribe to. And didn’t they get it?

But ever since reading that I have been observing how the concept of cognitive closure applies to everything in my daily life. My life has not been in crisis, far from it, but I am an anxious, overly-sensitive type, and a lot of small things feel extreme to me.

For example, I fault my decision to wear only black and white to my need for cognitive closure: I just don’t want to think about matching colors, patterns, etc.


Writing is of course the main area where I can notice the phenomenon. I cannot work on multiple projects at once. I have a friend (the multi-talented Rachel Fenton) who has a system of working on her novels, poetry, graphics on the same day, depending on her state of mind, time of the day, level of disturbance from children, etc. I envy her so much. My tiny brain cannot hold multiple ideas at the same time and in order to keep myself from burning out I need to focus on only one thing for weeks even.

I think I am trying to find ways in which it is okay, excusable, understandable. Because it is. We can’t be open to everything all the time. Sometimes it’s okay to shut down for self-preservation. But even if it’s okay, the ideal, the ultimate goal is still to open ourselves up, rather than close down. Most progress is achieved that way.


  1. Oh, I could explain every aspect of my life at this point with cognitive closure. A very generous concept 🙂

    And I can understand how much you need some creative outlet when you work in software. My husband works in software and he is holding on desperately to his other interests outside of work, like music and soccer. To be honest, I, from the outside, do find coding very interesting and creative, although I know it is very demanding and your brain needs a rest from time to time. Even exclusively creative work takes a toll. I think, actually, that this is a main problem: we are required (because that’s what our modern society values most) to work only with our brains, and that is very taxing. We need to get out of our heads, do things that are less mentally demanding, our hands, move our bodies, let the brain lull itself back into sanity once in a while. I don’t know.

    Yeah, I know multitasking is not actually possible, but for me even switching between tasks is problematic. But yeah, you’re right. Kindness. Always a good idea. Unless it degenerates into self-indulgence. But where is a line? Yeah, it’s not easy!

  2. I love your analysis! Personally, I think shopping for clothes and wardrobe is a waste of time. Oh! the time I waste!! I have a very run-of-the-mill software job. There is no scope to be creative. I believe shopping has become something of an outlet to try to have a personality (some color, some creativity) in a boring life. I am trying to find new avenues and step away from shopping.

    Coming to the topic of holding multiple ideas at the same time – I think the early 2000s pop psychology pushed the idea that all of us should be able to multi-task and do quite a few things effectively by ‘juggling’. Now, everyone is back to accepting that we should be focus on only one thing at time 🙂 At the end of the day, I think we should just strive to be kind to ourselves while still pushing boundaries within reason.

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