Open-mindedness is defined as the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favoured beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available. Being open-minded is generally considered a positive quality. It is a necessary ability in order to think critically and rationally.
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 does not imply that one is indecisive, wishy-washy, or incapable of thinking for one’s self. After considering various alternatives, an open-minded person can take a firm stand on a position and act accordingly. This doesn’t mean that being open-minded is necessarily 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. However, being able to change and revise outdated or incorrect beliefs is an important part of learning and personal growth.
If you want to be able to enjoy the benefits of being open-minded, there are things that you can do to build this ability.
What Does It Mean to Be Open-Minded?
There are a few different aspects to 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 being active about 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.
The opposite of open-mindedness is what is called the myside bias, which refers to the pervasive tendency to search for evidence and evaluate evidence in a way that favours your initial beliefs. Most people show myside bias, but some are more biased than others. To be in opposition of open-minded thinking is to be closed-minded or dogmatic.
Benefits of Open-Mindedness
Research suggests the following benefits of open-mindedness:
- Open-minded, cognitively complex individuals are less swayed by singular events and are more resistant to suggestion and manipulation.
- Open-minded individuals are better able to predict how others will behave and are less prone to projection.
- Open-minded individuals tend to score better on tests of general cognitive ability like the SAT or an IQ test. (though we don’t know whether being open-minded makes one smarter or vice versa.)
- Having New Experiences: Being open to other ideas can also open you up to new experiences.
- Achieving Personal Growth: Keeping an open mind can help you grow as a person. You learn new things about the world and the people around you.
- Becoming Mentally Strong: Staying open to new ideas and experiences can help you become a stronger, more vibrant person. Your experiences and knowledge continue to build on one another.
- Feeling More Optimistic: One of the problems with staying closed-minded is that it often leads to a greater sense of negativity. Being open can help inspire a more optimistic attitude toward life and the future.
- Learning New Things: It’s hard to keep learning when you surround yourself with the same old ideas. Pushing your boundaries and reaching out to people with different perspectives and experiences can help keep your mind fresh.
Characteristics of Open-Minded People
- They are curious to hear what others think
- They are able to have their ideas challenged
- They don’t get angry when they are wrong
- They have empathy for other people
- They think about what other people are thinking
- They are humble about their own knowledge and expertise
- They want to hear what other people have to say
- They believe others have a right to share their beliefs and thoughts
Ask yourself whether you are open-minded in your way of thinking. If you are not, then perhaps you can consider opening yourself to embrace more of the diversity that this world has to offer.