The question alone is the litmus test; did you answer affirmatively? Don’t feel bad; most do. But you probably are not as open-minded as you believe yourself to be.
It seems that somewhere along the line, openness has come to be somehow politicized and the true meaning of the trait has been obscured. Support gay marriage, you’re an open-minded person. Not religious, you’re open-minded. As a result, there are a number of people who identify themselves as “open-minded” individuals, all-the-while clinging to specific beliefs which they perceive to define them as open-minded.
There is not a psychological construct called “open-mindedness.” The best official term for this trait is openness to experience -or simply, “openness”- and it is a crucial domain of the Five Factor Model of personality, developed in part by psychologists Digman and Goldberg in the early 1990’s.
Before we continue, Why is Openness Important at All?
Here are the research-validated reasons why Openness is important:
High openness is significantly associated with
*Quality of life
*Upward job mobility
Low openness is associated with
*Narrow range of interests, few interests overall
*Lack of insight
*Absence of self-evaluation
*Maladaptive behavioral patterns
So how can we define true openness, then?
Many people would say that adoption of certain preferences indicates they are open-minded. But is this really the case?
If it is my nature to seek out thrills, and I decide to try sky-diving, I am not being open-minded in doing so. Simply, it already neatly fit within my framework of experiences. Open-mindedness, therefore, is not so much about the activity or preference in question, but in its alienness to our usual selves. Openness, is afterall, known as “openness to experience,” rather than, “possessing what is politically defined as open-minded attitudes.”
It is difficult to truly experience life when we limit ourselves to our narrow corridors of comfort. True openness pushes us out of our comfort zones, and people strong in this trait seek out situations in which they are NOT comfortable. When we stay within our own framework, truth and profundity escape us. Our defensive biases stand as armed soldiers at the gates of our mind, preventing the arrival of new information. This, furthermore, makes it difficult to evaluate choices effectively.
To a person high in the trait of openness, the plurality of reality is apparent; it is so apparent because they have allowed themselves to fully experience that plurality firsthand. Essentially, it is easier to accept that two opposing facts can simultaneously be correct. This is not really a paradox, either. It is only a paradox to the mind that is set.