How to Be Open-Minded and Why It Matters

The Benefits of Being Open-Minded

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

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 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. 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.

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 Being able to change and revise outdated or incorrect beliefs is an important part of learning and personal growth.

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.

  • Open to new ideas and experiences

  • Passionate about their own beliefs but considerate of others

  • Empathetic towards others' feelings

  • Not receptive to other ideas; only their own

  • Rigid thinking and a refusal to consider other beliefs

  • Insensitive towards others' feelings

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:

  • Be curious to hear what others think
  • Be able to have their ideas challenged
  • Not feel angry when they are wrong
  • Have empathy for other people
  • Consider what other people are thinking
  • Be humble about their own knowledge and expertise
  • Want to hear what other people have to say
  • Believe others have a right to share their beliefs and thoughts


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:

  • Gain insight. Challenging your existing beliefs and considering new ideas can give you fresh insights into the world and also teach you new things about yourself.
  • Have new experiences. Being open to other ideas can also open you up to trying new things.
  • Achieve 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.
  • Become 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.
  • Feel 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.
  • Learn 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.

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.

How to Cultivate Open-Mindedness

Learning how to be more open-minded is possible, but it can be a bit of a challenge. In many ways, our minds are designed to view concepts as wholes.

We develop an idea or a category of knowledge, which the psychologist Jean Piaget referred to as a schema. As we come across new information, we tend to want to sort it into one of our existing schemas in a mental process known as assimilation.

Sometimes, however, the new things we learned don’t quite fit in with what we already know. In this instance, we have to adjust our understanding of the world in a process known as accommodation. Essentially, we have to change how we think in order to deal with this new information.

Assimilation tends to be a fairly easy process; after all, you’re just filing new information into your existing filing system. Accommodation is more difficult. You’re not just putting something into an existing file; you’re creating a whole new filing system.

Sometimes new information requires rethinking the things you thought you knew. It requires reevaluating your memories and past experiences in light of what you’ve learned.

In order to do this, you have to be able to set aside your judgments, take a serious look at the existing evidence, and admit that you were wrong. That process can be difficult, confusing, and sometimes painful or life-changing. It takes a lot of mental effort, but you can train your brain to be more open-minded.

Fight Confirmation Bias

A cognitive tendency known as the confirmation bias can be one of the biggest contributors to closed-mindedness. Overcoming this tendency can be a bit tricky. The confirmation bias involves paying more attention to information that confirm our existing beliefs, while at the same time discounting evidence that challenges what we think.

Being aware of the confirmation bias is perhaps one of the best ways to combat it. As you encounter information, take a moment to consider how this bias might affect how you evaluate it.

If it seems like you are readily accepting something because it supports your existing views, take a moment to consider some arguments that might challenge your ideas. Learning how to evaluate sources of information and be an informed consumer of scientific stories in the news can also be helpful.


Findings ways to overcome the confirmation bias can be a great way to cultivate an open mind. Be aware of this bias and look for ways to challenge your existing assumptions to make sure you are not simply cherry-picking information that supports what you already believe to be true.

Ask Questions

Most people like to believe in their own sense of intellectual virtue. And in many ways, it is important to be able to have trust and faith in your own choices. But it is good to remember that what might seem like being resolute and committed to certain ideals may actually be a form of closed-minded stubbornness.

Part of being open-minded involves being able to question not just others, but also yourself. As you encounter new information, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • How much do I really know about the topic?
  • How trustworthy is the source?
  • Have I considered other ideas?
  • Do I have any biases that might be influencing my thinking?

In many cases, this sort of self-questioning might help deepen your commitment to your beliefs. Or it might provide insights that you hadn’t considered before.

Give It Time

When you hear something you disagree with, your first instinct may be to challenge it or just shut down. Instead of listening or considering the other perspective, you enter a mode of thinking where you are just trying to prove the other person wrong, sometimes before you even have a chance to consider all of the points.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotional response you have to something. You disagree, you don’t like what you’ve heard, and you might even want the other person to know just how wrong they are.

The problem with that sort of quick-draw response is that you are acting in the heat of the moment, not taking the time to really consider all aspects of the problem, and probably not arguing all that effectively.

The alternative is to give yourself a brief period to consider the arguments and evaluate the evidence. After you hear something, take a few moments to consider the following points before you respond:

  • Are your own arguments based upon multiple sources?
  • Are you willing to revise your opinion in the face of conflicting evidence?
  • Will you hold on to your opinion even if the evidence discounts it?

Open-mindedness requires more cognitive effort than dogmatism. Just being willing to consider other perspectives can be a challenge, but it can be even more difficult when you find yourself having to revise your own beliefs as a result.


Giving yourself time to consider information can help you approach it with a more open mind. This often takes more effort, but it can be a great way to learn more about other points of view.

Practice Humility

Even if you are an expert on a topic, try to keep in mind that the brain is much more imperfect and imprecise than most of us want to admit. As research has shown, being knowledgeable about something can actually contribute to closed-mindedness.

When people think that they are an authority on a topic or believe that they already know all there is to know, they are less willing to take in new information and entertain new ideas. This not only limits your learning potential, but it can also be an example of a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. This bias leads people to overestimate their own knowledge of a topic, making them blind to their own ignorance.

True experts tend to actually be more humble about their knowledge; they know that there is always more to learn. So if you think you know it all, chances are that you probably don’t.

As science communicator and television personality Bill Nye once said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” Without an open mind, you’ll never have the opportunity to consider those other perspectives and experiences. You’ll never get to know what others know.

How to Encourage Open-Mindedness in Others

If you want to encourage others to be open-minded, avoid arguing and be respectful. This minimizes the risk that the other person will feel attacked or become defensive. Instead, ask questions about how the other person thinks and feels, and then supply questions that might help encourage them to consider other perspectives or ideas.

Being open-minded can be hard. It doesn’t help that our minds are often geared toward conserving cognitive energy by relying on shortcuts and simplification. Even if being open-minded does not come naturally to you, you can work to cultivate a receptive attitude that leaves you open to new perspectives, knowledge, people, and experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an open mindset?

    An open mindset refers to a tendency to be receptive to new ideas and information. Having an open mindset means being objective when you approach new things, listening to other points of view, and being willing to admit what you don't know.

  • How do I know if I am open-minded?

    Some signs that you are open-minded include feeling empathy for others, wanting to know more about what other people think, and not getting defensive when other people challenge your beliefs. If you are willing to learn new things and change your mind if you are wrong, there is a strong chance that you are an open-minded person.

  • Why is open-mindedness important in leadership?

    Effective leaders are able to overcome fixed thinking, generate new ideas, and take advice from knowledgeable members of their team. Being open-minded allows people in leadership positions to look for creative solutions and rely on members of the group who have experience and expertise.

  • How is open-mindedness measured?

    There are a few different ways that open-mindedness might be measured. Openness to experience is one of the qualities measured on the Big Five personality test, a self-report instrument that can be used to measure different aspects of personality. Another assessment tool that may be used is known as the Actively Open-Minded Thinking scale.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."