Kossowska Małgorzata

Kossowska Małgorzata, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Postal Address:
Institute of Psychology
Jagiellonian University
Al. Mickiewicza 3
31-120 Kraków, Poland

phone +48 126 341 305 w. 261


My main research interests are cognitive mechanisms of complex social phenomena (e.g. political beliefs, prejudice, stereotypes); cognitive rigidity and its relationships with problem solving and making decision; epistemic motivation and cognition.

Motivation towards closure and cognitive processes:
An individual differences approach

The purpose of the study is to explore possible cognitive antecedents of the need for cognitive closure. This construct has been described by Kruglanski (1989; Webster and Kruglanski, 1994) as a dimension of individual differences in the striving for clear and certain knowledge, aimed at reducing the sense of cognitive uncertainty. During the last twenty years the nature of the need for closure and its influence on the way and scope of both cognitive and social functioning was extensively researched (e.g. Dijksterhuis, van Knippenberg, Kruglanski, & Schaper, 1996; Webster & Kruglanski, 1994; Kruglanski, Webster, & Klem, 1993; Ford & Kruglanski, 1995). However, the sources of this motivation remain unknown. I am exploring possible cognitive mechanisms contributing to the need for cognitive closure. Based on considerations to be outlined shortly, it is the initial limitations in cognitive capacity that may constitute an important source of the need for cognitive closure.

Epistemic motivation, emotional arousal and predecisional information processing

The extent to which people seek and process information prior to forming a judgment or making a decision may have important consequences in many everyday situations. Therefore it is of interest to identify the psychological variables that may influence the range of information seeking before a judgment is formed or a decision is made. One factor with a potential bearing on this problem is emotional arousal (e.g. Easterbrook, 1959; M. Eysenck, 1982; Humphreys & Revelle, 1984; Robbins, 1997). The other one worth studying in this context is also motivational and concerns a person’s need for closure or need to avoid closure on a judgmental /decisional topic (Kruglanski, 1989; Kruglanski, Peri & Zakai, 1991).
In this project, I try to integrate these two approaches to understanding the influence of motivational factors on information processing during decision making. The goal of this study is to analyze whether the influences of negative emotional arousal on predecisional information search can be overcome by the influence of a motivation to avoid cognitive closure. Taking into account that in real life situations people often make decisions under stress, time pressure or negative emotions, knowledge about the motivational factors influenced their decisions under such circumstances seems to be specially important.

Threat of terrorism: Cognitive determinants and social consequences

The aims of the present research are twofold. Firstly, we would like to describe psychological factors that have an impact on the feeling of a threat of terrorism. The second purpose is to determine social and psychological consequences of a terrorism threat.
We propose to analyse the feeling of a terrorism threat within the framework of Risk Perception Theory (Slovic, 2000), expanding this model by employing individual and group factors. It is planned to focus on the description of individual variables, such as values and individual differences regarding cognitive motivation along with their relation to the strength of the perceived threat of terrorism. Furthermore, we find cognitive representations of terrorism and a terrorist as well as ideological and religious beliefs and attitudes considerably important. Additionally, in our analyses we intend to consider demographic factors (e.g. place of residence, planned trips to the regions that suffer terrorist attacks etc.).
Focusing on the consequences of a terrorism threat, we assume that its individual and social perception will strengthen in-group identification. Nevertheless, we expect that in case of individually perceived terror it will intensify patriotic attitudes, whereas a sense of public threat will generate nationalistic feelings, conspiracy theories, prejudice and acceptance of rigorous solutions aimed at limitation of privileges of other ethnic/national minorities or groups. Hence, the consequences will vary; on the one hand we have the increase of human solidarity, on the other hand – an emphasis on intergroup divisions and differences, in-group favouritism and out-group derogation.
Moreover, we take into consideration other important behavioural consequences of feeling of threat, such as tendency to avoid particularly risky places, changes of habits related to using public transport or taking important economic decisions, like purchase of house and choice of place of work or spending leisure time.
Project is developed in cooperation with A. Golec (Middlesex University, Warsaw School of Social Psychology), A. Czerniak, M. Sekerdej, S. Czapliński & T. Kubik (Jagiellonian University).

Cognitive ability and motivational interventions:
Their effects on performance outcomes

Motivation and cognitive abilities represents two basic determinants of learning and work performance, however cognitive and motivational influences on performance were usually studied separately. On the one hand the numerous studies has investigated the role of cognitive-intellectual abilities in predicting individual differences in job/task performance (e.g. Dunnette, 1976; Hunter, 1986). On the other hand, iIncentives, goal assignments, need achievement, expectancies, subjective valuation of outcomes, self-efficacy expectations, and a host of other no cognitive factors have been shown to influence goal choice, intended effort, task behavior, and work performance. While the body of literature examining the role of abilities and motivation in individual differences in tasks performance is growing (e.g. Mitchell & Silver, 1990; Harris & Tetrick, 1993), little research has been conducted on the cognitive processes involved in, and affected by, motivation.
In these project, I have stressed the importance of interactions betweens ability (working memory capacity) and motivation (need for cognitive closure) determinants of performance. I expected that when motivation is low, both low and high ability individuals demonstrate similar low levels of performance. However, when motivation is high, performance variability due to individual differences in ability will be more evident.
This interaction has two important implications for work settings. First, enhancing task motivation should exert a beneficial effect on performance among persons of both low and high ability. Second when task motivation is high, the role of abilities in determining individual differences in performance should be more pronounced. Several studies (e.g. Vroom, 1964; Kanfer & Ackerman, 1989) appear to demonstrate such interaction effects; other studies not (e.g.Locke, 1965). Non of them address this issue to working memory and need for closure constructs.


Selected Books

  1. Kossowska, M. (2000). Strategie działania [Cognitive strategies]. Universitas, Kraków.
  2. Kossowska, M., Śmieja, M. i Śpiewak, S. (red.) (2005). Społeczne ścieżki poznania [Social paths of cognition]. Gdańsk: Gdańskie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne.
  3. Kossowska, M. (2005). Umysł Niezmienny. Poznawcze mechanizmy sztywności [Unchangable mind. Cognitive mechanismsm of rigidity] Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego.

Selected Papers

  1. Kossowska, M. i Nęcka, E. (1994). Do it your own way: cognitive strategies, intelligence and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 16, 3-46.
  2. Kossowska, M., Matthaus, W. i Nęcka, E. (1996). The cost of being competent: Expertise and rigidity in coping with novelty. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 27, 25-38.
  3. Schouwenburg, H. i Kossowska, M. (1999). Differential effects of self-control and deep-level information processing on academic achievement. Personality Psychology in Europe, 7, 263-281.
  4. Van Hiel, A., Kossowska, M. i Mervielde, I. (2000). The relationship between Openness to Experience and political ideology. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 741-751.
  5. Kossowska, M. (2002). Intelligence, personality and cognitive strategies. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 33, 47-55.
  6. Kossowska, M., Van Hiel, A., Chun, W. Y. & Kruglanski, A. (2002). The Need for Cognitive Closure Scale: Structure, cross-cultural invariance, and comparison of mean ratings between European–American and East Asian Samples. Psychologica Belgica, 42, 267-286.
  7. Kossowska, M. & Van Hiel, A. (2003). The relationship between need for closure and conservatism in Western and Eastern Europe. Political Psychology, 24, 501-518.
  8. Duriez, B., Van Hiel, A., & Kossowska, M. (2005). Authoritarianism and social dominance in Western and Eastern Europe: The importance of the socio-political context and of political interest and involvement. Political Psychology, 62, 299-321.
  9. Van Hiel, A. i Kossowska, M. (2006). Having few positive emotions, or too many negative feelings? Emotions as moderating variables of authoritarianism effects on racism. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 913-930.
  10. Kossowska, M. (2006). Motivational and cognitive antecedents of political beliefs. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 37, 133-144.
  11. Van Hiel, A., Duriez, B. & Kossowska, M. (2006). The presence of left-wing authoritarianism in Western Europe and its relationship with conservative ideology. Political Psychology, 27, 769-793.
  12. Kossowska, M. (2006). Motivational and cognitive antecedents of political beliefs. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 37, 133-144.
  13. Kossowska, M. (2007). The role of cognitive inhibition in motivation toward closure. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1117-1126.

Selected articles in books

  1. Kossowska, M. i Van Hiel, A. (2007). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: relationship between ideology and economic beliefs in Eastern and Western Europe. W: A. Golec i K. Skarżyńska (red.) Polish society during systemic change: perspectives of societal and political psychology. Nova Science Publisher.

Selected conference papers

  1. 7th Conference on Personality, Ghent, 1996 (Kossowska, M. „Individual differences in cognitive strategies use” oraz Schouwenburg H.„ Kossowska, M. „Differential effects of self-control and deep-level information processing on academic achievement”.)
  2. ESCOP Conference, Ghent, September 1999 (Kossowska, M. „Cognitive determinants of political beliefs”)
  3. XIII ESCOP, spetember 2003, (Kossowska, M. „The effect of cognitive load, time pressure, and complexity of the task on cognitive inhibition”; Kossowska, M. „Cognitive inhibition as determinant of Need for Closure” ; Wichary, S., Kossowska, M., Orzechowsi, J.; Slifierz, S. i Marković, J. „Cognitive mechanisms of decisiveness”)
  4. ECP 12, july 2004, (Kossowska, M. “The relationship between personality traits and the attentional mechanisms of inhibition”)
  5. 14th General Meeting of EAESP, Wurtzburg, 18-23 lipicec 2005 (M. Kossowska, & DEPP “Cognitive processes and fast decision making)
  6. „Social cognition”, 11-13 styczeń 2006, – seminarium międzynarodowe zorganizowane przez prof. G. Sędka SWPS (M. Kossowska – Emotional bases of prejudice.”)
  7. Individual differences in cognition, 15-17 wrzesień 2006, Kraków (M. Kossowska & A.W. Kruglanski – Motivation towards closure and individual differences in cognitive resources.)

Research Grants

  • grant KBN 1996 -1997 - Kossowska & Shouwenbourg - "Personality and academic achievements”
  • grant Fundacji im. Sorosa - 1997-1998 - Kossowska - "Personality and Current Political Beliefs"
  • grant KBN - 2000-2002 - Kossowska -"Formal model of political beliefs"
  • grant Fundacji im. Batorego - 2000-2001 - Kossowska -"Cognitive determinants of need for cognitive closure"
  • grant KBN 2003-2005 - Kossowska – „Nature and the role of cognitive inhibition”
  • grant KBN 2005-2007 – Wichary, Kossowska, Orzechowski, Ślifierz, Marković – „Cognitive model of decisiveness”
  • grant KBN 2007 – 2009 – Kossowska, Golec, Czerniak, Sekerdej & Czapliński - Threat of terrorism: Cognitive determinants and social consequences
  • grant KBN 2007-2009 – Kossowska, Kirstein, Bartelak – Cognitive ability and motivational interventions: