Duke University

Intellectual Humility, Legal Decision Making, and Wrongful Convictions

Lasana Harris, Phillip Costanzo


This project seeks to assess the limitations and function of intellectual humility in the judicial system and develop strategies to encourage intellectual humility, thereby reducing erroneous decisions to prosecute and subsequent wrongful convictions. We will use a multi-stage method, first developing and validating a measure of intellectual humility; second, using our scale in applied research in collaboration with Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic and the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys to investigate the influence of legal roles on intellectual humility and the interaction of role and personality disposition, and; third, further refining our findings using fMRI imaging data exploring brain correlates of intellectual humility. We also plan to host a series of seminars and practical workshops bringing prosecutors, police investigators, defense lawyers, and judges together with academic researchers from the fields of law, neuroscience, ethics, psychology, and theology to exchange insights on how intellectual humility may influence legal decision making. We hope our seminars will begin to address the future initiatives of the Fuller Theological Seminary, namely research on the implications of intellectual humility in the domain of public discourse, and how further inquiry and research on intellectual humility can pave the way for eventual practice and policy improvements that could reduce wrongful convictions.