The present proposal empirically explores potential epistemic underpinnings of intellectual attitudes. Its central question concerns the relation between knowledge formation processes and the intellectual attitudes of arrogance, diffidence and humility. Based on our theory of lay epistemics (Kruglanski, 1989; 2004) we identify two factors which may combine to induce those intellectual attitudes. One of these factors is the need for cognitive closure (NFC) (e.g. Kruglanski, 2004; Kruglanski & Webster, 1996; Kruglanski, Pierro, Manneti & DeGrada, 2006). The second factor is an individual’s self ascribed epistemic authority relative to that of their interaction partner’s (Kruglanski et al., 2005).
Two sets of studies incorporating these factors are being proposd. Both sets will vary (in different ways) participants’ need for closure as well as the perceived epistemic authority of participants relative to their interaction partners. The first study set will vary the epistemic authority ascriptions to the participant. The second set will vary epistemic authority ascriptions to the partner. These features of our research designs will afford the examination of predictions concerning the joint impact of participant’s need for cognitive closure and the perceived relative epistemic authorities of the participant vs. the interaction partner on participants’ intellectual attitudes of arrogance, diffidence and humility. The general hypothesis under investigation is the following: Individuals with a high need for cognitive closure will be sensitive to perceived epistemic authority differential between themselves and their interaction partners. To the extent that their self ascribed epistemic authority is perceived to be higher than the perceived authority of their partners, high need for closure individuals will display intellectual arrogance. In contrast, to the extent that their self ascribed epistemic authority will be lower than the perceived authority of their interaction partners, high need for closure individuals will display intellectual diffidence. Individuals with low need for cognitive closure will be less sensitive to the perceived epistemic authority differential between themselves and their interaction partners. These individuals will be instead attentive to the substance of the information and will, therefore, behave in a manner reflecting intellectual humility.
Follow up research will investigate ways of attenuating the attitudes of intellectual arrogance and diffidence and augmenting the attitude of intellectual humility. These follow up experiments will be carried out in paradigms of Study Set 1 and 2 and will consist of reducing the participants need for cognitive closure through the induction of a fear of invalidity. If our predictions are supported we would have convergent evidence concerning the relation between the process of knowledge formationand the intellectual attitudes of arrogance, diffidence and humility.
Understanding the epistemic underpinnings of intellectual arrogance, diffidence and humility would make a contribution to experimental philosophy and serve as an important first step in launching developmental investigations into caretaker practices and conditions that foster the emergence of different intellectual attitudes in children. Further into the future, such research could contribute to programs and interventions aimed to cultivate virtuous intellectual attitudes such as humility, and to discourage unworthy attitudes of arrogance and diffidence.