University of Texas Austin

Humble Beginnings: Examining the Development of Intellectual Humility in Childhood

Christine H. Legare



Access to diverse and often contradictory beliefs is pervasive in an increasingly interconnected world. To keep pace with rapid advancements in science and technology, it is crucial to discard inaccurate theories of the physical world in favor of more accurate scientific understanding. The capacity to reconcile disparate belief systems is essential for the development of tolerant and scientifically literate global citizens. Intellectual humility, defined as the state of openness to new ideas, receptivity to new sources of evidence, and willingness to revise beliefs in the face of inconsistent evidence, is integral to the development of scientific reasoning.Intellectual humility is necessary both for reasoning about others intentions and beliefs, and for the scientific process, in which we revise beliefs in the face of inconsistent evidence and discard ineffective theories and technologies for those that provide greater explanatory value. The objectives of the proposed research are to examine (a) children’s ability to revise their beliefs when faced with different kinds of evidence (i.e., consistent, inconsistent, and ambiguous information) and (b) individual differences in the personality traits associated with the process of belief revision (i.e., need for cognition, openness and conscientiousness). Examining intellectual humility in early childhood will provide key insight into how this crucial capacity comes into being and will allow us to better understand how to integrate this capacity into educational initiatives.