Yale University

Cognitive and Developmental Facets of Intellectual Humility

Frank Keil, Kristi L. Lockhart

Website: http://www.yale.edu


While most would agree on the virtues of intellectual humility, little is known about the conditions that promote intellectual humility or intellectual arrogance in all of us. The four sets of studies in this project focus on how individuals evaluate their abilities to explain, understand and argue about important real world topics across the disciplines. We suggest that this is an especially important dimension of intellectual humility as it may strongly guide our decisions and actions on issues relevant to our lives.One set of studies asks how areas of professional and academic concentration are related to intellectual humility in one’s own area, in closely related areas, and in areas remote from one’s own expertise. That set of studies also asks how the acquisition of additional explanatory knowledge influences intellectual humility and how such changes interact with care and ideological loadings of topics. Those studies therefore explore how interventions in the form of additional kinds of knowledge (explanatory and otherwise) influence humility.

The second set of studies focuses on how immersion in situations that promote arguing-to-learn vs. arguing-to-win mindsets influence intellectual humility and related attitudes toward the absolute truth of certain positions. We propose that arguing-to-learn mindsets produce both more humility and more effective practices for engaging future arguments.

The third set of studies asks how an increased awareness of the social scaffolding of knowledge might promote intellectual humility and its behavioral manifestation through more effective deference to others. These studies argue that one key facet of intellectual humility is the recognition of the extent to which one’s own intellectual accomplishments build on those in one’s broader community, including the entire internet.

Finally, the fourth set of studies explores the development of intellectual humility and asks if some forms of humility can co-exist with the very high and often unrealistic optimism that young children have about their future states of knowledge. We argue that a kind of behavioral intellectual humility, as revealed through a willingness to learn from others, is very prominent in young children and that their high levels of optimism, while in one sense a form of intellectual arrogance about their intellectual futures, are in fact an adaptive motivational stance that still allows them to embrace and enjoy learning in the present.