by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Among the readers of this blog, there are a few people who write to me and let me know what they think about various posts. Sometimes it is to applaud a post, or to share an example where they've faced something similar. And sometimes, it is to take issue with what I've written. I appreciate that. It's actually one of the benefits of blogging: The chance to interact over something substantive, and the chance to sometimes learn that I'm wrong. And I try to be open to the possibility. I believe what I write, and that's why I write it, but I like to see it all as part of a dialogue, and that dialogue includes being open to the possibility of being wrong. So, as is sometimes pointed out to me, I could be wrong, I could be off base, I could be showing my biases in a hundred different ways.
The attitude I'm working on is called "intellectual humility," and being aware that you could be wrong is an important personality trait. According to a recent study (Leary, et al., 2017), in fact, those high in it are better thinkers, better able to assess evidence and more likely to stick to their principles once those principles are established. The research article, discussed in a recent Psyblog post, involves four studies built around a new survey called the "Intellectual Humility (IH) Scale." The trait is related to openness, curiosity, tolerance of ambiguity, and low dogmatism. Based on the experimental results, people with higher intellectual humility are more likely to be nonjudgmental, better able to evaluate evidence, less likely to flip-flop on issues. Those high in intellectual humility are also more attuned to the strength of persuasive arguments, making the personality dimension similar to another factor I've written about: rhetorical sensitivity, or the awareness that there are multiple ways to fulfill a particular communication goal. Humility also helps to facilitate better interaction and communication. "Not being afraid of being wrong - that's a value," says the study's lead author, Mark Leary, "and I think it is a value we could promote. I think if everyone was a bit more intellectually humble we'd all get along better, we'd be less frustrated with each other." Reading about this research got me thinking about the roles intellectual humility might play in different contexts, so this post will cover a few.