We theorize that two important components of intellectual humility are knowing when we don’t know (intellectual curiosity), and knowing when others know more than we do (epistemic deference). These involve being conscious of one’s limitations, seeking advice, being open to different perspectives, and deferring to those with more knowledge and expertise. We will study, from an evolutionary and cultural perspective, intellectual curiosity and epistemic deference as limitations-owning manifestations of intellectual humility, in a five-pronged project: (i) Restore justified epistemic deference: What obstacles—cognitive, social—preclude people from showing appropriate intellectual humility and defer to those who know more than themselves? How can we remove these obstacles? (ii) Promote intellectual curiosity and balance with intellectual humility: What cues trigger our natural intellectual curiosity? How can we trigger these cues without also triggering hubris and lack of humility? (iii) The cultural evolution of epistemic deference: Why are there striking cross-cultural regularities in the institutions we show intellectual humility towards, from divination to ordeals? (iv) The cultural evolution of intellectual curiosity: Why do we find similar modes of intellectual inquiry in all literate cultures? (v) Applications: How can we foster intellectual humility, in particular in the form of intellectual curiosity and justified epistemic deference in children and young adults? The current planning grant serves as a springboard to launch a larger project. As such, it will allow us (a) to integrate work on intellectual humility, intellectual curiosity, and epistemic deference in an evolutionary framework, (b) to develop an evolutionary framework for intellectual curiosity, (c) to pilot studies establishing the feasibility of the larger project, and (d) to lay out the organization of the larger project.
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