Addressing complex social problems, such as global pandemics, requires intellectual humility. Yet, there is growing evidence that social media—which is rapidly becoming the most common forum for public discussion about such problems—incentivizes intellectual arrogance, overconfidence, and dogma instead. This research project will examine how social media could be redesigned to help people identify their blind spots and have productive conversations with those who do not share their views.
Our multidisciplinary team will: a) create a social media research platform in which design features—such as the algorithms that recommend new content to users—can be manipulated in randomized controlled trials; b) recruit more than 5,000 Americans to use this platform as part of three large field experiments in which individuals interact with automated bots to test research hypotheses evaluating the capacity for social media to foster humility in online behavior; c) develop new measures of the behavioral manifestations of intellectual humility using machine-learning methods; d) make the platform available to other researchers to cultivate a broader research agenda and community of scholars studying this topic; e) disseminate evidence-based insights from our work to key stakeholders in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector; and, f) create public-use apps that encourage the positive attitudes and behaviors associated with intellectual humility on social media.
Our research agenda thus opens new lines of inquiry about how the structure of social media platforms shapes human behavior and contributes new tools and insights that can be used by scholars, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and members of the general public to promote a culture of intellectual humility.