I propose to develop a scientific personality test measuring an individual’s inclination toward motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning refers to favoring news that supports desired conclusions while deflecting news pointing to threatening ones.
I then ask whether motivated reasoning serves as a barrier to intellectual humility. Do people who engage in motivated reasoning the most show the least amount of intellectual humility?
Behavioral scientists and philosophers have grown to appreciate the powerful and pervasive role motivated reasoning plays in human error and public conflict. That said, they have focused on personality differences in such reasoning only rarely. In developing a test for such differences, I address basic questions about motivated reasoning that are answerable only after creating such a measure.
More important is the application of this new test to our understanding of intellectual humility. Intellectual humility means being open to news and differing opinions whether they lead to flattering or threatening conclusions. Achieving this humility is usually thought of as an “epistemic virtue” involving mainly the intellect. This proposal asserts, instead, that humility might depend on more motivational and emotional dynamics, namely, how people respond to information when it affirms or challenges their self-worth. Motivated reasoning may stop intellectual openness, or constrain it more to flattering information.
The project aims to develop the test, with manual and software, along with scholarly articles introducing the test and its relation to intellectual humility. A theoretical review article on motivated reasoning in intellectual humility is proposed, as well as one aimed at the general public.
The broader aim is to open new avenues of interdisciplinary work in psychology, philosophy, economics, and political science that sharpens our thinking on the interplay between motivated reasoning and intellectual humility.