Sir John Templeton noted that we are “perched on the frontiers of future knowledge.” To move into this future, we must acknowledge what we do not know and how we might be wrong. Yet, in our era of punditry and polarization, recognition and admission of intellectual fallibility is hard to find. But what if we could help people become more comfortable acknowledging their ignorance and intellectual limitations?
Our work will identify methods to increase the experience of intellectual humility (awareness of one’s intellectual fallibility) by increasing motivation to express intellectual humility (admit one’s intellectual fallibility to others). We seek to answer the Big Question: How can we cultivate the virtue of intellectual humility? Because virtues are malleable characteristics comprising deeply internalized and habitual beliefs and behaviors, we predict increasing expressions of intellectual humility can promote both the experience of intellectual humility and development of a behavioral habit, ultimately helping to cultivate the virtue.
We will study when and why high school and college students find it easy and difficult to express intellectual humility in school. Next, we will develop methods for increasing the expression and experience of intellectual humility. Finally, we will examine whether the motivational factors identified in youth are also present in younger children.
If successful, our research will advance theory and understanding of how the cognitive experience and expression of intellectual humility relate and how we might intervene to increase both. For educators and parents, we will identify techniques to enhance youths' intellectual humility. For society, we will uncover pathways for promoting the virtue of intellectual humility. By increasing expressions and experiences of intellectual humility in classrooms, we aim to promote a deeply internalized intellectually humble way of thinking, behaving, and being in the world.