When people face existential challenges, who fights, who flees, and who flourishes? Why do some people respond to existential concerns with defensiveness, whereas others respond with openness and the potential for growth? We propose that intellectual humility (IH) in the face of existential issues enables people to flexibly adapt to existential concerns and integrate these experiences into their schemas of self and the world in ways that are open, authentic, and growth-focused. Our proposed research will accomplish three aims: First, we will establish a strong measurement foundation for assessing IH within the specific domain of how people engage existential issues. We will also examine our measurement strategies across three cultures (i.e., United States, Netherlands, Hong Kong). Second, after confirming evidence for the measurement strategy, we will examine key outcomes of intellectual humility through a series of experimental studies designed to make existential concerns salient via freedom/groundlessness, isolation, death, and meaninglessness. Notably, we will examine whether IH can predict when people (a) fight: respond defensively, (b) flee: leave or de-identify from their beliefs (e.g., religion, ideology), or (c) flourish: open themselves up to growth and deeper spiritual maturation. Third, this work will lay the foundation for a larger project to catalyze work on IH in the face of existential challenges. We will catalyze research in this understudied area by producing four papers (3 empirical, 1 conceptual), four presentations at national and international conferences, and submitting a proposal for a larger grant.
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