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Τετάρτη, 24 Ιουλίου, 2024
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionWhat Is Intellectual Humility?

What Is Intellectual Humility?

By Sophia Machaira,

As early as 1990, a new area of psychology emerged, delving into the crucial topic of intellectual humility. But what precisely does this term mean, and how does it impact someone’s everyday life? Additionally, how can one be intellectually humble?  

Let us unravel the definition of this virtue. Its interpretation is the willingness to accept that our own values, opinions, and beliefs might be fallible and subject to change. At the same time, it is a skill that can be cultivated. Why? Because it is also characterized by our ability to respectfully discuss and listen to perspectives with which we may disagree. Such conversations can be challenging, particularly when they involve questioning our core ideas, as we may subconsciously attempt to impose our ideology on the other person. In essence, this concept can be considered a synonym for open-mindedness. 

In the vast realm of the internet, all opinions find a place. While this may not necessarily be positive, since it can give rise to misinformation and propaganda, the overexposure to diverse ideas may also overstimulate the brain, leading to hostile behavior. What does that mean? It means that we instinctively attempt to protect our values since, in the environment we have been raised in, having vastly different beliefs can cause isolation and bullying. Consequently, it is not inherently a wrong or bad reaction to have, especially towards harmful propositions. But, of course, it undoubtedly has a lot of room for improvement. 

The key to embracing open-mindedness lies in balance. Being too adaptive to other people’s ideas while lacking personal values is the essence of being intellectually insecure. On the other side of the spectrum is being intellectually arrogant, defined by considering all your beliefs as non-negotiable. In any ideal conversation, there must be curiosity to learn more, mutual respect to build trust, and an effort to be constructive while striving to understand each other’s backgrounds. The latter is a vital factor for individuals striving to become more intellectually humble to take into account. 

Image source: unsplash.com / Image Credit: Jason Goodman

Also known as social identification, its psychological impact reflects “the notion that people generally do not perceive social situations as detached observers.” So, a suggestion is to approach the discussion by telling personal stories as well as relating them to social groups. This helps in lessening potential defensive or judgmental replies. Above all, both parties must approach the dialogue with calmness and a genuine willingness to listen, not merely to be heard. That fosters an environment where differing viewpoints are valued, and it leads to a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues. The journey is never-ending and develops a “growth mindset.”

Interestingly, there is an intellectual humility survey that can put this skill to the test. The questions cover whether each party compliments the ideas of those who disagree with them, views the challenge of those ideas as an opportunity to grow and learn, and actively searches for reasons why their beliefs might be wrong, including second opinions and overall information supporting the opposite viewpoint. The main point of the survey appears to be that one should not engage in a conversation to change the other’s mind. Moreover, it implies committing to using new information to re-evaluate their existing position.

In the long run, more research will be needed in order to provide better methods for enhancing intellectual humility. Once done right, it will be easy to apply it to the school curriculum and pave the way for a new generation full of thirst for knowledge and less inclined to be argumentative. It can become one small step for man, but one big step for a greater, more harmonious society!

  • BrainCraft, Are You Really Open-Minded? / Can I change your mind? On youtube.com. Available here
  • Mark Leary, What Does Intellectual Humility Look Like? Available here
  • Social Identity Theory, britannica.com. Available here



Sophia Machaira
Sophia Machaira
Born and raised in Athens in 2002, studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, department of Informatics and Telecommunications. Adores writing free-verse poetry, fluent in English and hopes to work in web design.