Being aware you could be wrong is a fundamentally important personality trait, new research reveals.
People who are intellectually humble are better able to assess evidence and they also tend to stick to their principles, once established.
In other words, the humble show more integrity.
Professor Mark Leary, the study’s lead author, said:
“If you think about what’s been wrong in Washington for a long time, it’s a whole lot of people who are very intellectually arrogant about the positions they have, on both sides of the aisle.
But even in interpersonal relationships, the minor squabbles we have with our friends, lovers and coworkers are often about relatively trivial things where we are convinced that our view of the world is correct and their view is wrong.”
The research also revealed that there was no difference in intellectual humility between liberals and conservatives.
Professor Leary continued:
“There are stereotypes about conservatives and religiously conservative people being less intellectually humble about their beliefs.
We didn’t find a shred of evidence to support that.
The conclusions come from a series of four studies investigating intellectual humility.
They found that intellectually humble people were:
- more likely to be non-judgemental,
- better able to evaluate evidence,
- and less likely to ‘flip-flop’ on political issues.
Professor Leary said the personality trait was valuable:
“Not being afraid of being wrong – that’s a value, and I think it is a value we could promote.
I think if everyone was a bit more intellectually humble we’d all get along better, we’d be less frustrated with each other.”
Intellectual humility is just as important in business as it is in politics, Professor Leary thinks:
“If you’re sitting around a table at a meeting and the boss is very low in intellectual humility, he or she isn’t going to listen to other people’s suggestions.
Yet we know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Leary et al., 2017).