Lesson 3.1

The Four Elements Of Intellectual Humility

Dive into this topic by watching the video, then continue to the key concepts below.


Key Concepts:


Intellectual Humility is similar to the idea of “open mindedness.” It’s being open to change, but without any element of gullibility.

  • Open-mindedness has to do with how we take in new experiences or information. Philosophers say that humans have two ways of doing that: 

    • The first is confirmatory thought, or “a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view.”

    • The other is exploratory thought, or an “evenhanded consideration of alternative points of view.”

Intellectual Humility is about our ability to change our minds when necessary—and it breaks down into four pieces.

  • Psychologists break intellectual humility (IH) down into components and define it as “a nonthreatening awareness of one’s intellectual fallibility.”

  • This should means a person with IH should be able to do four things:

    1. Respect other viewpoints

    2. Not be intellectually overconfident

    3. Separate ego from intellect

    4. Be willing to revise important viewpoints

  • Though it’s possible to rank high in some and not in others, to be truly intellectually humble, you need all these things.

Studies show that people high in IH pay more attention to evidence and are interested in the reasons that other people disagree with them, rather than just overcoming their opponents.

  • People with lots of IH also have less emotional reactions to ideas they don’t agree with. And they’re better at distinguishing between fake news and truth.

  • Breaking IH down into these four components gives us an easier way to think about developing it than just saying, “Be better at changing your mind when you should!”

The following lessons in this part of the course are based on data from tens of thousands of people who’ve taken the IH assessment that you took at the beginning of this module—combined with research across neuroscience, psychology, and sociology.