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.”

  • Open-mindedness has to do with how we take in new experiences or information. Being open means we’re willing to hear out new things.

  • Philosophers say that humans have two ways of handling points of view that are new to us:

    • 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 a better way to think about open-mindendness, because it deals with the ability to change our minds only when it’s the smart thing to do.

  • Psychologists define intellectual humility 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 (listen fully before judging)

    2. Not be intellectually overconfident (let go of past intellectual success in the pursuit of better ideas)

    3. Separate ego from intellect (depersonalize ideas)

    4. Be willing to revise important viewpoints

  • To be truly intellectually humble, you need to do all 4 of these things. But most of us have a harder time with some of them than others.

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. They’re better at distinguishing between fake news and truth. And they make better leaders and problem solvers.

  • Breaking IH down into its 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.