The Science of Intellectual Humility

Investigator: Dr. Justin L. Barrett
Post-doctoral researchers: Dr. Ian Church, Dr. Peter Samuelson
Doctoral student researchers: Matt Jarvinen, Tom Paulus
Center staff: Rebecca Sok, Julia Stewart
Funded by: The John Templeton Foundation at $5.3 million dollars
Project dates: July 1, 2012 – June 20, 2015

Project Description:
What does it mean to be intellectually humble and how can intellectual humility be encouraged?  
This question is the subject of the Thrive Center’s John Templeton Foundation funded project, the “Science of Intellectual Humility” slated to run from 2012-2015. It currently involves two postdoctoral researchers and two doctoral student researchers examining specific questions surrounding intellectual humility (IH) such as:

  • Is IH domain specific or general?
  • Is it stable and trait-like or more variable in its expression?
  • What social and cognitive factors lead to or hinder its development?
  • Do some roots of intellectual arrogance likewise promote religious fundamentalism and intolerance?

Although humility has received significant attention, its distinctively intellectual side needs much further exploration. Intellectual humility concerns how we come to hold and retain our beliefs. It is constituted by a state of openness to new ideas, receptivity to new sources of evidence and the implications of that evidence, and willingness to revise even deeply held beliefs in the face of compelling reasons. The project’s ultimate goal is to inform work in philosophy, theology, and clinical psychology in ways that will lead to greater openness, more civil discourse, and flourishing in human relationships.

The three-year project will produce a significant volume of research with the goal of leading other scientists—as well as theologians, traditional philosophers, and experimental philosophers—to devote more attention to the subject of intellectual humility.

Fuller will distribute $4 million of the grant to 16 “sub-grantees” who will engage in scientific research on the nature, implications, and ultimate causes of intellectual humility and arrogance—resulting in a body of literature and two conferences that will promote dialogue and collaboration on the topic.

This project will:

  • Support research on under-explored areas in psychology and evolution of intellectual humility / arrogance
  • Foster critical engagement between the cognitive and evolutionary sides
  • Digest the results of work in the field in order to advance its philosophical and theological significance
  • Assess the relevance of the results to determine the impediments to intellectual humility, and to identify concrete strategies for overcoming these native tendencies