The Science of Us
Originally posted February 3, 2017
There’s a well-known Indian parable about six blind men who argue at length about what an elephant feels like. Each has a different idea, and each holds fast to his own view. “It’s like a rope,” says the man who touched the tail. “Oh no, it’s more like the solid branch of a tree,” contends the one who touched the trunk. And so on and so forth, and round and round they go.
The moral of the story: We all have a tendency to overestimate how much we know — which, in turn, means that we often cling stubbornly to our beliefs while tuning out opinions different from our own. We generally believe we’re better or more correct than everyone else, or at least better than most people — a psychological quirk that’s as true for politics and religion as it is for things like fashion and lifestyles. And in a time when it seems like we’re all more convinced than ever of our own rightness, social scientists have begun to look more closely at an antidote: a concept called intellectual humility.
Unlike general humility — which is defined by traits like sincerity, honesty, and unselfishness — intellectual humility has to do with understanding the limits of one’s knowledge. It’s a state of openness to new ideas, a willingness to be receptive to new sources of evidence, and it comes with significant benefits: People with intellectual humility are both better learners and better able to engage in civil discourse. Google’s VP in charge of hiring, Laszlo Bock, has claimed it as one of the top qualities he looks for in a candidate: Without intellectual humility, he has said, “you are unable to learn.”
The article is here.