Category: Science

Measuring Intellectual Humility

As a culmination of our intellectual humility grant in 2013, my co-authors (Mark Alfano, Kathryn Iurino, Paul Stey, Markus Christen, Feng Yu, and Danial Lapsley) have just published our new multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility. Over five studies (N=3,651), two languages, and five years went into producing this paper in PLoS One, where we present our validate tool for measuring the trait of intellectual humility in people. Here’s the abstract:

This paper presents five studies on the development and validation of a scale of intellectual humility.This scale captures cognitive, affective, behavioral, and motivational components of the construct that have been identified by various philosophers in their conceptual analyses of intellectual humility. We find that intellectual humility has four core dimensions: Open-mindedness (versus Arrogance), Intellectual Modesty (versus Vanity), Corrigibility (versus Fragility), and Engagement (versus Boredom). These dimensions display adequate self-informant agreement, and adequate convergent, divergent, and discriminant validity. In particular, Open-mindedness adds predictive power beyond the Big Six for an objective behavioral measure of intellectual humility, and Intellectual Modesty is uniquely related to Narcissism. We find that a similar factor structure emerges in Germanophone participants, giving initial evidence for the model’s cross-cultural generalizability.


Recent Publication in Cogent Arts and Humanities

I have a new publication, “Human values and the value of humanities in interdisciplinary research,” recently published in Cogent Arts & Humanities. It’s open access, so check it out!

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Research Institute for Humanity and Nature

RIHN-posterMichael O’Rourke and I just returned from Kyoto, Japan, where we spoke and conducted Toolbox workshops with the environmental researchers at the national Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN).

On the first day, we spoke on problems of communication and collaboration in cross-disciplinary research. As a way of introducing the problem, I compared inter- and transdisciplinary research (collectively cross-disciplinary research, CDR) to the game Double Cranko, which comes from an old episode of M*A*S*H. The game is a cross between chess, checker, poker, and gin (both the drink and the rummy).RIHN2There are no rules; players make them up as they go along. The problem for CDR is much worse. Imagine 2 scientists from different disciplines working on a research project and 2 non-research stakeholders in that project (say one from government and another from business). Each knows one game only, and all the rules, terms, and objectives of that game. In collaborating on this project, they have to develop a way to integrate 4 different games (chess, checker, poker, and gin) into one game. But they don’t even speak the same game language. A point we emphasized over the two days with the RIHN researchers is the need for a co-creation of meaning of ambiguous terms or concepts for effective collaboration.

In the morning workshop of the first day, we facilitated dialogues among the researchers to begin that process of co-creation of meaning. They had to negotiate various ambiguous terms that we gave them in a set of prompts. In the afternoon session, the researchers broke into their research teams to produce a concept map of their projects from which to find project-specific ambiguous terms or concepts that will have to be negotiated with their projects’ non-research stakeholders.

[cross-posted at]

Back from the NIH

I just returned from SciTS 2015 at the National Institutes of Health, where I represented the Toolbox Project (along with Stephen Crowley). I presented some of my ongoing research on philosophical distinctions between various branches of science. In our role working with a wide variety of scientists on interdisciplinary research teams, we have found that differences in worldviews often differ by disciplines. And many of these differences are philosophical in nature.

This research in philosophy of science is continuing to progress. I am lead author on two papers in the works right now on this topic, so I expect I will have more to say about it soon (I hope) after additional presentations and publications.

Back from Columbia University

Michael O’Rourke
(Michigan State) and I have just returned from Columbia University, where we conducted two Toolbox workshops (one each) for the College of Nursing. Dr. Elaine Larson (Associate Dean of Research, School of Nursing) invited us to present the Toolbox method and facilitate Toolbox workshops using the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument in her “Building Interdisciplinary Research Models” course. The students were predominantly nursing doctoral students and they had many interesting and insightful comments during the dialogue.

logo1901In a new twist for the Toolbox Project, Dr. Larson will have the students continue discussing the Health Sciences Toolbox Instrument for the next six weeks of the course, taking one module per week. This is the first time for the Toolbox Project that there has been an extended dialogue process. Dr. O’Rourke and I will continue to partner with Dr. Larson and her post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Amanda Hessels, on this extended collaboration. We currently plan to produce one to two research papers on this extended deployment of the Toolbox method in a Health Sciences setting.

Toolbox and K-12

toolbox_logoLast Friday Michael O’Rourke and I presented the Toolbox Project to the Kellogg Biological Station’s GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project.
This project is Michigan State’s program (funded by the National Science Foundation) that puts Graduate STEM students in K-12 classrooms. We got to hear about some of the exciting experiments on bioenergy sustainability that they are doing with the kids to help teach how science is done (as opposed to just conveying scientific findings).gk126

Michael and I presented the Toolbox methodology and ran the grad students through an abbreviated Toolbox Workshop. Since the graduate students come from a variety of STEM fields, what their doing is a kind of interdisciplinary endeavor, albeit pedagogical instead of research. We had them complete Toolbox modules on the purpose of science and confirmation and then dialogue on those topics. As we hoped, a variety of views were expressed. As they talked, several of them verbally expressed that articulating their assumptions about science grew harder as the dialogue proceeded. This was precisely our goal, as we believe it will help them as science communicators.

After the presentation and workshop, we discussed with the grad students the possibility of using the Toolbox method for facilitated dialogues in the classroom (with modified, easier prompts) or for training K-12 science teachers. Both ideas were well received and the grad students gave some great feedback and ideas. Both of these would be exciting new avenues to expand the Toolbox into and we may have updates next term on our efforts.

Moving to Michigan State

I am happy to announce that this fall I will be joining the faculty at Michigan StateMichigan State University as a post-doctoral Research Fellow. I will be joining the NSF-funded Toolbox Project under Michael O’Rourke.


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Empathy in Psychopaths

Sometimes I like to draw attention to interesting new empirical work on or relating to moral psychology. A recent article in the journal Brain by Dutch neuroscientists Meffert et al. relating their new findings on empathy in psychopaths.

Psychopathy is a complex personality disorder, one of the defining features of which is a lack of empathy. This lack of empathy is part of what make psychopaths like Ted Bundy so disturbing: their inability to recognize others’ emotions is part of what seems to allow them to repeatedly behave in such immoral ways.

Hand being painfully hit

The researchers performed hand interactions with the participants to see how they would emotionally respond to touch. Photo credit: Dr Keysers

Meffert et al. found that psychopaths actual can and do feel empathy, but that it is must be felt intentionally by them. The neuroscientists reached this finding by comparing fMRI data from 18 psychopaths and 26 normally empathetic, control individuals. In the first phase of the experiment, all participants watched four movies of two people’s hands. The movies showed the hands in four different ways: neutral, painful, loving, and socially rejecting. In the second phase, the participants watched the movies again while in an fMRI, only this time they were explicitly asked to empathize. Finally in the third phase, while in the fMRI, researches performed the hand interactions with the participants themselves in order to establish a baseline for comparison. Continue reading

Prisoner’s Dilemma: Now with Real Prisoners

In a very cool new paper, University of Hamburg economists Khadjavi and Lange tested the Prisoner’s Dilemma with actual prisoners. Interestingly enough, apparently no one had ever bothered to check how they would actual behave in the game named for them.  Continue reading

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