We are now one year in to our two-year grant to study Intellectual Humility: The Elusive Virtue. So we thought it was time for an update, especially since there was our mid-point conference in St. Louis this week with all the intellectual humility (IH) grant awardees presenting as well. We’ve done a lot in our first year, much is still going on, and some exciting work remains for our second year.garden-final

Work Accomplished:

  1. Semantic Analysis – We have completed our semantic analysis study, where we looked at all the synonyms and antonyms of intellectual humility and then compared them. As you can see, there we some interesting and unexpected clusterings that emerged. We are particularly interested in the fact that the Underrated Self antonyms and the Discreet Self synonyms cluster together. We are currently completing draft of a paper on our findings, which will be submitted for publication soon.
  2. Developing the Explicit IH scale – Our primary hypothesis is that intellectual humility is an elusive virtue, i.e., it cannot be accurately measured by self-reporting as the HEXACO personality indicator tries to do. To test this theory, we need to develop a robust, explicit measurement tool for IH. So we ran an exploratory factor analysis at GVSU in December and a confirmatory factor analysis on mTurk in April using a 52-time questionnaire. The resulting four-factor model (Chi-squared=513.3, df=224, CFI=.902, RMSEA=.053, SRMR=.059) presents an interesting picture. We’ve labeled the four factors Intellectual HumilityIntellectual VanityIntellectual Boredom, and Intellectual Neuroticism. The items are presented below, with items that are reverse-scored on their factor in italics. The first factor directly measures intellectual humility; the other three measure some of its contraries.
    1. Intellectual Humility
      • I think that paying attention to people who disagree with me is a waste of time.
      • I feel no shame learning from someone who knows more than me.
      • I don’t take people seriously if they’re very different from me.
      • Even when I have high status, I don’t mind learning from others who have lower status.
      • Only wimps admit that they’ve made mistakes.
      • If I do not know much about some topic, I don’t mind being taught about it, even if I know a lot about other topics.
    2. Intellectual Boredom
      • I rarely discuss things that I wish I understood better with other people.
      • I enjoy reading about the ideas of different cultures.
      • I would be very bored by a book about ideas I disagreed with.
      • I’ve never really enjoyed figuring out why people disagree with me.
      • I find it boring to discuss things I don’t already understand.
      • A disagreement is like a war.
    3. Intellectual Vanity
      • Being smarter than other people is not especially important to me.
      • I would like to be seen explaining ideas that no one else understands.
      • I get a lot of pleasure from knowing more than other people.
      • I wouldn’t want people to treat me as though I were intellectually superior to them.
      • I want people to know that I am an unusually intelligent person.
      • I like to be the smartest person in the room.
    4. Intellectual Neuroticism
      • I find it annoying to be told that I’ve made an intellectual mistake.
      • If someone points out an intellectual mistake that I’ve made, I tend to get angry.
      • I appreciate being corrected when I make a mistake.
      • When someone corrects a mistake that I’ve made, I do not feel embarrassed.
      • When I realize that someone knows more than me, I feel frustrated and humiliated.

Work in Progress

  1. Philosophical Analysis – We are nearing a final draft of paper reviewing and responding to the existing philosophical literature on intellectual humility, wherein we present our conceptual analysis for why IH is an elusive virtue.
  2. Continued Factor Analysis – We will soon be running a follow-up confirmatory factor analysis, slightly tweaking a few items. This version will also allow for comparisons with HEXACO.

Work for the Second Year

  1. IH Implicit Association Tests – We plan to develop an implicit measure of intellectual humility in addition to our explicit and semantic measures. Following Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean (a virtue is best understood not as the endpoint of a scale but as the midpoint between two vices) and drawing on both our explicit scale and our semantic analysis, we will create an implicit measure of intellectual humility. Standard IATs contrast only endpoints. We will run three pairwise contrasts in which one contrast is between self and other and the other contrast is between 1) intellectual diffidence and intellectual humility, 2) intellectual humility and intellectual arrogance, and intellectual diffidence and intellectual arrogance. Meta-analyses suggest that explicit and implicit psychological tests measure overlapping but distinct constructs. Constructs for which self-serving and social biases are implicated, such as humility, are especially ripe for measurement by implicit tests. We will begin this study later in the summer of 2014.
  2. Behavioral Test – Our behavioral test is a mash-up of Sherif’s autokinetic paradigm, Asch’s conformity paradigm, and Frederick’s cognitive reflection task. Sherif asked questions about which participants had almost no evidence (how much the light moved). Asch asked questions about which participants had overwhelming evidence (which line matches the example). The cognitive reflection task asks questions about which participants have sufficient but not overwhelming evidence. With enough time and effort, participants with a high school education can almost always arrive at the correct answer, but in many cases they don’t bother.  Our plan is to ask participants questions from the cognitive reflection task (and related questions, such as the Wason selection task), then prompt them to retain or revise their answers in light of simulated peer feedback. As in the Asch paradigm, sometimes the peers will be right, and sometimes wrong. Unlike the Asch paradigm, this method asks not for initial responses but for revisions; moreover, it uses questions that participants often respond to incorrectly at first. In this task, we operationalize intellectual arrogance as the disposition never to revise one’s answers, whether or not they were right. We operationalize intellectual diffidence as the disposition always to revise one’s answers, whether or not they were right. We operationalize intellectual humility as the disposition to revise one’s answers selectively towards the truth. We will begin this study in the Fall of 2014.
  3. Model Comparison – Our ultimate goal is to predict performance on the behavioral task using both the explicit and the implicit measures of intellectual humility, as well as their interaction. We predict that the predictive validity of the explicit measure will be moderated by participants’ scores on the implicit measure: the higher they are on implicit IH, the better explicit IH will predict their behavior.

Thanks for reading! We’ll keep you posted as the project progresses. And let us know if you have any questions.


Cross posted on Intellectual Humility.