Intellectual Humility as a Component of Wisdom

Contemporary scientists have expressed an increased interest in understanding wisdom (e.g., Grossmann, 2017; Jayawickreme & Blackie, 2016; Staudinger & Gluck, 2011; Sternberg, 1998; Thomas & Kunzmann, 2014; Webster, Westerhof, & Bohlmeijer, 2012). One prominent approach to wisdom conceptualizes it in terms of unbiased thought (Brienza, Kung, Santos, Bobocel, & Grossmann, 2017), and as such, researchers have argued that wisdom-relevant cognition is facilitated through the enactment of intellectual humility (IH; Grossmann, 2017; Whitcomb, Battaly, Baehr & Howard-Snyder, 2015). IH has been primarily defined in terms of a disposition to be alert to, admit to, and take responsibility for cognitive limitations and mistakes (Whitcomb et al., 2015; see also Roberts & Wood, 2007 for an alternative view). The present studies aimed to capture the manifestations of IH-related qualities in daily life in order to gain an accurate understanding of individuals’ trait standing on IH (Brienza & Grossmann, 2017; Fleeson & Jayawickreme, 2015), as well as whether specific situational contingencies (Fleeson, 2007) predict cross-situation variability in daily manifestations of IH-relevant characteristics. In order to examine this question, we developed a new trait and state measure of IH, which allows for the direct comparison of trait and state responses with instruments assessing the same content.

The State-Trait IH Scale was found in its different instantiations to be a reliable measure of both trait and state IH. The factor structure and reliability of the scale were comparable to existing measures of IH, for example, the Intellectual Humility Scale (Leary, et al., 2017). However, the State-Trait IH Scale includes additional content addressing the ability to admit and take ownership of one’s mistakes, which scholars have argued is central to IH (Whitcomb et al., 2015) in interpersonal contexts. Further, the present research demonstrated convergent validity as the trait version of the State-Trait IH Scale was positively correlated with constructs that capture the intellectual nature of this virtue and skills involved in enacting it, such as Need for Cognition (Cacioppo, Petty, & Kao, 1984) and Intellect (Mussel, 2013). We also found that the trait measure exhibited good incremental predictive validity over two established IH trait scales. However, the main advantage of the State-Trait IH Scale is that it allows for a direct comparison between trait and state IH utilizing the same content.

In terms of specific situational contingencies, morality positively predicted manifestation of IH, while disagreeableness negatively predicted manifestation of IH. Our work offer new directions for research on the expression of wisdom-related characteristics in daily life, and build on new directions in research on personality (e.g., Jayawickreme, Meindl, Helzer, Furr, & Fleeson, 2014; Blackie & Jayawickreme, 2015).

Read more about Eranda’s research on intellectual humility here and here.