Could a Lack of Humility Be at the Root of What Ails America?

Frank T. McAndrew: Mark Leary found that individuals who score on the high end of intellectual humility process information differently from those who score on the low end. For example, they’re more tolerant of ambiguity and they realize that not every problem has a single, definitive answer or outcome. When they hear a claim, they are more likely to seek out evidence and prefer two-sided, balanced arguments. Unfortunately, most people do not score high on intellectual humility. Leary discovered that when he asked the following question — “Think about all of the disagreements you have had in the last six months. What percentage of the time do you think that you were right?” — the average response was about 66 percent. It was rare for someone to report being correct less than 50 percent of the time. Is there something about 21st-century American society that discourages intellectual humility — that, instead, seems to be incentivizing its exact opposite? A suspicion of so-called “experts” and a contempt for science and rationality is a long-standing American tradition. A new twist, however, is the splintering of news outlets and social media into echo chambers, where like-minded individuals reinforce each other’s worldviews.

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