Have the insight and honesty to say that you are ignorant or inexperienced on a subject it is more common among smart people.

A recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology supports this popular idea: that it is precisely ignorance (ignorance about one’s own ignorance) that makes us dare to speak about any subject.


A team led by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso It has been shown that intellectual humility correlates with superior general knowledge. This is a logical result because, as the researchers write, “in a nutshell, learning requires humility to realize that you have something to learn.”

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Krumrei-Mancuso and his colleagues conducted five studies in total, trying to discover more about the links between intellectual humility and the acquisition of knowledge; between intellectual humility and meta-knowledge (perception of one’s own knowledge); and finally, between intellectual humility and other styles of thought.

Some studies included a shorter questionnaire assessing being a ‘know-it-all’ (by agreeing or disagreeing with statements like ‘I know almost everything there is to know’) and intellectual openness (by agreeing or disagreeing with statements like ‘I can learn from other people ‘); while other studies used a more complete measure of 22 items and recently developed incorporating questions about cognitions, emotions, and behaviors representative of intellectual humility (such as accepting criticism of important self-beliefs; being ready to change your mind; and respect for the views of others).

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This use of different measures allows a more complete and varied evaluation of intellectual humility, but it also prevents comparison between studies.

In terms of knowledge, the highest scores for intellectual humility were less likely to claim knowledge that they did not have (the researchers tested this by assessing participants’ willingness to claim familiarity with completely fictitious facts that they could not possibly know), and they also tended to underestimate their performance on a cognitive ability test.

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Other styles of thinking and constructs that correlated with greater intellectual humility included being more inclined to reflective thinking, having more ‘need for cognition’ (enjoying hard thinking and problem solving), greater curiosity, and open thinking. More intellectual humility was also associated with seeing less the beliefs of other people as inferior to their own.

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