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Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong

The Dunning-Kruger effect

It's a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Inexperience masquerades as expertise. And we tend to see it in other people, but we don’t see it in ourselves.

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Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong

Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/4/17989224/intellectual-humility-explained-psychology-replication

vox.com

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Key Ideas

Intellectual humility

It means being actively curious about your blind spots. It’s not about lacking confidence, or self-esteem. It’s about entertaining the possibility that you may be wrong and being open to learning from the experience of others.

Why we need more intellectual humility

  1. Our culture promotes and rewards overconfidence and arrogance; 
  2. At the same time, when we are wrong — out of ignorance or error — and realize it, our culture doesn’t make it easy to admit it. Humbling moments too easily can turn into moments of humiliation.

Our reality will always be an interpretation

Even if we might tell ourselves our experience of the world is the truth. Our interpretations of reality are often arbitrary, but we're still stubborn about them. Light enters our eyes, sound waves enter our ears, chemicals waft into our noses, and it’s up to our brains to make a guess about what it all is. 

The Dunning-Kruger effect

It's a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Inexperience masquerades as expertise. And we tend to see it in other people, but we don’t see it in ourselves.

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Metacognition
Metacognition

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Seek to overcome meta-ignorance

Most people lack insight about the weaknesses in their intellectual or emotional skills. They overestimate their abilities, which leads to over-confidence.

  • There are always things we know we know, and things we know we don't know - those provide the clues that can help you develop metacognition skills.
  • Check your assumptions. Intellectual humility can greatly improve your metacognition skill.
Psychologically smart questions improve metacognition skills

When you ask yourself better questions, you are forced to think deeply about your tasks and problems and the best way forward.

  • Before a task: Is this similar to a previous task? What do I want to accomplish? What should I do first?
  • During the task: Am I on the right track? What can I improve? Who can I ask for help?
  • After a task: What worked well? What could I have done better? Can I use this for other situations?
Having An Open Mind
Having An Open Mind

Being open-minded is a quality that makes us receptive to a diverse range of ideas, arguments and perspectives that may not align with our own.

If we are not open-minded, w...

Closed-Minded People

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Having strong beliefs is not an indicator of a closed mind. One can have strong convictions and yet be empathetic towards others who have a different viewpoint.

Cognitive Dissonance

When a new piece of information that we learn from ourselves conflicts with our existing beliefs, and we are unable to deny the authenticity of the new idea, we experience Cognitive Dissonance.

If we are able to revise and update our outdated or incorrect belief patterns, we move towards learning and personal growth.

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Acknowledging our ignorance

The modern world does not encourage people to admit when they lack knowledge or skills.
However, when we don't acknowledge our ignorance, we limit our chances for personal improvement.

The Dangers of Certainty

Although we are naturally curious as children, school teaches us that there is a specific set of facts to memorize and that we should not question these facts. If we don't know something, we're taught to guess.

Once the curiosity has been driven out of us in school and we're moving into the workforce, we're even less likely to say we don't know.

We feign certainty

We're afraid to admit when we don't know something for sure and expect not to see uncertainty in others. It can be disastrous.

Consider the case in which a business spent hundreds of millions on an ineffective advertising campaign because they refused even to ask if it was working.

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The Way We See The World

Each of us looks at things differently, and it's largely based on our thinking patterns, education levels, inherent bias, self-identity, and real, first-hand experiences.

Higher Mind Vs Primitive Mind

Human beings tend to have two kinds of conflicting mindsets:

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  • The Primitive Mind is our hardwired, thousands-of-years-old survivalist part, the one that's still stuck in the dark ages.
The Psych Spectrum

Our Higher Mind and the Primitive Mind always have a tug-of-war like conflict. The degree of the conflict can be placed in a spectrum, which is called a Psych Spectrum.

If the Higher mind is in control, we are placed higher in the Psych Spectrum and have the Primitive Mind under check. If we are placed at a lower degree in the Psych Spectrum, then the Primitive Mind is under control.

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The Self-Perception of Experts
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Humility

Working with an open mind, ready to dive into unfamiliar territory and learning new things, makes the entire exercise stress-free and rewarding experience. This state of mind, along with basic humility makes for better performance. One’s arrogance, ego and past can negatively affect the prediction quality.

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The humble narcissist has grand ambitions but doesn't feel entitled to them. He is also willing to acknowledge his weaknesses and learn from his mistakes.

Narcissism and confidence

We're all drawn to someone who shows confidence - that is the reason that narcissists are more likely to be promoted or get elected to political office. But on its own, narcissism is dangerous. It tends to promote overconfidence and it dismisses the criticism.

Adding humility to narcissism prevents capriciousness and complacency. It helps you remember that you’re human.

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New-Found Wisdom

Talking to yourself in the third person brings clarity, insight and greater emotional regulation about the current situation or problem.

The detachment that being in the third-person offers, removes the inherent emotional bias that one has, but is unaware of.

Benefits of Being Wrong
  • Accepting vulnerability
  • Embracing a learning mind
  • Opening to new possibilities
  • Prioritizing self-growth over reputation.

We default to being rig...

Self-created struggles

See life as it is, without all the ideals and fantasies you’ve been preoccupied with.

The vast majority of our struggles are self-created, and we can choose to overcome them in an instant.

Fearing judgment from others
We fear the judgments of others, even though their judgments about us are rarely valid or significant.

Tying your self-worth to everyone else’s opinions gives you a flawed sense of reality because people judge us based on a pool of influences in their own lives that have absolutely nothing to do with us.

Past experiences
In many ways, our past experiences have conditioned us to believe that we are less capable than we are.

We need to learn from the past, but also to be ready to update what we learned based on how our circumstances have changed.

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Feeling included in organizations
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Traits inclusive-leaders share
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  • They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others.
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The most important trait

If a leader wants to know what is the most important trait, commitment is the most critical.
For those working around a leader, the single most important trait is a leader's visible awareness of bias - a leader that constantly challenges their own bias and encourage others to note their pre-conceived leanings. Raters also care about humility and empathy.

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