Intellectual humility as a tool to combat false beliefs: An individual-based approach to belief revision

Anton Gollwitzer, Evelina Bao, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

False beliefs pose significant societal threats, including health risks, political polarization and even violence. In two studies (N = 884) we explored the efficacy of an individual-based approach to correcting false beliefs. We examined whether the character virtue of intellectual humility (IH)—an appreciation of one's intellectual boundaries—encourages revising one's false beliefs in response to counter-information. Our research produced encouraging but also mixed findings. Among participants who held false beliefs about the risks of vaccines (Study 1) and the 2020 US Election being rigged (Study 2), those with higher IH explored more information opposing these false beliefs. This exploration of opposing information, in turn, predicted updating away from these inaccurate health and political beliefs. IH did not directly predict updating away from false beliefs, however, suggesting that this effect—if it exists—may not be particularly powerful. Taken together, these results provide moderate support for IH as a character trait that can foster belief revision but, simultaneously, suggest that alternate pathways to combat false beliefs and misinformation may be preferred.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1450-1478
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Volume63
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Keywords

  • belief updating
  • false beliefs
  • information search
  • intellectual humility
  • misinformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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