Intellectual Honesty

Intellectual Honesty

BY : Rhiannon Nevinczenko

Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget ingrained the term "schema" into our understanding of how human beings learn. Schemas (or schemata) are mental models of the world that are either expanded or modified to accommodate new information we encounter. Schema flexibility is crucial to growth and learning at all ages, whereas rigidity is limiting. For example, students who demonstrate intellectual humility (an understanding that their current understanding could be wrong and require adjustment) study better and ultimately perform better academically. Overconfident classmates, however, only realize how superficial their understanding is when they perform poorly on an exam that probes for depth of understanding. Intellectual humility, curiosity, and cognitive flexibility can be challenging - they require bravery, resiliency, and comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. It can feel so much easier to just assume that you know and never threaten your confidence by double-checking. But without this flexibility, we would not be able to thank Galileo for the heliocentric solar system model (for example). Knowing that we do not know everything, and that some things we think may eventually turn out to be wrong is an essential feature of scientific curiosity and skepticism. Furthermore, these skills serve non-scientists well in daily life as well. Ultimately, seeking out new knowledge and solving problems can be deeply rewarding and fulfilling experiences that serve us both individually and collectively.
Image credit: Loc Dang via Pexels.

Leave a comment