We talk about open-mindedness as a virtue, and closed-mindedness as the mark of an un-evolved person. But philosophers and psychologists have argued for years about what exactly it means—much less, how to measure it.

In recent years, however, scientists have found consensus around a related virtue that embodies what most people mean when they talk about open-mindedness in everyday life.

That virtue is intellectual humility. 

It turns out that IH is the missing component in the quest to measure open-mindedness—and it's something that's key to making our relationships, partnerships, and governments more excellent.

So what is Intellectual Humility?


Philosophers talk about humility as a knowledge of one's own flaws. Intellectual Humility is this, but applied to one's brain, rather than morals. 

Scientists define IH as having the absence of arrogance, or having a concern for knowledge and truth that overrides your desire to be right. But in addition, IH is about being able to actually change your viewpoint when necessary.

Aristotle proposed that "virtue" was about moderation, or the mean between two vices. Some scientists talk about IH in the same way—that rather than being simply aware of your intellectual fallibility, you are also able to resist "yielding too quickly in the face of intellectual conflict." (Vorobej, 2011).

Thus, if being too gullible is a "vice," and so is being too stubborn, then IH is the virtue that sits in between the two.

"IH involves being able to embrace one’s beliefs with confidence while being open to alternative evidence," explains Dr. Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso of Pepperdine University.

In other words, Intellectual Humility is more than being just not-arrogant, and it's more than just bending to others ideas and changing your mind willy-nilly. It's about being able to change, and being clever enough to know when to change.

Intellectual Humility's four factors:

Dr. Krumrei-Mancuso and her colleagues have developed an actual scale for four factors that make up IH:

Separating your ego from your intellect

Our ideas—especially the ones that have served us well in the past—become very easily attached to out identities. And this makes them hard to let go of. Being able to separate ideas from ego and identity is very hard, and the mark of a person high in IH.

Being open to revising your viewpoints

No matter how much we can separate our ego from things, no matter how willing we are to try new things, if we can't revise our way of thinking, we limit ourselves.

Respecting others’ viewpoints

We can't really change our viewpoint as easily if we don't respect viewpoints that might help us change.

Not being overconfident intellectually

Overconfidence is the enemy of important change.

Test your Intellectual Humility

In what areas do you have high IH? How do you stack up versus the average person? And where can you improve? Click the button here to take the free IH assessment I compiled from the latest academic studies on the subject: