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The Psychology: Admitting You’re Wrong

Admitting What You Don’t Know Can Make You Seem Smarter

A recent study conducted by Pepperdine University found that individuals who openly admit to not knowing the answer to a question tend to possess more knowledge. This study focused on a trait called intellectual humility, which involves recognizing and being honest about one’s unfamiliarity with a certain topic.

Unlike general humility, which involves acknowledging personal limitations, intellectual humility relates to acknowledging intellectual fallibility and being open to the possibility of being wrong. Researchers have long associated general humility with academic success and better grades as it fosters a willingness to learn and acquire new information.

Intellectual humility goes beyond recognizing weaknesses and focuses on acknowledging the potential fallibility of one’s opinions and ideas. It signifies a willingness to accept new information and maintain a healthy separation between intellect and ego.

(Photo Source: quoterich.com)

The study involved approximately 1,200 participants who were evaluated through questionnaires assessing their cognitive abilities, self-assessment of these abilities, and levels of intellectual humility. By employing various psychological scales and models, the researchers concluded that intellectual humility was consistently associated with higher levels of general knowledge.

Interestingly, individuals with high intellectual humility were not necessarily more intelligent, but they tended to possess broader knowledge compared to those lacking in humility. The researchers suggest that humility leads individuals to engage in behaviors that facilitate learning, such as reflective thinking, intellectual curiosity, and openness to new ideas.

Research indicates that as people acquire more knowledge, they also tend to exhibit increased levels of intellectual humility. This reciprocal relationship between humility and knowledge is evident, although it remains unclear which factor influences the other.

via GIPHY

The key takeaway from this study is that curiosity is a valuable trait, and given the vastness of knowledge, it is impossible to know everything. To appear intelligent, one should feel comfortable admitting when they do not have an answer to a question by simply saying, “I don’t know.”

For more information on this study and similar stories, watch the video above.

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