What Is Intellectual Humility? Why Is It Important?

What Is Intellectual Humility? Why Is It Important?

Intellectual humility is one of the core intellectual virtues a person must possess and demonstrate to promote further intellectual advancement, critical thinking, and the pursuit of truth. To be more specific, intellectual humility is specifically defined as a mindset or an attitude that centers on recognizing intellectual limitations to pursue deeper knowledge and truth.

The Importance of Intellectual Humility

An intellectually humble individual acknowledges that he or she does not know a lot of things, and that what he or she knows might be wrong. Recognizing his or her intellectual limitations allow him or her to expand further his or her intellectual capacity while being open to unloading potentially erroneous thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and opinions.

Considering the aforesaid definition, the following are the importance of intellectual humility:

A Mindset or Attitude for Avoiding Confirmation Biases

Some people have the tendency to search, process, interpret, favor, recall, and redistribute information that is consistent with their prior beliefs or values. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. Its demonstration is suggestive of the inability of an individual or his or her stubbornness to process and accept information that runs against his or her views.

However, because an intellectually humble is open to the possibilities of the fallibility of his or her intellectual capacity, as well as his or her beliefs and values, he or she consistently search for information or accepts views that run in contrast with what he or she knows and believes.  Doing so makes this person more open to acquiring new knowledge.

Linking Intellectual Humility and Knowledge Acquisition

Remember that a person who acknowledges his or her intellectual limitations or recognizes that his or her beliefs and views are fallible is more open to acquiring new information and by extension, new knowledge. This intellectual humble individual has better opportunities for expanding further his or her intellectual capacity.

One study revealed that having the aforesaid mindset was associated with different characteristics associated with knowledge acquisition. These include including reflective thinking, need for cognition, intellectual engagement, curiosity, open-minded thinking, collaborative learning, and intrinsic motivation to learn.

A Precursor to Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a leadership style and one of the theories of leadership in which a leader pursues behaviors and actions beyond his or her self-interest to identify needed change within an organization, create the vision needed to implement the change, foster creativity and innovation, and enable open communication among his or her subordinates.

Note that in a number of situations, transformational leadership is more effective than transactional leadership. One of the characteristics of a transformational leader is intellectual humility. Studies have shown intellectually humble leaders tend to have subordinates that are satisfied with how they are being managed and directed.


  • Krumrei-Mancuso, E. J., Haggard, M. C., LaBouff, J. P., and Rowatt, W. C. 2019. “Links Between Intellectual Humility and Acquiring Knowledge.” The Journal of Positive Psychology. 15(2): 155-170. DOI: 1080/17439760.2019.1579359
  • Krumrei-Mancuso, E. J. and Rowatt, W. C. 2021. “Humility in Novice Leaders: Links to Servant Leadership and Followers’ Satisfaction with Leadership.” The Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 1080/17439760.2021.1952647
  • Yeung, N. 2020. “Transformational Leadership: Advantages and Disadvantages.” Profolus. Available online
  • Zmigrod, L., Zmigrod, S., Rentfrow, P. J., and Robbins, T. W. 2019. “The Psychological Roots of Intellectual Humility: The Role of Intelligence and Cognitive Flexibility.” Personality and Individual Differences. 141: 200-208. DOI: 1016/j.paid.2019.01.016
Posted in Articles, Society and tagged , , , .