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How can we use values to increase humility among political partisans?

19 October 2023

A new interdisciplinary research project is examining the role of personal values in intellectual humility within online political debate.

Using Values to Increase Intellectual Humility among Political Partisans combines an empirical programme of research featuring three studies examining the effects of thinking about personal values on subsequent intellectual humility in online political debate, alongside an interdisciplinary event with international experts on virtue, values, and attitudes in philosophy and psychology.

The project begins with a dialogue between philosophical research on values and virtue and social psychological accounts of value and attitude to clarify the relation of values to intellectual humility and virtue, with particular consideration of political contexts.

Drawing on previous interdisciplinary research, it will evaluate the effectiveness of value-affirmation interventions in three large-scale pre-registered experiments, considering strength of effect, effects over time and the psychological mechanisms that underpin change.

Professor of Philosophy Alessandra Tanesini at Cardiff University and Professor of Psychology Greg Maio at the University of Bath are leading the study.

Professor Tanesini said:

“Polarised politics impedes collective action to address immense and complex societal challenges, including climate change, wars, and pandemics. Increasing antipathy between political partisans has led to arrogant and divisive judgements about the other sides’ intellectual capacity and a limited willingness to understand their viewpoints. Innovative approaches designed to promote and sustain intellectual humility are needed to foster respectful and constructive political debate to generate solutions with broader acceptability.”

Professor Maio said:

“This project tackles a fascinating challenge: how can we manifest a genuine intellectual humility while being true to our deepest convictions?  This challenge arises because humility entails being open to different perspectives and being aware of our own intellectual limitations.  This openness entails being prepared to genuinely consider that we might be wrong.  However, we also want to stay true to our cherished values and may fear that any admission of wrongness means a rejection of those values.  In our project, we seek to discover whether the opposite might also be true.  That is, awareness of our values might increase humility by making us feel secure enough in ourselves to be open to other perspectives.”

The USD 250,000 three-year interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between Philosophy at Cardiff University, and Psychology at the University of Bath and the University of Essex, funded by the John Templeton Foundation through Georgia State University.

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