Using self-affirmation to increase intellectual humility in debate

Paul Hanel, Deborah Roy, Samuel Taylor, Michael Franjieh, Chris Heffer, Alessandra Tanesini, Greg Maio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Intellectual humility, which entails openness to other views and a willingness to listen and engage with them, is crucial for facilitating civil dialogue and progress in debate between opposing sides. In the present research, we tested whether intellectual humility can be reliably detected in discourse and experimentally increased by a prior self-affirmation task. Three hundred and three participants took part in 116 audio- and video-recorded group discussions. Blind to condition, linguists coded participants' discourse to create an intellectual humility score. As expected, the self-affirmation task increased the coded intellectual humility, as well as participants’ self-rated prosocial affect (e.g. empathy). Unexpectedly, the effect on prosocial affect did not mediate the link between experimental condition and intellectual humility in debate. Self-reported intellectual humility and other personality variables were uncorrelated with expert-coded intellectual humility. Implications of these findings for understanding the social psychological mechanisms underpinning intellectual humility are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number220958
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research leading to this article was funded by Grant No. 58942 from the John Templeton Foundation and the Humility and Conviction in Public Life Program at the University of Connecticut. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the UConn or the John Templeton Foundation. We wish to thank Khadija El-Wakai for their help with coding the discussions, and Jonathan Webber, Lukas Litzellachner, as well as Lukas Wolf for useful discussions.

Funding Information:
Templeton Foundation grant no. 58942. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors.


  • Intellectual humility
  • debate
  • value affirmation
  • emotions
  • intellectual humility


Dive into the research topics of 'Using self-affirmation to increase intellectual humility in debate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this