Religious individuals are, on average, less humble about their intellectual prowess than non-religious individuals, and it is right-wing authoritarianism that accounts for most of the correlation between religiosity and lack of intellectual humility, according to a Pepperdine University study to be published in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.
The Foundation for Critical Thinking defines intellectual humility as “having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively.”
In other words, to be intellectually humble means to recognize that you might be wrong about what you believe. This little-studied personality trait could help psychologists shed a light on how people make decisions in various areas of life. Previous research, summarized by The Independent and conducted by Duke University researchers, has indicated that this personality trait is equally spread between religious and non-religious people, liberal and conservative-minded individuals.
New research by Elizabeth J.Krumrei-Mancuso, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, to an extent contradicts Duke University’s findings but also sheds light on what can now be considered a key factor in this — right-wing authoritarianism.
Krumrei-Mancuso authored a study titled “Intellectual Humility’s Links to Religion and Spirituality and the Role of Authoritarianism.”
Professor Krumrei-Mancuso recruited 302 individuals for the study. Each participant completed an online survey. Three years later, 100 survey participants completed another survey. Upon analysis conducted by Krumrei-Mancuso, the survey results indicated that there is indeed a small, negative link between religiosity and intellectual humility. A third variable, however, further explained the association.
These unexpected findings prompted the Pepperdine University researcher to examine and control right-wing authoritarianism on study participants. This was measured using the so-called Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale (RWA).
This scale – the interactive version of it has been published by Opensychometrics – asks participants to agree or disagree with statements such as, “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”
“It initially seemed that a number of religious and spiritual variables predicted less intellectual humility over time, but these links mostly disappeared when factoring in the construct of right-wing authoritarianism,” professor Krumrei-Mancuso told PsyPost.
In other words, right-wing authoritarianism, the third variable in Krumrei-Mancuso’s research, explains that, although religion is somewhat related to lack of intellectual humility, the main reason for this lies in sociopolitical attitudes.
Conformity to norms, obedience to leaders, intolerance of deviance, and hostility toward other groups are associated with lack of intellectual humility, and these sociopolitical attitudes are, in turn, associated with right-wing authoritarianism.
In conclusion, Krumrei-Mancuso’s research shows that religious individuals may be slightly less humble about their intellectual abilities, but those who are have their sociopolitical attitudes, which fall under the umbrella of right-wing authoritarianism, to thank for their lack of intellectual humility.