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Take Action: Acknowledge Your Errors


Take Action: Acknowledge Your Errors

Recognizing What You Lack Can Enhance Your Perception

A series of recent research from Pepperdine University reveals that individuals who acknowledge their lack of knowledge on a particular topic tend to possess more wisdom. These studies focused on a trait known as intellectual modesty, which is characterized by the capacity to recognize and be honest about one’s limited experience in a given area.

Intellectual modesty differs from general modesty, which refers to the virtue of accepting one’s boundaries. Scholars have long linked general modesty with enhanced academic performance and higher grades, likely stemming from the realization that there is always more to learn in order to absorb new knowledge effectively.

Intellectual modesty, on the other hand, centers more on acknowledging intellectual limitations and grappling with the inherent fallibility of one’s own thoughts and beliefs. Being intellectually humble involves a willingness to consider that one’s opinions and ideas may be erroneous, demonstrating an openness to new information and suggesting a healthy detachment from intellect and ego, as indicated by the authors of the recent study.

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The study involved around 1,200 participants who underwent questionnaire assessments of their cognitive skills, the accuracy of their self-assessments of these skills, and their levels of intellectual modesty. For the latter part, the researchers applied various psychological metrics and models for more precise results, discovering that intellectual modesty consistently correlated with broader knowledge.

This suggests that individuals with modest cognitive abilities – meaning they aren’t necessarily more intelligent – tend to possess more knowledge compared to those lacking in intellectual modesty. The researchers deduced that this knowledge advantage stems from the fact that humility directly promotes behaviors that encourage greater learning, such as reflective thinking, intellectual curiosity, and receptivity to new ideas.

Research indicates that individuals tend to develop greater intellectual modesty as they acquire more knowledge. This implies a mutual interplay between humility and knowledge, although determining which factor drives the other remains a complex issue.


The key takeaway from this recent study is that nurturing curiosity appears to be beneficial, given the vast expanse of the world that makes it impossible to be omniscient. If you wish to be perceived as intelligent, the best response when faced with uncertainty on a topic is simply to admit, “I don’t know.”

For further insights into this study and other similar stories, watch the video above.

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