Academic Minute Podcast

Eranda Jayawickreme, Wake Forest University – How Can You Become a Good Thinker?

How can you become a good thinker?

Eranda Jayawickreme, Harold W. Tribble professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, uses some brainpower to find out.

Eranda Jayawickreme is the Harold W. Tribble Professor of Psychology and Senior Research Fellow at the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University. He is a personality psychologist whose work focuses on post-traumatic growth, moral personality, personality dynamics, and well-being– research topics that are at the core of existential psychology. His research has been supported by multiple grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, Templeton World Charity Foundation, European Association for Personality Psychology and the Asia Foundation/USAID. His awards include the 2023 Early Career Contributions Award from the International Society for the Science of Existential Psychology, the 2018 Faculty Excellence in Research Award from Wake Forest, and the 2015 Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the BBC, the Guardian, NPR (including on NPR’s Hidden Brain), the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, PBS, CNN, and Slate. He is currently co-editor of Social Psychological and Personality Science and an associate editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: PPID and Personality and Social Psychology Review.

How Can You Become a Good Thinker?

What qualities can help us respectfully engage with and learn from others?

Research has found that one key character trait is intellectual humility. Being intellectually humble means being open to the possibility you could be wrong about your beliefs. We know that people who can admit they are wrong usually have more empathy, which means they are able to understand and share other people’s feelings. They are also less likely to believe misinformation and more likely to look for compromises during disagreements.

If you want to focus on one trait to promote good thinking, it seems that intellectual humility is hard to beat. Indeed, researchers, including those in my own lab, are now testing ways to promote intellectual humility.

However, is intellectual humility by itself enough to promote good thinking? When you zoom out to consider what is really involved in being a good thinker, it becomes clear that simply acknowledging that one could be wrong is not enough.

Let’s look at an example. Maybe someone is willing to acknowledge that they could be wrong because “whatever.” They probably didn’t have particularly strong convictions to begin with. In other words, it’s not enough to say you’re mistaken about your beliefs. You also need to care about having the right beliefs. Being a good thinker means being sufficiently motivated to figure out what’s true, focusing on the important information and carefully seeking it out, being open-minded when considering information that you may disagree with, confronting information or questions that are new and unfamiliar or different from what you’re generally used to engaging with, and being willing to put in the effort to figure it all out.

So, intellectual humility is not the silver bullet that can teach people how to think well. It turns out good thinking requires more than intellectual humility. It requires good intellectual character.

Read More:
[Taylor & Francis Online] – Understanding intellectual humility and intellectual character within a dynamic personality framework

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