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Being humble: Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web

Date:
December 18, 2014
Source:
Brigham Young University
Summary:
Psychologists conducted a bottom-up exploration of what it really means to be humble. They found that people see a unique dimension of humility akin to a love of learning.
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Before Charlotte the spider spelled the word "humble" in her web to describe Wilbur the pig, she told Templeton the rat that the word meant "not proud."

That's probably what most people say if you put them on the spot. But if you give them time to think about it deeply, like a new study just did, other themes emerge that have a lot to do with learning.

And these intellectual dimensions of humility describe the spider as well or better than the pig.

"Wilbur has many of the dimensions of humility in general: regard for others, not thinking too highly of himself -- but highly enough," said Peter Samuelson, the lead study author. "Charlotte shows some of the unique aspects of intellectual humility: curiosity, love of learning, willingness to learn from others."

Samuelson is a psychologist at Fuller Theological Seminary who embarked on a new voyage for academia: a bottom-up exploration of what it really means to be humble. Samuelson teamed up with Brigham Young University psychologist Sam Hardy.

For his part, Hardy utilized a statistical technique called multi-dimensional scaling that made sense of open-ended responses from the 350 study participants recruited from Amazon's "Mechanical Turk."

"This is more of a bottom-up approach, what do real people think about humility, what are the lay conceptions out there in the real world and not just what comes from the ivory tower," Hardy said. "We're just using statistics to present it and give people a picture of that."

Hardy's analysis found two clusters of traits that people use to explain humility. Traits in the first cluster come from the social realm: Sincere, honest, unselfish, thoughtful, mature, etc. The second and more unique cluster surrounds the concept of learning: curious, bright, logical and aware.

Samuelson says the two clusters of humble traits -- the social and intellectual -- often come as a package deal for people who are "intellectually humble." Because they love learning, they spend time learning from other people.

"In many ways, this is the defining feature of intellectual humility and what makes it distinct from general humility," said Samuelson, who formerly served as a Lutheran pastor prior to his academic career.

The new study appears in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Fuller Theological Seminary is a multi-denominational evangelical institution with programs of study in theology, psychology and intercultural studies. Brigham Young University is a large, private university supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and offers a broad spectrum of academic programs.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Brigham Young University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Peter L. Samuelson, Matthew J. Jarvinen, Thomas B. Paulus, Ian M. Church, Sam A. Hardy, Justin L. Barrett. Implicit theories of intellectual virtues and vices: A focus on intellectual humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.967802

Cite This Page:

Brigham Young University. "Being humble: Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141218210104.htm>.
Brigham Young University. (2014, December 18). Being humble: Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 22, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141218210104.htm
Brigham Young University. "Being humble: Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141218210104.htm (accessed June 22, 2024).

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