Cognitive Humility: How open-mindedness affects intelligence

Our brains might have limited capacity to store information but, it is far from being completely developed . We have miles to go before unleashing our true cognitive power. An article, published by Salk Institute in 2016, reveals the capacity our brain to be 10 times larger than common estimates. Irrespective of how much information we can currently hold, there is always a room for improvement.

An important tool that helps increasing cognitive abilities might seem a little counter-intuitive at first. It is simpler than challenging the brain by solving the Sunday crossword puzzles, cramming the entire Oxford dictionary or exercising the brain. There are quite a number of evidence that show us the above practices to be more than helpful when it comes to performing well on verbal tests or IQ scores, yet there exists something much more simple that can be practiced without much effort – realizing and acknowledging one’s own cognitive limitations.


A very important way of understanding cognitive humility is to understand the forms of cognitive bias such as pride and vanity. Human beings are far from perfect. We are prone to making mistakes in our everyday activities, and are not very efficient in terms of activities that require repetition. Machines are a perfect replacement, in this regard, as it is incapable of getting “bored”, or be a victim of circumstances, emotion and ever-changing mood. That being said, creativity is the most important aspect that sets the human brain apart. It is collecting already existing well-tested theories and re-arranging in them in a new order. The very act of re-arranging information in a new manner, leads to discoveries and propels the wheels of advancement. However, the brain is highly sensitive to bias – our manner of thinking and acting often tends to mirror others and we often jump to conclusions based on these notions. Often, in an argument a person tries to focus onĀ  the part of a discussion or evidence consistence with their own belief system. It is very important to be open-minded and consider parts of discussion that doesn’t reflect our beliefs in order to open new neural pathways and make the brain in a different.

One of the most common form of cognitive biases, found commonly in groups born in self-sufficient culture is conceit or excessive pride, which is more-than-often unfounded. One of the most important pitfalls of such manner of thinking is that it robs us of our need to improve ourselves. Although, such individuals might accept new information based on new experiences, amending these pre-conceived notions becomes a challenge, that barricades the path towards cognitive improvement.

History has witnessed the 16th century controversy that revolved around the Italian astronomer Galileo who insisted that earth revolved around the sun(geocentric system) that speaks volumes how biases slow down progress.

Galileo mural

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Also, as the name “cognitive humility” suggests that it is important to realize that the human brain can be challenged and always developed further. An important way to be humble is to be constantly expose oneself to new environment, visit other nations, meet people from other cultures.

However, one musn’t confuse a lack of self-confidence with humility as the latter is a choice. It is realizing that there are lots of room for improvement and that better people might exist in the world around us. Thus, the consequences of being humble extend beyond peaceful co-existence and what we generally refer to as “human values”.


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