Jane Xu, PhD, MPH


As a behavioral scientist, I am excited to see the emergence of this platform, Curbside Congress. With the country in a highly polarized state, a public forum to bring people of all sides together to take part in constructive public discourses, find common ground and resolve differences, is very timely and much needed.

For such a platform to be constructive and productive, it is essential to create and maintain an atmosphere of intellectual humility. This means for all participants to keep in mind of the limits of one’s knowledge, and be sensitive to that one’s native egocentric tendencies could be self-deceptive. Intellectual humility is related to open-mindedness, a realistic sense of that one’s own opinion could be wrong, and a healthy recognition of the values of different viewpoints. It allows a person to think and reason well, as it puts one in a state of openness to new ideas, receptivity to new evidence, and a willingness to revise one’s own beliefs, however deeply held, when compelling reasons merit.

On the other end is intellectual arrogance: overconfidence in one's own opinions and intellectual powers, which may lead to closed-mindedness, fallacies in reasoning, and disrespect for another’s opinions, among other problems.

Without an atmosphere of intellectual humility, in a heated discourse with soaring emotions and passions, arrogant behavior such as dismissing other people's opinions without careful consideration, being stubborn or self-righteous, demanding to be heard without listening enough, rudely interrupting, or even mocking, shouting, name-calling and character assassination, may take over a discussion and render it destructive and counterproductive.

Only when intellectual humility prevails among members of a community, the open-mindedness to new ideas, new evidence, and new beliefs may allow evaluating of different opinions with rational thinking and reasoning, promoting integration of different ideas and evidence, and achieving resolutions of differences or peaceful acceptance of the differences with new understanding of one another.

I look forward to seeing such a community building up here at Curbside Congress!

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