Do You Suffer from Illusions of Moral Superiority?

Intellectual humility is the antidote to arrogance and more.

Gustavo Razzetti
Jan 29 · 9 min read

“Morality is like the temple on the hill of human nature. It is our most sacred attribute.” — Jonathan Haidt

Most of us believe we are better than average. When it comes to driving style, smarts, and modesty, the optimism bias makes us think we are better than the rest.

Why We Feel Morally Superior

Morally Superior but Behaviorally Inferior

Our actions and positions are justified by having higher moral values than others. The illusion of superiority creates divisions — those who don’t belong to our group are deemed inferior.

The Moral Blindfold

Our deep-rooted beliefs can often translate to blame and myopia.

The Power of Intellectual Honesty

To seek ‘the truth’ we must observe things as they are, instead of filtering them by our position.

  • Express alternative points of view
  • Challenge the status-quo or their bosses
  • Acknowledge their mistakes without fearing punishment

From Opposition to Integration

Creativity feeds from abundance, not from exclusion.

How to Embrace Intellectual Humility

“All I know is that I know nothing.” — Socrates

Intellectual humility requires practice. I’m vulnerable to my own moral superiority. The following are not rules, but some tips I use to challenge my own views — I too fall prey to arrogance or intellectual overconfidence.

  1. Give opposing viewpoints a chance: When you are engaged and listen to ‘the other side,’ conversations become more constructive and productive. Practice to temporarily adopting a belief that feels wrong. See the world through that lens for one day or two. See what you can learn by seeing life from ‘the dark side.’
  2. Don’t attack people because they hold different viewpoints: If everyone thought the same, the world would be boring. Art is a perfect example — all artists look at the same reality, but everyone expresses it differently.
  3. Avoid being intellectually overconfident. We all overestimate how much we know. Laszlo Bock, VP of hiring at Google, said, “Without intellectual humility, you are unable to learn.” The tech-giant wants people who “argue like hell” and be “zealots about their point of view,” but who will admit they are not right when a situation has changed because new facts have emerged.
  4. Respect others. Treat those who think differently with the same respect you want to be treated by them. Differences should spark conversations, not aggression. When we feel under attack, our Intellectual Humility suffers, according to research.
  5. Separate your ego from your moral views: When we self-identify with our ideas, we become blind. You are not your ideas. Put your ego aside — don’t take it personally if someone challenges your thinking.
  6. Be open to review your viewpoints: In an era where changing one’s mind is a sign of weakness, people prefer to look right rather than finding the truth. Ideas are never final; they are constantly evolving. All scientific theories have been a stepping stone for new discoveries. If we get stuck on being right, we can’t make any progress.


We help teams and people drive positive change by liberating the best version of themselves. Insights on #leadership #selfimprovement #teambuilding #innovation #orgculture.

Gustavo Razzetti

Written by

I help teams and organizations build purpose-driven cultures. Creator of the Culture Design Canvas. Insights →


We help teams and people drive positive change by liberating the best version of themselves. Insights on #leadership #selfimprovement #teambuilding #innovation #orgculture.

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