The Humility Heuristic, or: People Worth Trusting Admit to What They Don’t Know

Social Epistemology 35 (3):323-336 (2021)
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People don't always speak the truth. When they don't, we do better not to trust them. Unfortunately, that's often easier said than done. People don't usually wear a ‘Not to be trusted!’ badge on their sleeves, which lights up every time they depart from the truth. Given this, what can we do to figure out whom to trust, and whom not? My aim in this paper is to offer a partial answer to this question. I propose a heuristic—the “Humility Heuristic”—which is meant to help guide our search for trustworthy advisors. In slogan form, the heuristic says: people worth trusting admit to what they don't know. I give this heuristic a precise probabilistic interpretation, offer a simple argument for it, defend it against some potential worries, and demonstrate its practical worth by showing how it can help address some difficult challenges in the relationship between experts and laypeople.

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Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences


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