Are Physicians Intentionally Downplaying Their Intellectual Humility?

Dr. Adam Tabriz

It Maybe Ripe For Physicians To Own their Intelectual Limitations, Yet Still, They Ought to Reset Their Thresholds When It Comes To Health Technology

Illumination publication initially publicized this article on Medium!
Photo byImage by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

Intellectual humility, or the attitude about entertaining that one may be wrong and being open to learning from that, is a common phenomenon. It is the core trait of every intelligent human being to accept and realize their limitation.

Intellectual humility is a civilized and open-minded approach to one's cognitive constraints and humble apprehension about concerns for intellectual domination.

Generally speaking, physicians fit into the category of professionals who often possess and uphold intellectual humility. They do so primarily by entertaining the idea that their job description and responsibilities start and end with what they were trained to do: diagnose and heal patients.

Physicians are also "Blackhat Thinkers," as they envision opinions, options, and things with a critical eye. Physicians, by training, the mindset driven by the "Hippocratic first do no harm" philosophy are some of the most conservative profiles of professionals.

Those who possess intellectual humility trait are more receptive to hearing opposing opinions. They more readily seek information that contradicts their perspective without approving or rejecting the idea.

Physicians, typically, are more inclined to pay to evidence-based reasoning, and they are very cautious to avoid answering a question with wrong answers.

Intellectual humility and the Blackhat thinker perspective have only "inconsistently" played to their concession.

One prominent example where intellectual humility has flopped to play in favor of the physician community is their reluctance to own the validation of health technology.

Physician Intelectual Humility Is Valid, However Not Necessarily With Regards To Health Technology

Overconfidence is often deceitful. It has no place in a sound physician's mind. But rejecting overconfidence and embracing one hundred percent intellectual humility does not negate that physicians are also tossing the so-called "Wilful Blindness" towards health technology.

Physicians are already aware of the current digital health technology limitations and failures. However, their Blackhat thinking attitude and belief in intellectual humility have turned out to resonate with wilful blindness.

The passive acceptance philosophy of physicians that they are not technology gurus has forced them to take up clerical or data entry tasks instead amidst non-user-friendly electronic health records systems and the emergence of a value-based reimbursement model.

Physicians do not have to become technologists but surely can dump the clerical work using the right tools. Those are technologies validated by physicians for the medical community.

Intellectual humility does not necessarily have to be at the expense of technical knowledge about the system they use. A health technology validation scheme should be part of the medical school curriculum.

After all, physicians are among the prime users of those technologies and are the perfect validators of those systems if they want to avoid the administrative burden and burnout.

Physicians Must Reset Their Boundary Threshold On Intelectual Humility

Naturally, if one is unaware of their limiting thoughts, one will be able to change.

Once physicians are familiar with the true nature of why they face limitations in the form of intellectual humility, that will set them on the path to thinking outside their traditional boundaries and look for other avenues to thrive and eliminate various obstacles.

Taking significant actions like claiming ownership of their technology validation is a step forward to expand their role outside their intellectual humility.

Reevaluating the territory assigned to us all by our wisdom and knowledge starts with resetting those thresholds through self-awareness and openness to listen and strategize. However, most physicians, particularly the baby boomers, seem reluctant to put away their Blackhat critical thinking and put on their "GreenHat" by adopting innovative ideas and becoming technologically creative.


  1. Alfano, Mark, Kathryn Iurino, Paul Stey, Brian Robinson, Markus Christen, Feng Yu, and Daniel Lapsley. "Development and Validation of a Multi-Dimensional Measure of Intellectual Humility." Development and validation of a multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility | PLOS ONE., August 16, 2017.
  2. "How Physicians Are Mishandling Technology.", July 10, 2022.
  3. The psychological roots of intellectual humility: The role of intelligence and cognitive flexibility — ScienceDirect. "The Psychological Roots of Intellectual Humility: The Role of Intelligence and Cognitive Flexibility — ScienceDirect.", January 15, 2019.
  4. What Does Intellectual Humility Look Like? | Center for Practical Wisdom | The University of Chicago. "What Does Intellectual Humility Look Like? | Center for Practical Wisdom | The University of Chicago.", November 3, 2021.
  5. "How to Overcome Your Limits in 5 Steps — Success Coaching (970)541–1099." Colorado Coaching Company., December 6, 2011.
  6. "Intellectual Humility: The Importance of Knowing You Might Be Wrong — Vox.", January 4, 2019.
  7. What is Intellectual Humility? | Humility & Conviction in Public Life. "What Is Intellectual Humility? | Humility & Conviction in Public Life.", September 6, 2016.
  8. Alberta Doctors' Digest. "Why Does Technology Contribute to Physician Burnout? | Alberta Doctors' Digest.", September 5, 2018.
  9. American Medical Association. "Validating Digital Health Innovations | American Medical Association." Accessed August 15, 2022.

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