At a time when differences of opinion seem increasingly difficult to overcome, Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren of the Hope College psychology faculty is part of an effort to find of a solution.
He is a co-principal investigator for “Applied Research on Intellectual Humility: A Request for Proposals,” which has received a $6 million grant from The John Templeton Foundation. The four-year initiative will provide funding through sub-grants for researchers to explore what leads some people to be willing to accept that they might be wrong, or at least that they may need to revise their views.
“We’re going to fund 10 to 12 projects from scholars who are looking to understand the mechanisms that lead to the intellectual humility,” said Van Tongeren, an associate professor of psychology. “How can we develop or enhance intellectual humility in dimensions where people feel very strong convictions and they often have a commitment to a group or position that makes it difficult to change their minds — like politics, religion, science or education?”
Van Tongeren noted that while humility isn’t a new topic, how to foster it is. “This influx of research will take it to the next step, because we haven’t really looked at interventions in how to develop intellectual humility: How can we develop it, and how can we encourage the development in others?” he said.
Van Tongeren is part of a four-member leadership team headed by Dr. Don Davis Jr., an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at Georgia State University, who is principal investigator. In addition to Van Tongeren, the co-principal investigators are Dr. Heather Battaly, professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut; and Dr. Joshua Hook, professor and associate director of the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of North Texas.
Van Tongeren is involved in the project because of his longstanding scholarly interest in the topic, although as part of the leadership team he won’t be applying for one of the sub-grants. His roles will include directing the request for proposals from researchers during the coming year, and then convening a launch conference at Hope in the fall of 2023 for the awardees.
He has been conducting research on humility and related aspects of human experience for several years, and has more than 200 scientific publications on meaning in life, religion and virtues. His book “Humble: Free yourself from the traps of a narcissistic world” was published this past June. He is also co-author, with his wife, Sara, who is a licensed clinical social worker, of the book “The Courage to Suffer: A New Clinical Framework for Life’s Greatest Crises,” published in March 2020.
Van Tongeren’s work has been supported by numerous external grants, and he has received multiple national and international honors for his scholarship, the latter in the past year alone including: the Early Career Contributions Award from the International Society for the Science of Existential Psychology (ISSEP); being named a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science; a “10 Under 10” alumni award for 2021 from Virginia Commonwealth University, from which he holds his doctorate; and the Margaret Gorman Early Career Award of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, a division of the American Psychological Association. In addition, in 2020 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and in 2019 he was elected a Fellow by both the Midwestern Psychological Association and the International Society for Science and Religion. The APS had previously named him a Rising Star in 2016.