Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Development of the Experiences of Humility Scale

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Development of the Experiences of Humility Scale

Article excerpt

In three studies, we developed the Experiences of Humility Scale (EHS). In Study 1, we used exploratory factor analysis to determine the factor structure and to reduce items in a sample of undergraduates (N = 200). The EHS had four subscales: Other-orientation, Transcendence, Awareness of Selfishness, and Awareness of Egotism. Study 2 involved an experiment with a second sample of college students (N = 106) that provided initial evidence of construct validity. Participants assigned to a Meaning Condition (i.e., writing about a most meaningful event) reported lower levels of awareness of egotism and selfishness than did participants assigned to a Neutral Condition. In Study 3, with a third sample of college students (N = 155), we replicated the factor structure of the EHS using confirmatory factor analysis and evaluated additional evidence of construct validity. As predicted, the EHS subscales predicted constructs associated with spiritual connection and meaning. Likewise, providing evidence of discriminant validity, the EHS subscales were only moderately related to traits of humility, agreeableness, and neuroticism.


Research on humility has increased in recent years, and this growing interest has led to a proliferation of various measures of humility (for reviews, see Davis & Hook, 2014; Davis, Worthington, & Hook, 2010), including self-report measures (e.g., HEXICO-PI; Lee & Ashton, 2004) as well as other alternatives such as informant reports and implicit measures (Davis et al., 2011; LaBouff, Rowatt, Johnson, Tsang, & Willerton, 2012; Powers, Nam, Rowatt, & Hill, 2007; Rowatt et al., 2006). Investigators have developed everything needed for a rich, multi-method science of humility--with one notable exception. The present article addresses the need to develop a measure of state humility. This omission is especially important tor the study of humility and religion/spirituality, because one way that people may become more humble is through being embedded within spiritual traditions that promote humble states through helping people feel like they are part of and devoted to something (e.g., God, church, body of Christ) larger than themselves. Thus, the current article seeks to develop a measure of state humility and evaluate initial evidence of its construct validity by having participants focus on spiritual or highly meaningful experiences.

Conceptualizing and Measuring Humility

We define humility as having both intrapersonal and interpersonal elements (see Davis et al., 2011). Intrapersonally, humility involves having an accurate view of self--not too high or too low. Interpersonally, humility involves regulation of egotism and cultivation of an other-orientation rather than a selfish preoccupation with one's own needs. Humility involves integrity across cognition, behavior, and motivation, with each component being necessary, but not sufficient, to deem someone as humble. For example, one might truly possess superior abilities and know it (i.e., accurate view of self), but it is antithetical to humility to treat others as inferior (i.e., portraying a sense of interpersonal superiority). Likewise, one might manage to respect relevant modesty norms, but have a concealed attitude of conceit. Character that truly reflects humility involves a confluence of thought (i.e., accurate view of self), behavior (i.e., respecting relevant social norms), and motivation (i.e., other-oriented rather than exploitative).

Many scholars have conceptualized humility within the personality judgment tradition (e.g., Davis et al., 2011). Assessment of another's personality is needed to help anticipate her or his potential behavior (Funder, 1995). For example, when a job candidate has difficulty fielding certain questions without getting upset and defensive, this could indicate that the person may struggle to deal with conflict constructively (e.g., low agreeableness, high neuroticism). …

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