Honesty, Humility, and Reality Distortion Fields

Dr. Keith Witt Cognitive, Defenses, Intrapersonal, Perspectives, Psychology, Video, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 7 Comments

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r. Keith and Corey discuss “the H Factor” — a variation of the Big 5 personality types that adds a critical sixth trait, honesty and humility. Watch as we take a deep dive into the psychological benefits of honest self-reporting, of cultivating a healthy epistemic humility, and the sorts of “reality distortion fields” that seem to emanate from certain personalities.

The H Factor
by Dr. Keith Witt

The HEXACO six factor system is a variant of the Big 5 personality factors. The Big 5 emerged from studies in the 70s from thousands of people describing themselves and others from long lists of adjectives. The computing systems of the day kept finding five categories of personality factors—the Big 5. In late 1990s Kibeom Lee and Michael Ashton found a sixth factor, honesty and humility. They summarized their research in their book The H Factor.

Their acronym is for their six factors (all of which are continua with high or low tendencies) is HEXACO, meaning:

H—honesty/humility.
E—emotional resonance/empathy.
X—extraversion.
A—agreeableness.
C—conscientiousness.
O—openness to new experience.

In the HEXACO 6-factor personality system, the “H factor” reflects how humble/honest or arrogant/dishonest a person is. The H factor is determinative of goodness. People with low H are generally more untrustworthy, selfish, arrogant, duplicitous, and unreliable.

On the other hand, the more humble/honest you are—the higher your H factor—the happier, healthier, and more successful you are likely to be, no matter what end of the other 5 continua you tend to be.

The original five factors—the Big 5—all have healthy versions at each end of their continua. For instance, you can be a healthy introvert or extravert, a healthy openness to new experience or settled in your ways person, etc. The H factor is discriminative. High on the honesty/humility scale means more likelihood of being good, trustable person. Low on the honesty/humility scale means more likelihood of being a dangerous and creepy person. H is a discriminative variable for all the other variables. 

So, in therapy, the only continuum of the 6 factors where you don’t encourage your client to be a healthy version of whomever they are — introvert or extrovert, open to new experience or set in their ways, highly emotional or emotionally unreactive — is the H factor. With the H factor, you want to help clients be less selfish and unreliable, and more honest and humble, if only for self-serving reasons. I can think of no healthy version of selfish and arrogant, except maybe for a military general who’s been tasked to do vast damage and not count the cost.

When researchers discover some seminal new phenomena, they usually dedicate years, even their professional lifetimes, to exploring, expanding, and integrating emerging discoveries with their field—and that’s what Lee and Ashton have done. For instance, their findings of 6 factors hold true cross culturally and with western and eastern populations, and their hypothesis of the H factor being discriminative of healthy vs unhealthy versions of both poles of the other factors has been demonstrated in many studies.

I find all this fascinating, with a lot of potential ramifications for other types and worldviews, not to mention how we influence each other (as in reality distortion fields).

Music by Justin Miles and Stuart Davis

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Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

Notable Replies

  1. It’s an interesting concept to conflate humility with honesty and contrast with conflated arrogance and dishonesty.

    Interesting to consider if H is a new Factor or a re-packaging of E - empathy, X-extraversion, A-agreeableness, and C-conscientiousness.

    Book was published in 2012. We hear Big 5 referenced quite often. What has been uptake by the profession of this new Big 6 HEXACO?

  2. Yes, it is interesting, isn’t it?

    Yet that is what the data shows time and again over a 40 year period of studies. People who are “Asshats” are generally unhappy. Go figure. Who knew?

    What do you make of it? Are people happier because they are humble or do people become more humble after they get happier? Likewise, do people get to be unhappy due to arrogance or does unhappiness cause people to be more arrogant as a coping mechanism? I’m reminded of the Dunning Kruger effect here and I’m reminded that arrogance rarely equals ability, but instead is often a camouflage for lack of ability and insecurity. Could this be the reason? Arrogant people are rarely as competent as they believe they are and this leads to societal conflict?
    Or do you see another reason why the numbers correlate?

    I coincidentally just so happened to be reading a few articles about happiness this morning. The rankings of happy states vary a little, but generally the trends are what you would suspect given the current popularity anger in certain regions.

    https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/rankings-and-ratings/10-happiest-unhappiest-states-in-america-ranked-by-wallethub.html

  3. Good questions @raybennett

    I’m not familiar with the numbers you referenced and I’m ok not knowing. And absolutely our own metacognition of course is always suspect at best or flat out delusional at worst.
    Thanks for mention of D-K effect. Interesting stuff as we head down the epistemology Rabbit hole.
    Should we consider that whether aware of adoption that good ideas eventually gain widespread acceptance and the vast majority of ideas peter out or get relegated to small groups?
    Should testing and efficacy over time also be considered as development of self metacognition?

  4. I mean, you just flat out say you are ok being ignorant of facts.

    You presented a question - but you don’t ACTUALLY want to answer it or discuss it, or take a stand on it?
    Why do you think Red States tend to be unhappier than Blue States (despite your own repeated attempts to project undesirable life in blue states).
    The conclusion seems to be that the narrative of Blue States that you prefer to hear from your chosen media is mostly just an echo chamber that isn’t even remotely sustained by actual data.

    I’ll venture my own opinion here - that trash media “Trump Conservatives” have been listening to is one of the major problems. For the past 30 years it’s been impossible to just “hang out” with people who consume too much of this media. Everyone is just chilling at some mellow BBQ or other social event - and they (neoconservatives) inevitably bring some politics that they’ve been stewing in for weeks or months. So they become socially isolated and go deeper down the hole.
    Contrast this with liberals, who mostly know how to STFU when passing the bong - because people who don’t aren’t invited the next time. My general observation over 30 years has been that Neocons just aren’t fun to hang out with, and liberals mostly are. This is because liberals are more likely to keep stupid ideas to themselves (humility), or at the least respect people’s rights to believe something else (empathy & agreeableness). At the other end, the Neocon just can’t seem to accept another’s differences and part of that is actually forcing conformity to their beliefs.

    If we look at the issue of honesty / dishonest - honestly with self about oneself is a prerequisite to being honest with others. Honesty with self REQUIRES humility. Therefore, just as a logical function - honesty with others requires honesty with self, which in turn requires humility and self reflection.

    Arrogance is a denial of self reflection, and is mostly used as a tool to cover and conceal self doubt from being seen by the self and others. Arrogance does not require self deception (such as when it is deliberately used as a discursive method), but it is often the case.

  5. That isn’t even remotely how supply and demand in transportation works, lol.
    You just had an idea and - typical for conservatives - force the facts into the narrative.
    For starters - Phoenix leans Liberal, lmao. You’re Conflating Arizona with Phoenix.
    https://www.bestplaces.net/voting/city/arizona/phoenix
    So travel from Los Angeles to Phoenix is from Blue City to Blue City. Even Maricopa County as a whole is swing but trending towards Blue.

    Besides, the actual reason and impact of people on the political right leaving Blue cities is completely open to conjecture, and the sky is the limit on interpreting it’s causes. From my view, I’ll offer to help them pack their bags. Wherever I have been; from Moravia to Kyongsangnam-Do Provice to Honolulu, if people were disgruntled with their location I was among the first to say “Don’t let the door hit 'ya”. People’s dissatisfaction with a geographic location usually has very little to do with the location and more to do with flaws the person who is dissatisfied. People who are dissatisfied with one place generally become dissatisfied with the next location they live. That’s one of the basic necessities of happiness - to not blame your circumstances for your emotional state.

    You don’t see the actual humor in the fact that Red States are getting an infusion of all the whingers, complainers and generally unpleasant people who will actually never be happy or satisfied and will start complaining about their new home from day 1. Good - they gave up trying to live next to me, lol.

    The actual results of the “Leftugees” situation will actually benefit the Left in the long term. There are more Blue Americans than Red, and if Blue gets dispersed out of the cities, there is every indication they will swing entire states Blue. I remember when states like Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and several other states were solidly Red, and now they are swing states.

    “by the numbers”
    For happiness data, these are easy to find:
    Global:
    https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction
    USA:
    https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/happiest-states

    I’d venture to say the “visceral reaction” is all yours. It surely isn’t mine, lol
    I’m basically saying what everyone pretty much knows deep down - that arrogant people aren’t fund to be around - tend to use arrogance to cover up some kind of dishonesty within themselves. This is pretty basic psychology. They are less self aware and as a result of all this are also probably less honest in general when honesty will reveal their self deception. If you include yourself in this group, so be it - I’m not saying anything about you unless you identify with what I’m talking about.
    For myself, I can choose to be arrogant, yes. But it’s not my default. It’s a personae I take up specifically when interacting with other arrogant people. There is no arrogance in the bong bowl, as you well know. Scotch - yes - a very pretentions and arrogant beverage if there was ever was one. I never met a scotch drinker I wanted to associate with outside of working hours. Wine drinkers are worse - unless they actually own a vinyard with their own wine cellar, make their own vintage and actually do know what the heck they are talking about, lol. Or if they otherwise make a living as a sommelier. The rest of wine drinkers are mostly posers lying to themselves that an expensive bottle of wine makes them more cultured or sophisticated. Hint: it doesn’t, lol.
    See how that goes? Does my display of arrogance make you want to invite me to a wine tasting? lol
    The difference being, of course - that I am doing it consciously and with a purpose.

    I think you are seeing what you want to see there, and ignoring the age of those on the “right” and how close they are to dying off - to be replaced by the decidedly non-right younger generations. It might take 20 years - but you understand the human lifespan is limited and demographic trends are against you. Dep down you know this, which is why you are becoming disillusioned with the idea of democracy and support the idea of rule by an autocratic minority.

Continue the discussion at community.integrallife.com

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