Questions for ‘There’s a real upside to knowing you could be wrong’  

a black and white print showing Galileo, an older light-skinned man with a beard, peering through a telescope at the night sky. He is outside on a terrace, sitting in a chair with scrolls of paper and other astronomical instruments scattered nearby.

In Galileo Galilei’s time, the church and scientists thought everything in the cosmos revolved around Earth. Galileo’s observations proved that view wrong and advanced science — but won him house arrest for the rest of his life.

Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images; adapted by L. Steenblik Hwang

To accompany There’s a real upside to knowing you could be wrong  


Before Reading:

  1. Think about a recent time that you were wrong about something. How did being wrong make you feel? Was it overall a positive experience, a negative one or both?
  2. What does it mean to be humble? Try to come up with a general explanation as well as an example or two.

During Reading:

  1. What belief about the Earth did Galileo Galilei grow up with? Where did that belief come from?
  2. What observation did Galileo make that made him question that belief? What new conclusion did he make based on his observations?
  3. What does Mark Leary describe as a possible outcome of acknowledging you might be wrong about something?
  4. In Leary’s research, what percentage of surveyed adults thought they were right more than half the time in recent disagreements? 
  5. Explain what Scott Plous means when he says there is a “vaccine” for overconfidence. What does the story give as another term for this idea?
  6. What are two qualities of students who recognized their thinking could be flawed, according to a study by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso?
  7. What is the difference between questioning your beliefs and changing your mind? Give one example in which these actions might result in the same outcome and one example in which they might yield different outcomes.
  8. List three examples of “mastery behaviors” related to studying. 
  9. In Tenelle Porter’s work, how did students’ assessment of their own knowledge correspond to their use of mastery behaviors? How did students’ willingness to question their beliefs relate to their responses to a test grade? And finally, how did it relate to those grades?
  10.  Under what circumstances does Leary suggest that it’s most important to question your beliefs? What are three steps you can use to practice this skill?

After Reading:

  1. In this story, Mark Leary is quoted as saying, “Smart people are smart enough to know that they don’t know everything.” Explain what you think he means by this statement. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  2. Galileo’s conclusion about the Earth’s position in the solar system conflicted with what was accepted as the truth in his time. He also endured many hardships while insisting that his new conclusion was correct. What might have made him so confident in his new belief? Do you think his confidence was justified? Why or why not?