Saturday, January 14, 2017
Have you come across people who think they know a lot about something, but really, really don’t?
It turns out there’s a diagnosis for this condition—knowing so little that you don’t know what you don’t know. Being so stupid that you don’t know how stupid you actually are.
It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
David Dunning said this about it: “If you're incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent [T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”
It plays out in so many ways.
A teenager who asserts, “I’m a really good driver,” while tailgating, running red lights, making lane changes without a turn signal and texting in traffic.
Someone who’s heard a false meme, and buys into it without checking. Often this happens because the meme fits into a preconceived worldview. You hate the former Democratic presidential candidate so much that you think it’s even plausible that she’d be running a child sex ring out of a pizza joint.
We used to get new members of our canoe club, who believed that since they’d paddled an ultralight canoe solo on a flat lake, they knew everything about powering a 400-pound outrigger canoe with a crew of six through rough ocean water. And didn’t mind lecturing us dumb locals about something we’d been doing for a lifetime.
David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell published their report in 1999 on the effect, in an article entitled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”
A lot of folks are now calling President-Elect Donald Trump the Dunning-Kruger President.
Dunning himself, during the past election campaign, suggested that maybe it was Trump supporters more than Trump himself that suffered from Dunning-Kruger.
Said Dunning: “The problem isn’t that voters are too uninformed. It is that they don’t know just how uninformed they are.”
But there’s a caution. You might want to look in the mirror, particularly if you’re one of those folks who were sure he wouldn’t win the election. If you couldn’t see the Trump train coming, then you should at least consider that you’re the one with the cognitive bias.
(If Dunning-Kruger is the overestimation of your own abilities, a corollary to Dunning-Kruger is the overestimation of the abilities of others. “I understand this math problem, so why can’t you?”)
© Jan TenBruggencate 2017