Most of you have heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect. There’s a whole article about it in the Washington Post today. Their headline is What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon, and they have a comments section. Here are some excerpts from their article, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socializing with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: Someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert. This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect.
They explain it:
In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [abstract only], David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.
We see the Dunning-Kruger effect all the time with creationists, but the Washington Post is interested in politics. They tell us:
During the election and in the months after the presidential inauguration, interest in the Dunning-Kruger effect surged. Google searches for “dunning kruger” peaked in May 2017, according to Google Trends, and has remained high since then. Attention spent on the Dunning-Kruger Effect Wikipedia entry has skyrocketed since late 2015.
Not surprising. The article continues:
There’s also “much more research activity” about the effect right now than immediately after it was published, Dunning said. Typically, interest in a research topic spikes in the five years following a groundbreaking study, then fades. “Obviously it has to do with Trump and the various treatments that people have given him,” Dunning said, “So yeah, a lot of it is political. People trying to understand the other side. We have a massive rise in partisanship and it’s become more vicious and extreme, so people are reaching for explanations.”
Now they get specific:
Even though President Trump’s statements are rife with errors, falsehoods or inaccuracies, he expresses great confidence in his aptitude.
[Skipping an ark-load to the same effect, supported by links to Washington Post articles]
“Donald Trump has been overestimating his knowledge for decades,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. “It’s not surprising that he would continue that pattern into the White House.” Dunning-Kruger “offers an explanation for a kind of hubris,” said Steven Sloman, a cognitive psychologist at Brown University. “The fact is, that’s Trump in a nutshell. He’s a man with zero political skill who has no idea he has zero political skill. And it’s given him extreme confidence.”
The article discusses the dangers of incompetence, and ends with this:
What happens when the incompetent are unwilling to admit they have shortcomings? Are they so confident in their own perceived knowledge that they will reject the very idea of improvement? Not surprisingly (though no less concerning), Dunning’s follow-up research shows the poorest performers are also the least likely to accept criticism or show interest in self improvement.
Very interesting — but what we found most interesting was something that wasn’t said — or even considered. The article discusses the Dunning-Kruger effect only in connection with Donald Trump; there is no hint that it may be at work with anyone in the other party. We don’t want to upset you, dear reader, so we won’t mention any names, but it’s possible that the Dunning-Kruger effect may be a bipartisan phenomenon.
Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.