Why everyone (except you) is an idiot?
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday the infamous and irreverent Daniel Keogh presents The Stupid Species, which will reveal why everyone (except you) is an idiot.
In 1999 two clever gents, Justin Kruger and David Dunning, described a cognitive bias which occurs when unskilled people get the wrong answer, but are so incompetent that they don’t realise they made a mistake. They humbly named it the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Unskilled people suffer from superiority, thinking their ability is above average. On the other hand, highly skilled people underrate their abilities and assume others have the same knowledge they do. They have illusory inferiority. The dumb think they’re smart, and the smart think they’re dumb.
I’ve noticed it myself at University. In the first few months of study I thought class is SO boring, and it’s all so easy I’m not going to learn anything. By the end of my degree, I was (and still am) simply staggered by the things I haven’t learned. In Chemistry I went in thinking I understood matter. Now I know I really don’t.
It’s a sign of smarts when you appreciate there’s a lot you don’t know. At least, so I keep telling myself.
The Dunning-Kruger effect seems to be strongest in America. European studies have shown a much smaller effect. In East Asia the opposite occurs, with test subjects underestimating their abilities rather than inflating them like Americans. I’d love to know where Australia fits on the spectrum.
Dunning and Kruger won the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology for their work “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in Recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.”