"The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole."
--William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Several years ago, David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Columbia University reported the existence of a pattern of cognitive bias in people who are less competent. Specifically,
1. Less competent people tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2. Fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3. Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
4. Recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill.
In short, they think they're doing well, even when they're really substandard in performance.
There are undoubtedly numerous examples of this in everyday affairs: people who have very unpleasant singing voices thinking they sing like songbirds, actresses who, though dumb as pig tracks, feel that they are especially able to give others advice or write poetry, NY Times columnists who see themselves as universal commentators or advice mongers, clergypersons who deem themselves practical advisors to engaged or married couples about their finances or coupling, and so forth.
And, of course, Congress! Or, for that matter, the Executive Branch of the government and the greater number of state legislatures!
Dunning and Kruger's observation of this cognitive bias among less competent is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Those researchers were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000 by fellow researchers who thought their phenomenon was amusing.
But it holds water. For example, consider some of the guys who repeatedly use ineffective pick-up lines. You would think that they would change their strategy, given their singular lack of success. But no! They use the same stupid lines over and over again.
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