Monday, April 21, 2014

"The Foole Doth Thinke He Is Wise....."

"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.

9 comments:

Hell Hound said...

It's amazing that some people can be so blind to their incompetence and not try to do something about it.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The problem may be that for many real life situations, solutions work only on probabilistic terms, not always.

bakku-shan said...

So dumb people don't know they're dumb, and they are clueless as to why the things they do don't work?

Mike said...

But unfortunately there are clergy persons out there that do have practical experience.

Cloudia said...

Brilliant important post!!!



Aloha

Bilbo said...

Where were you with this advice all those years ago when my ineffective pick-up lines weren't working?

TexWisGirl said...

can't comment on the pick-up lines as i've not had any used on me in about 30 yrs. ;)

Tess @ Pro-tography 101 said...

I dont need the pick up lines these days, but thats good to know. lol

beach lad said...

i tried to think several different and witty responses to this - but pretty much everything i came up with was just reinforcing the theory.