It’s close to 5 am and my mind is still running. I am tired, but I don’t want to go to sleep. I am so engrossed in wikipedia that I have 22 tabs open. I am just reading about incredible theories and ideas I never knew existed. The way it got to be so many is because when I get to an underlined term I am unfamiliar with, I open it in a new tab. Each of those articles has even more words that I am unfamiliar with, which in turn causes me to open even more tabs, but I just can’t read them as fast I can open them, hence the surplus of tabs…
An article on the Dunning-Kruger Effect is the tab that stands out the most to me. The effect is a cognitive bias in which people make errors in their judgement and choices, but their incompetence doesn’t allow them to realize that they are wrong.
In the experiments, “incompetent” people rate their abilities as better than their actual results, and smart people underrate their abilities relative to the results. It’s pretty obvious that our world works in this way because when you think about it, dumb people do think they know a lot more than they actually do and refuse to believe they are wrong and the smart people don’t speak up enough about the things they actually do know enough.
What’s also interesting is that this theory also explains why people who are highly competent sometimes appear to lack self-confidence, it’s because they wrongly assume others have an equivalent understanding of things.
These are the hypotheses of Dunning and Kruger:
- Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
- Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
- Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
- If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.
What’s so perplexing about this is wondering if you’re a dumb person or a smart person. Because if you think you are smart, you could just be dumb and over estimating your capacity (but you would never know), in turn proving the Dunning-Kruger effect to be correct. On the other hand, if you really think you’re smart, you would have to actually think you’re the dumb. If you are aware of the effect though, do things change? I think so because you can understand the inherent fallacy and then know that you should be more confident than you currently are (or more cautious if you already though you were smart). I guess this has to do with striking a balance between confidence and prudence. In the end, it is probably better to err on the side of being confident, as the people who are confident sometimes end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, where they actually end up successful because if they had known the true odds or difficulty in something, they may never have done it.
So are you dumb or smart?