Muddling the Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect states that people with the lowest competence tend to overrate their competence, but people with the highest competence tend to underrate themselves. This was shown in 1999 paper by Dunning and Kruger.1 Here’s one of the figures from the paper:

A graph showing people's self-assessed ability, and actual test score. The bottom quartile gives themselves a rating in the 60 percentile, and the top quartile gives themselves a rating in the 75 percentile.

This figure shows results from a test on humor. People are scored based on how well their answers agree with those of professional comedians, and then they are asked to assess their own performance. There were similar results for tests on grammar and logic.

The Dunning-Kruger effect has entered popular wisdom, and is frequently brought up whenever people feel like they’re dealing with someone too stupid to know how stupid they are.  But does the research actually mean what people think it means?

Before reading into this subject, I must admit that I had a major misconception.  I thought that people’s self-assessment was actually anti-correlated with their competence.  I thought someone who knew nothing would actually be more confident than someone who knew a lot.  (This leads to an amusing dilemma: Should I choose to give myself a lower rating, because it would that increase posterior probability that I’m more competent?2)

But it is not true.  People who know nothing are less confident than people who know a lot.  People who know nothing are overconfident relative to their actual ability, but they are still not as confident as people who have high ability.

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FTA part 4: Anthropic reasoning

This is the fourth and final part of a series discussing the Fine Tuning argument (FTA). The outline is here.

Mundane multiverses

A “multiverse” is a set of multiple sub-universes, which together comprise a single super-universe. The idea is that the universe that we know is a single sub-universe, and there are multiple other universes like ours. So we can imagine another sub-universe where everything is the same, except that ever coin flip comes up on the opposite side.  Or a sub-universe where everything is the same, but we’re all evil and have goatees. Or another sub-universe where

Typically, when physicists talk about parallel sub-universes, what they mean are non-interacting sub-universes. So, you can’t ever talk to the evil goatee’d version of yourself. Although, people sure like to imagine that sort of thing in sci-fi.  So let’s talk about the kind of parallel universe that we could, in principle, interact with. What if I told you that this kind of parallel universe is one we already know exists?

To travel to a parallel universe, just hop in a space ship, and travel 4 lightyears over to Proxima Centauri. You will find a universe exactly like ours, except that the sun is different, and the planets are different, and the constellations are different.

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Link roundup: June 2018

This is my monthly link roundup, where I link to some stuff I found interesting, and offer brief comments.

The US Puzzle Championship is this weekend, on June 16.  This is an online competition featuring pencil-and-paper puzzles (think Nikoli).  I have been a participant since my teen years.  If that sounds like it might be interesting, you should register and try the practice test.

Ace survey infographics and interactives – Somebody from my team working on the Ace Community Survey put these together.  If you’ve never seen or heard of our survey, these may be the most accessible way for you to learn a bit about it.

Where are all the mothers in video games? … and why are there so many dads? (video) – I appreciate the approach of this video, which is to list lots of examples.  Wow, there are a lot of dads in video games!

Have you ever noticed how often the origin of breasts is explained as “for men”? (video and transcript) – PZ discusses several attempted evolutionary explanations for human breasts.  As with many evolutionary riddles, it’s fun to come up with adaptive explanations, and it satisfies our desire to view the world as full of narratives.  But non-adaptive explanations are usually better.

George Takei’s Accuser Has Changed His Story of Drugging and Assault – A while back, someone accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him in 1981. Now the accuser admits that he doesn’t recall the assault part of the assault. It’s more a case of poor recollection than malicious intent, and it seems that even if he wasn’t assaulted, he was negatively impacted by the experience. I don’t know what to say, except I feel for the guy, and we should aim to reduce the risk of upsetting hookup experiences.

I remember when I first read his story, one thing stuck out to me: Brunton believed that Takei had spiked his alcoholic drink with a date rape drug.  In fact, the most common date rape drug is alcohol by itself, and the use of other kinds of drugs is far less common than people think.  I thought that perhaps Brunton was hit harder by the alcohol than he expected, and he inferred date rape drugs too hastily. The toxicologist in the article agreed. But just because one part of a story is wrong doesn’t mean that the rest of it is wrong too.

FTA part 3: Ignorant hypotheses

This is the third part of a series discussing the Fine Tuning argument (FTA). The outline is here.

Uncertainty vs Ignorance

Earlier, I showed this plot showing probability distributions for three possible hypotheses of the universe. The FTA contends that the naturalism hypothesis predicts distribution A, and the God hypothesis predicts distribution B.

A graph showing three possible probability distributions. A is a very broad probability distribution. B is a sharp probability distribution centered at x_0. C is a sharp probability distribution centered away from x_0.

Three possible probability distributions. x0 marks the parameters of the universe that we have in the real world.

I will refer to a distinction that is commonly made between “uncertainty” and “ignorance”. “Uncertainty” refers to a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you at least have probabilities, a way to quantify how much you don’t know. “Ignorance” refers to a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you don’t even know how much you don’t know. When we compare probability distributions in the FTA, the probability distributions are just cartoons.  We don’t have any real probabilities.  We’re operating from a state of ignorance, not uncertainty.

Or, in other words, we pulled these probability distributions out of our asses.

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Niall Ferguson, queer theory, etc.

Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian, was recently in the news because schadenfreude. This started a train of thought to far away places, and I’d like to take you on the journey.

In The Stanford Daily‘s coverage of said schadenfreude, they mention another time that Ferguson put his foot in mouth, back in 2013. Ferguson had claimed that the famous (liberal) economist John Maynard Keynes didn’t care enough about the future because he was gay and childless.

Point in fact, Keynes was bisexual, married a woman, and tried to have children, although they had a miscarriage. Also, it’s not clear that Keynes didn’t care about the future.

Niall’s remark was clearly in response to Keynes’ famous quote, “In the long run we are all dead.” I immediately saw the connection, as this is a household quote and in-joke between me and my fiance. We say stuff like, “That may help in the long run, but you know what they say about the long run.” But it’s not really an expression of disregard for the future. It would help to see the quote in its original context: [Read more…]

Origami: Lilia

The Sparaxis, a spiky ball that fits in my hand

Lilia, by Ekaterina Lukasheva. I’m not sure I got the name right, but I’m absolutely sure about the author.

In the past year I’ve been dabbling a lot into other kinds of origami, such as traditional origami, tessellations, and minimalist designs.  But still, it’s good to make some modular origami models.  This is a kusudama model of very standard design.  30 units, 5 colors arranged symmetrically.  Although, I actually made 2 of the 5 colors identical, which is a cheeky way of making it slightly asymmetrical.  This was made as a gift for a relative.

Attraction and emotional granularity

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces themed on “Nuance & Complexity“. It is being cross-posted to my other blog, The Asexual Agenda.

Asexuality is chiefly about noticing a distinction between the emotions you perceive in other people, and the emotions you perceive in yourself. We give a name to this distinction, for example by saying some people experience sexual attraction and some people do not. And we discuss appropriate responses to our emotions, for example by saying that some emotions mean we want to have sex, and other emotions do not.

Within ace communities, we often discuss further distinctions in emotions. Again, we give names to these distinctions, for example by talking about romantic attraction, platonic attraction, aesthetic attraction, sensual attraction, and so forth. And we discuss appropriate responses to these emotions, for example by describing what kinds of relationships might satisfy our emotions, or if a particular emotion only makes us want to look at a person.

The ability to distinguish different emotions is a nascent research topic in psychology. And while you shouldn’t let psychology research dictate how you live, looking into the research may give us insight into a common topic.

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