Steve Novella did this piece about Dunning-Kruger last month. Is it wrong that I find some of it extremely funny?
Like this, quoting Dunning…
What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.
I see someone bouncing along like one of the creatures in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, puffed out by the hot air of something that feels to them like knowledge. And so I laugh.
An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.
We do pick up a lot of clutter as we proceed. I recognize my own clutter pretty regularly – I’ll start to think I know something about the law and then remember it’s just something I saw on some tv show about cops or prosecutors or both. Our brains are Velcro to all the passing junk that floats by.
Novella this time:
The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just a curiosity of psychology, it touches on a critical aspect of the default mode of human thought, and a major flaw in our thinking. It also applies to everyone – we are all at various places on that curve with respect to different areas of knowledge. You may be an expert in some things, and competent in others, but will also be toward the bottom of the curve in some areas of knowledge.
Admit it – probably up to this point in this article you were imagining yourself in the upper half of that curve, and inwardly smirking at the poor rubes in the bottom half. But we are all in the bottom half some of the time. The Dunning-Kruger effect does not just apply to other people – it applies to everyone.
This is one reason I think the distinction between what we know and what we’ve been told is important. If we’ve only been told, the chances are good that we’re in the bottom half on that subject.