Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘illusory superiority’

The Dunning-Kruger effect

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

The Dunning-Kruger effect states that incompetent people are also incompetent in assessing their own performance. Therefore, less competent people think their performance is competent, while smarter people focus on their own flaws.

It explains, among other things, how in a society that places too much value on image, idiots and insane people are able to get ahead by overestimating their value and getting fools to agree with them.

The essence of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than knowledge.” Studies have shown that the most incompetent individuals are the ones that are most convinced of their competence. At work this translates into lots of incompetent people who think they are superstars. And what is worse is that if you have a manager that doesn’t closely supervise work, he or she may judge performance based on outward appearances using information like the confidence with which these incompetent blockheads speak.

An important corollary of this effect is that the most competent people often underestimate their competence. This is a result of how you frame knowledge. The more you know, the more you focus on what you don’t know. For instance, people who can name 15 of the 50 state capitals tend to think “I know 15.” People who know 45 of the 50 state capitals tend to think “I don’t know 5.”1

Dunning and Kruger, two researchers at Cornell University, described their findings in a paper entitled “Unskilled and Unaware Of It: How Difficulties In Recognising Ones Own Incompetence Lead To Inflated Self-Assessments” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Their conclusions can be summarized this way:

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill,
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others,
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy,
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

Translation: without leadership at the top of the curve who is willing to call people on their incompetence, the incompetents will appear competent to other incompetents and be advanced, possibly even to the presidency.

This causes a mathematical problem for democracies since most people are not particularly competent at leadership, government or logical argument, meaning they are both unable to assess the best leadership choices and sure that they’re right.

It’s essentially similar to the Downing effect:

One of the main effects of illusory superiority in IQ is the Downing effect. This describes the tendency of people with a below average IQ to overestimate their IQ, and of people with an above average IQ to underestimate their IQ. The propensity to predictably misjudge one’s own IQ was first noted by C. L. Downing who conducted the first cross-cultural studies on perceived ‘intelligence’.

His studies also evidenced that the ability to accurately estimate others’ IQ was proportional to one’s own IQ. This means that the lower the IQ of an individual, the less capable they are of appreciating and accurately appraising others’ IQ. Therefore individuals with a lower IQ are more likely to rate themselves as having a higher IQ than those around them. Conversely, people with a higher IQ, while better at appraising others’ IQ overall, are still likely to rate people of similar IQ as themselves as having higher IQs.

The disparity between actual IQ and perceived IQ has also been noted between genders by British psychologist Adrian Furnham, in whose work there was a suggestion that, on average, men are more likely to overestimate their intelligence by 5 points, while women are more likely to underestimate their IQ by a similar margin.2

That tendency could go a long way toward explaining why many successful societies have relied on strong leaders who had no problem beating down the incompetent with force. Unless suppressed, the 90% of humanity who per the “Bell Curve” are unskilled and unaware of it will take over and, being incompetent, run society into the ground.

In addition, while people can be taught specific tasks, they cannot be taught to reason in general; education does not raise IQ and in the process of trying, becomes dumbed-down to the point where no one intelligent will get any benefit from it, which discriminates against the intelligent.

When you combine the Bell Curve, the Dunning-Kruger and Downing effects, and the natural tendency of human beings to compromise, you have a working explanation why human societies inevitably begin the pursuit of a “race to the bottom” once they become powerful enough to stop losing so many people to natural events, disease and war.

Why Idiots Think They Are Morally Superior and Smarter Than You

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Do you ever wonder why it seems like idiots rule? Or that in any human group, it is only a matter of time before the “committee mentality” takes over and everyone is nodding enthusiastically to some transparently stupid idea? Most of humanity are not that bright and not that morally upright, and their inability to see this gives them a zeal and fanaticism in taking over anything good shortly before destroying it.

The Soviet Union was not a historical aberration; it was the norm. The Earth is littered with failed societies that all died the same way, through mismanagement caused by the pursuit of pleasant illusions that “most people like” instead of focusing on the knotty, difficult, erratic, and often visually paradoxical issues that confront societies that have succeeded.

These come about through a pair of human pathologies called the Dunning-Kruger effect and the Downing Effect. These signify that our least intelligent are the most confident, where our intelligent are not.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which people who are worst at a task show the most illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average.

…Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (as Charles Darwin put it).

…Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.1

Fascinating. How is it that the least competent assume they are the most competent?

Answer: their perspective is entirely relative to themselves, and they have made no attempt to overcome this and see the world from a quasi-objective view, the same one that science, history, philosophy et al can give to us — if we’re smart enough to perceive it.

Smart people are aware of how small they are.

Dumb people are unaware of how small a role they play in life, and so tend to overstate that role, because they’re aware of nothing beyond themselves.

Another entry affirms this:

A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure (Miller & Ross, 1975). It may also manifest itself as a tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way that is beneficial to their interests. Self-serving bias may be associated with the better-than-average effect (or Lake Wobegon effect), in which the individual is biased to believe that he or she typically performs better than the average person in areas important to their self esteem. For example, a majority of drivers think they drive better than the average driver (Kruger, 1999; Roese & Olson, 2007).2

Individuals base their self-esteem on something they think they do well; what it is (or how well they do it) is irrelevant. They need some reason to justify their existence and think themselves worthwhile.

It’s a form of moral competition. In a society that prized, say, competence over morality, this might be different.

The Downing effect describes the tendencies of people with below average intelligence quotients (IQs) to overestimate their intelligence, and of people with above average intelligence to underestimate their intelligence. The propensity to predictably misjudge one’s own intelligence was first noted by C. L. Downing who conducted the first cross cultural studies on perceived intelligence. His studies also evidenced that the ability to accurately estimate others’ intelligence was proportional to one’s own intelligence. This means the lower the IQ score of an individual, the less capably he or she can appreciate and accurately appraise others’ intelligence. The lower someone’s IQ, the more likely he is to rate himself as more intelligent than those around him. Conversely, people with a high IQ, while better at appraising others’ intelligence overall, are still likely to rate people of similar intelligence as themselves as having higher IQs. As the adage goes, ‘The more you know the more you know you don’t know’.3

This makes sense: dumber people have no idea what being smarter would be like, so cannot recognize it.

Their only ability is to tear it down by claiming their own knowledge is superior. “Everyone knows the sun revolves around the earth, you dummy!”

This might explain hipsters, who will call you ignorant if you don’t know all about the latest Deerhoof album — but will live in squalor, accomplishing nothing, and scorning those who choose to work hard toward intelligent or at least semi-competent lives.

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