More on Dunning-Kruger: the gap between confidence and competence

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A few weeks ago I posted a brief mention of the Dunning-Kruger effect – a psychological phenomena whereby the victim does not realise they are too dumb to know what they don’t know… or something like that. This is a great interview with the Dunning from Dunning-Kryger:

If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.

And here’s a funny story illustrating the issue (which will doubtless make a good sermon illustration)… from the same article.

“Wheeler had walked into two Pittsburgh banks and attempted to rob them in broad daylight. What made the case peculiar is that he made no visible attempt at disguise. The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest. There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money. Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving. “But I wore the juice,” he said. Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.

In a follow-up article, Fuoco spoke to several Pittsburgh police detectives who had been involved in Wheeler’s arrest. Commander Ronald Freeman assured Fuoco that Wheeler had not gone into “this thing” blindly but had performed a variety of tests prior to the robbery. Sergeant Wally Long provided additional details — “although Wheeler reported the lemon juice was burning his face and his eyes, and he was having trouble (seeing) and had to squint, he had tested the theory, and it seemed to work.” He had snapped a Polaroid picture of himself and wasn’t anywhere to be found in the image. It was like a version of Where’s Waldo with no Waldo. Long tried to come up with an explanation of why there was no image on the Polaroid. He came up with three possibilities:

(a) the film was bad;

(b) Wheeler hadn’t adjusted the camera correctly; or

(c) Wheeler had pointed the camera away from his face at the critical moment when he snapped the photo.[2]

As Dunning read through the article, a thought washed over him, an epiphany. If Wheeler was too stupid to be a bank robber, perhaps he was also too stupid to know that he was too stupid to be a bank robber — that is, his stupidity protected him from an awareness of his own stupidity.”

Why smart people fail

Apparently there are at least these 20 reasons that smart people fail. If you want to look into why dumb people are overconfident (or the Dunning-Kruger effect),

1. Lack of motivation.
2. Lack of impulse control.
3. Lack of perserverance and perseveration.
4. Using the wrong abilities.
5. Inability to translate thought into action.
6. Lack of product orientation.
7. Inability to complete tasks.
8. Failure to initiate.
9. Fear of failure.
10. Procrastination.
11. Misattribution of blame.
12. Excessive self-pity.
13. Excessive dependency.
14. Wallowing in personal difficulties.
15. Distractibility and lack of concentration.
16. Spreading oneself too think or too thick.
17. Inability to delay gratification.
18. Inability to see the forest for the trees.
19. Lack of balance between critical, analytical thinking and creative, synthetic thinking.
20. Too little or too much self-confidence.

I wonder how many of these factors must be present before intelligence must be questioned.