Re: Incompetent People Really Have No Clue

From: Michael M. Butler (
Date: Fri Feb 04 2000 - 22:44:49 MST

This sounds _so_ much like a really good article from _The Onion_ to me,
but I'm worried that because I think that, I'm probably showing how
little I understand comedy. Oh my, good thing I'm sitting down. Boy,
this thinking is hard work.

Boy, I'm emailing that to me at work, so I can thing some more about it

Whew. Boy oh boy. Mmm.



upgrade wrote:
> The enclosed article seems to provide support for my
> "Unreality Imperative" theory
> <>.
> Frederick Mann
> Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find They're
> blind to own failings, others' skills
> Erica Goode, New York Times
> Tuesday, January 18, 2000 2000 San Francisco Chronicle
> There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A.
> Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.
> Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this
> because, according to his research, most incompetent people
> do not know that they are incompetent.
> On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found
> in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are
> usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in
> fact, than people who do things well.
> ``I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I
> was bad at, and I didn't know it,'' Dunning said.
> One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully
> self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required
> for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize
> competence.
> The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a
> paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality
> and Social Psychology.
> ``Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate
> choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize
> it,'' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of
> Illinois, and Dunning.
> This deficiency in ``self-monitoring skills,'' the researchers said,
> helps explain the tendency of the humor-impaired to persist in
> telling jokes that are not funny, of day traders to repeatedly jump
> into the market -- and repeatedly lose out -- and of the politically
> clueless to continue holding forth at dinner parties on the fine
> points of campaign strategy.
> In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of
> incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest
> quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the
> most likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they had performed.
> In all three tests, subjects' ratings of their ability were positively
> linked to their actual scores. But the lowest-ranked participants
> showed much greater distortions in their self-estimates.
> Asked to evaluate their performance on the test of logical
> reasoning, for example, subjects who scored only in the 12th
> percentile guessed that they had scored in the 62nd percentile,
> and deemed their overall skill at logical reasoning to be at the 68th
> percentile.
> Similarly, subjects who scored at the 10th percentile on the
> grammar test ranked themselves at the 67th percentile in the
> ability to ``identify grammatically correct standard English,''
> and estimated their test scores to be at the 61st percentile.
> On the humor test, in which participants were asked to rate
> jokes according to their funniness (subjects' ratings were
> matched against those of an ``expert'' panel of professional
> comedians), low-scoring subjects were also more apt to have
> an inflated perception of their skill. But because humor is
> idiosyncratically defined, the researchers said, the results
> were less conclusive.
> Unlike unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the
> study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate
> their competence. The researchers attributed this to the fact
> that, in the absence of information about how others were doing,
> highly competent subjects assumed that others were performing
> as well as they were -- a phenomenon psychologists term the
> ``false consensus effect.''
> When high-scoring subjects were asked to ``grade'' the
> grammar tests of their peers, however, they quickly revised
> their evaluations of their own performance. In contrast, the
> self-assessments of those who scored badly themselves were
> unaffected by the experience of grading others; some subjects
> even further inflated their estimates of their own abilities.
> ``Incompetent individuals were less able to recognize competence
> in others,'' the researchers concluded.
> In a final experiment, Dunning and Kruger set out to discover if
> training would help modify the exaggerated self-perceptions of
> incapable subjects. In fact, a short training session in logical
> reasoning did improve the ability of low-scoring subjects to
> assess their performance realistically, they found.
> The findings, the psychologists said, support Thomas Jefferson's
> assertion that ``he who knows best knows how little he knows.''
> And the research meshes neatly with other work indicating that
> overconfidence is common; studies have found, for example, that
> the vast majority of people rate themselves as ``above average''
> on a wide array of abilities -- though such an abundance of talent
> would be impossible in statistical terms. This overestimation,
> studies indicate, is more likely for tasks that are difficult than
> for those that are easy.
> Such studies are not without critics. Dr. David C. Funder, a
> psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside,
> for example, said he suspects that most lay people have only
> a vague idea of the meaning of ``average'' in statistical terms.
> ``I'm not sure the average person thinks of `average' or
> `percentile' in quite that literal a sense,'' Funder said, ``so
> `above average' might mean to them `pretty good,' or `OK,'
> or `doing all right.' And if, in fact, people mean something
> subjective when they use the word, then it's really hard to
> evaluate whether they're right or wrong, using the statistical
> criterion.''
> But Dunning said his current research and past studies
> indicated there are many reasons why people would tend
> to overestimate their competency and not be aware of it.
> In various situations, feedback is absent, or at least ambiguous;
> even a humorless joke, for example, is likely to be met with
> polite laughter. And faced with incompetence, social norms
> prevent most people from blurting out ``You stink!'' -- truthful
> though this assessment may be.
> URL:

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