Humility, incompetence, education, and the Dunning-Kruger effect

Donald Trump: a great example of how ignorance can warp your perspective of your competence compared to others. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Donald Trump: a great example of how ignorance can warp your perspective of your competence compared to others. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Dunning-Kruger effect has had a lot of press recently because of Donald Trump. Almost two decades ago, in their very readable paper, Unskilled and Unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,  Cornell psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning showed that incompetent people lack the ability to gauge their own incompetence if they have even a tiny amount of knowledge in a particular area. (If I need to explain the connection to Trump at this point, we probably shouldn’t get into a political discussion…) For example, explain Dunning and Kruger, “most people have no trouble identifying their inability to translate Slovenian proverbs, reconstruct an 8-cylinder engine, or diagnose acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.” However, if they think they know anything at all about a domain, even the people with the least ability – after objective testing – think they are above average. Read More …

My philosophy about philosophy

Night_of_the_living_dead_1_1I’ve recently been working on a major article, for which I’ve interviewed something like 30 different people. Obviously you do some investigation before you set up a meeting, so you have a reasonable expectation that it’s going to be interesting. And indeed, most for this story were. All but one: with a philosopher. I actually walked out of the room early using the words, “I mustn’t take up any more of your time.” Read More …