Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Are you smarter than you think or dumber than others around you? HINT: The answer is yes.
I used to write a popular magazine column about nothing. It was just my musings of life and items that caught the general interests of my readers. One of it's best features was a section I called "Dumb Crooks." That section drew the most mail from all over the world. Seems people just love to hear and share true stories that are funny and hard to believe.
There was a story about a man who, without a mask or any disguise, robbed two banks. When quickly apprehended, he was incredulous as to how the police recognized him. He was under the belief that if he rubbed his face with lemon juice, it would make him invisible to surveillance cameras. It didn't.
Dumb crooks most often don't know they are dumb. But then, many times, neither do some of us. That condition--being not as smart as we think we are--is known scientifically as the Dunning-Kruger effect.
As Wikipedia simplifies it, "The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher that it
The pattern of over-estimating (or underestimating) competence was seen in diverse skills such as reading comprehension, practicing medicine, strategic game playing and driving. In comprehensive tests with undergraduate students in psychology courses at Cornell University, Dunning and Kruger examined student self-assessment of logical reasoning skills, grammatical skills, and humor. After being shown their test scores, the students were asked to estimate their own rank in class. Most noted was that students who were about to get Ds and Fs thought they had turned in B or better work.
"Across four studies," the authors found that "participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performances and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd."
Also learned: students of high ability tended to underestimate their relative competence. Participants who found tasks to be easy, erroneously presumed that the tasks also must be easy for others thus assuming others were as competent, if not more competent, than themselves.
The conclusion: The smartest don't give themselves higher marks. The less learned don't know that they are and make statements they regard as just as profound. Belief of the listeners is whatever it is by who is listening.
Best news though, a follow-up study suggests that grossly incompetent students improved their ability to estimate their rank after minimal tutoring in the skills they had previously lacked, regardless of the improvement gained in skills.
See, education is always good.
Isn't it sad that in the United States, we chose to prioritize more dollars to punish and incarcerate criminals, build walls and prioritize the wants of our congressmen who spend to get reelected than to educate youth at every level under all circumstances for the enrichment of our future.
NOTE: There are other writings such as THE STORY OF STUPIDITY: A History of Western Idiocy from the Days of Greece to the Moment You Saw this Book, by James F. Welles, Ph.D. that are interesting and/or fun to read as we learn why we are often so gullible, but that's today when all of us seem to be living in a stupider world and believing in most things we see in social media and hear elsewhere.
Special Bonus section:
*Reprinted with permission.