Over at PJMedia Rand Simberg posted a piece called The Asymmetry of Ideology. It’s interesting and worth the read but one of the things that really caught my attention is his mention of something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Apparently it’s well known, but I never heard of it before.
In a nutshell, Kruger and Dunning “proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will: tend to overestimate their own level of skill; fail to recognize genuine skill in others; (and) fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy". They will however "recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve".
I looked it up at Wikipedia and a couple aspects are really interesting. First of all, this effect seems to be an American thing. Apparently the Chinese don’t suffer from it. Interesting, no? Second, this effect was isolated in studies conducted in the late 1990’s among American college students. I wonder whether the Dunning Kruger Effect is simply the result of a generation of ‘self-esteem’ foolishness that we’ve been instilling in people? If you continually tell people – no matter how poorly they’re doing – that they are doing well, isn’t it likely the less self-aware among them (or the more stupid) will be more apt to believe you? Hey, if everybody gets a trophy for playing soccer, the kid that doesn’t know how bad he sucks at soccer may think he’s doing just fine.
I wonder if this explains Barack Obama’s otherwise inexplicable confidence in his own competence? It’s been a mystery to me. I can understand that he thinks he’s right and other people are wrong. I can even understand he may believe that opposition to his righteousness is the main reason for everything that’s wrong with our political and economic scenes. I happen to disagree on both counts but they are understandable positions. What I can’t understand is Obama’s seeming sincere belief that he’s really doing great as President of the United States when all available evidence shows he is screwing the pooch.