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Dunning-Kruger and The Donald: torn between two topics

28 Apr

Like many other things in my life, I was made aware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect from listening to NPR. This time, it was my longest running favorite show, This American Life, that clued me in.

Briefly, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. The effect gets its name from the authors of the 199 paper, “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments” by Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 77(6), Dec 1999, 1121-1134

One of the things that Dunning (who was interviewed for the show) said was that the effect had become a ‘meme’ that was often mentioned on twitter. To test this, the show’s producer immediately went online, entered the name of the two authors, and came up with a tweet calling Donald Trump a perfect example of the effect.

Ha! this is gunna be huge!! I can see myself gliding off the rails…

It’s hard to not see Trump as an example of any number of  psychological conditions. In fact, I think that it might be this more than anything that has all of us (even the ones who don’t admit it) fascinated by the Trump spectacle.

And the pool answered,
‘But I loved Narcissus because,
as he lay on my banks and looked down at me,
in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.’

Of course, merely by saying this, we are all sharing the tongue-in-cheek agreement that we know, for a fact, that The Donald is not at all intelligent. The assumption is not just that he is no better than average, but that he is significantly below average. Which might be going a bit too far. A total moron would have lost all the money he ever got from dad, wouldn’t he? I suspect that we’re all just over compensating for Trump’s own excesses in regard to self-opinion.We react to the narcissist by knocking them down – all the way down.

Again, I’m losing control

The problem is not whether the man is smart or dumb, ignorant or wise. The problem is that we are about to hand the reigns of what is arguably the world’s most powerful country over to an amateur out of frustration that things aren’t going better than they are. Imagine using that same logic in hiring a plumber or electrician for your home. “I’m so sick of all the electrical problems this place is having, I think I’ll hire Brittany Spears to wire my house! She’s rich; she must know what she’s doing.”

While Brittany probably is willing to admit that she doesn’t know anything about electrical work (I’m assuming this is true, but I don’t know), the narcissist finds nothing outside of his ken. See this great article in Vanity Fair where physcologists participate in some armchair sport and analyze Trump’s mind.

Grammar_Dunning_Kruger

From the 1999 paper

Getting back to the Dunning-Kruger effect, I think it’s worth noting that all groups in the data shown here believe that they’ve performed similarly. Dunning seemed to think that this was because the highest quarter was either modest or over estimating of others’ abilities, while the lowest two quarters were simply suffering from the using the same poor analytical skills in assessing themselves as they did in solving text questions.  How much is this just hand-waving to explain why we feel like the children of lake woebegone, all of us: above average?

twain.jpeg

The Figure 3 data above shows the Effect following examination of grammar ability. Nearly identical data resulted from similar examinations of logic and … humor? Apparently jokes were rated by commedians (in order to establish factual data on humor?) and then the participants were examined as with the other subjects.

Really though. How can you say that someone is incorrect on their ability to recognize funny. The problem I see with that data is that everyone – absolutely everyone, should have said that they scored 100% on that test.

 

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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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