The Dunning-Kruger Effect: this is bad, very bad.

I’m sure this has happened to you; stupid people? I used to be genuinely baffled at how a person of  sometimes average intellect at best, could rise through the ranks of an organisation without detection. That was until my husband sent me a link explaining the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

In 1999 two psychologists at Cornell University, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, heard the true story of McArthur Wheeler, who after hearing about using lemon juice for invisible ink, covered his face in it believing that the cameras would not be able to see him. Needless to say, McArthur Wheeler’s life as a bank robber was short lived. Poor McArthur Wheeler was apparently quite surprised when he was shown the surveillance tapes, he was convinced his face would be invisible. Upon hearing this story Dunning and Kruger began to study people’s perception of their own ability versus their actual ability.

Their studies, which were carried out on students at Cornell, showed that weaker students consistently overestimated their ability. They didn’t just test intellect either, they tested students across a range of fields such as sense of humour, grammar, and logic. The students who were weaker  believed they had performed better terming this illusory bias, interestingly they also found that the opposite was true in that students who were high performing rated themselves poorly, this they termed the impostor syndrome.

The students who performed the worst were the ones who believed they performed best, yet performed the worst. There was a complete mismatch with actual performance and perceived performance. It was these students that the Dunning-Kruger Effect was named for. The psychologists explained that for these students they lacked the cognitive ability both to perform well and to be able to perceive their weaknesses in performance.

When my husband sent me the Dunning-Kruger link, things started to make sense to me. I these people are the confident dumb people. They are so confident because they are so dumb. Reading about this effect got me thinking, because I have seen a worrying trend.

In Australia we have a number of Federal politicians who Dunning and Kruger would have a field day with. One believes that legalising gay marriage could lead to legalising sex between humans and animals. Another is an abhorrent racist who, once out of favour, has now come back with bigger numbers than before despite being too stupid to know what the word xenophobic means and publicly stating that all people from Africa have AIDS. Another is an ex-radio jockey  whose political party, named after himself, has used his political party to fight his own personal grudges against sentencing and parole. I’m honestly not making any of this up and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Why are these morons being voted in? I imagine that the people who vote for them do so believing that they are good candidates, that they are smart and will act with intelligence and thought, so what the hell is that telling us about the voters?

This is Australia, in America we are seeing Dunning-Kruger on a much larger scale. In the two and a bit weeks since Trump stepped up as President of the USA he has made headlines most days, and not just the funny Twitter ones either. He has signed the way for the much protested Dakota Pipeline, tried to stop passengers from Middle Eastern and North African Countries moving through immigration, declared again his love of Vladimir Putin, and possibly planted the seeds for war against Iraq.

How did this happen? People voted for him. Why? I don’t know. Heaven help us and America.


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