Friday, July 4, 2014

Dunning–Kruger Effect

A number of my writings here on the Slog turn out to have retreaded something I didn't know about until today (thanks, Paul Trapani). It's called the Dunning–Kruger Effect. Take it away, Wikipedia:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias manifesting in two principal ways:

Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.

Those persons to whom a skill or set of skills come easily may find themselves with weak self-confidence, as they may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.
The Wikipedia page is blessedly terse and clear, and well worth a read. Also, it shows that I'm far from the only person to have independently noticed this via observation and intuition (see the "Historical References" section). But I believe Dunning and Kruger have pinned down only a chunk of a larger problem - one this Slog often blunders around and obliquely alludes to, without ever quite nailing it.

The related Impostor Syndrome is, in my view, a feature rather than a bug. One's failure to "internalize ones accomplishments" is another way of describing a reluctance to puff up into an arrogant putz just because something's gone well for you. Arrogance is elective, and I feel tremendous dismay for a society that would deem someone damaged for choosing another route.

There's no surer way to dry one's flow, to kill the golden-egg-laying goose, than to take one's temperature; to live in one's own contrails; to sniff one's own farts. Or to forget Banksy's wise observation that doing inspired work to garner acclaim is like eating a great dinner in order to take a shit.

Pardon my vulgarity, but I find the assumptions behind Impostor Syndrome too repulsive for more genteel terms.

Here's a list of more-or-less related postings.

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