Here’s an excerpt from the story:
The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.
As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.
He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people's ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as "above average" — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile. [Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It]
We're just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. "To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people," Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. "We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students." Essentially, they didn't recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.
The reason for this disconnect is simple: "If you have gaps in your knowledge in a given area, then you’re not in a position to assess your own gaps or the gaps of others," Dunning said. Strangely though, in these experiments, people tend to readily and accurately agree on who the worst performers are, while failing to recognize the best performers.
When I look at the increasingly complex problems in our world from economics to the environment I realize that there are a host of issues of which I am really incompetent. While I am grateful that I get to vote sometimes I wonder if I am really qualified to vote on some issues. I have to admit that on more than one occasion I have gone into the voting booth to vote for a candidate in a national or state election only to realize at that moment that there were several state constitutional amendments to vote on as well. In those moments I tried really hard to read through the legal jargon of the amendments and then to form enough of an opinion to vote yes or no. Many times I just didn’t vote at all. Now some would say that I should have done my homework prior to getting in the voting booth and I would agree… but still on many of these issues homework does someone like me little good because I just don't understand these issues as well as people who have spent many years focussing on them.
For instance, let’s say there was an issue up for a vote concerning issues of when Louisiana should allow the Mississippi river to be diverted into the Achafalaya Basin or Lake Pontchartrain to help alleviate flooding up north. I could spend a week studying about the benefits and downsides of diverting the river, but the truth is no matter how much homework I do in a week I won’t really know enough about the issues of destabilizing of ecosystems, swamps and lakes, or of what a river can introduce into these environments to make more than a guess at what the right course of action might be. In the end I would probably take the approach of sparing humans from flooding. And yet this short term solution may very well have long term effects on the environment and eventually humans as well.
I use this as one example that illustrates from my own life some of the findings from the above article. If you want to talk church, music, or theology, I am reasonably qualified (at least from experience with these issues) to contribute to the conversation (though certainly not an expert).
The truth is we don’t even know what we don’t even know and many times what we think we know is just a mix of our own culture, background, sprinkled with sound-bytes from news outlets and the internet.
Speaking of not knowing stuff… I read a great blog by Frank Viola entitled I Don’t Know. Please go read it. It’s full of advice I wish I would have come across many years ago.