Gary Farber at Obsidian Wings:

You’re biased!

Of course you are.  We all are.  We can’t think without basing our thinking on our past experiences and conclusions, and so we are led into all sorts ofcognitive bias.

Errol Morris had a brilliant series in June on The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is.

You should read Part 1, which includes the tale of the bank robber astonished to find that putting lemon juice on his face didn’t make him invisible to cameras.

[…] As Dunning read through the article, a thought washed over him, an epiphany.  If Wheeler was too stupid to be a bank robber, perhaps he was also too stupid to know that he was too stupid to be a bank robber — that is, his stupidity protected him from an awareness of his own stupidity.

Dunning wondered whether it was possible to measure one’s self-assessed level of competence against something a little more objective — say, actual competence.  Within weeks, he and his graduate student, Justin Kruger, had organized a program of research.  Their paper, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-assessments,” was published in 1999.

Dunning and Kruger argued in their paper, “When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.  Instead, like Mr. Wheeler, they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.”

It became known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect — our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence.

You can find the paper here.

And here is the explanation for most problems in policy, politics, life, and blogs: 

DAVID DUNNING: Well, my specialty is decision-making.  How well do people make the decisions they have to make in life?  And I became very interested in judgments about the self, simply because, well, people tend to say things, whether it be in everyday life or in the lab, that just couldn’t possibly be true.  And I became fascinated with that.  Not just that people said these positive things about themselves, but they really, really believed them.  Which led to my observation: if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.

There it is.

A subset is that if you’re ignorant, but filled with false “facts,” you don’t know you’re ignorant.

Not that this could apply to any specific political groups in the news today, you understand.

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