You Are Not So Smart: A Guide To Self-Delusion (Now Disc. The Dunning-Kruger Effect)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Fire_Ice_Death, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    This is a thread I've been wanting to do for a while that's based off of the site You Are Not So Smart. I liked it so much that I bought the book. Recent events here have kind of clicked for me on how to approach this thread and the first discussion will be on the Dunning-Kruger Effect and how to recognize it and how to combat it in society at large.

    This particular topic is of interest to me as we all know someone that thinks they're more intelligent, more competent, and in general more knowledgeable than those who know better. I'm also certain that we've experienced this within ourselves at one point in our lives. From anti-evolution 'scientists' to the raving anti-vaxxer and all in between. It's safe to say these people have more influence than those who actually dedicate themselves to studying these topics.

    For those that don't know: The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a psychological condition where there's a sense of false superiority in an individual and feel they're much more competent than they actually are. There's more to it than that, but that's the basic definition.

    So, what can be done to combat this problem? And it is a problem with the way our society is setup where the media treats every opinion as if it's equally valid. Is it possible to halt this false superiority within people? I know I'm asking a lot of questions with no a lot of answers. I apologize. I'd say trying the old schoolyard tactic of 'just ignoring them' is a good sentiment, but these thongs are really pervasive and with a political system that encourages the highest amount of ignorance to gain the largest share of votes I'm not sure how to 'correct' perceptions.

    Depending on how successful (or not) this thread is I'll switch topics every 1-2 weeks as the book contains a lot more psychological blindspots than can be found on the site.
  2. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I think it's a void in education. In our modern western society, we are taught to focus on the external world, and are not encouraged to fully explore the self. As a consequence, people hardly know their true personality; they leisurely buy into the persona they've created for themselves, and that persona has no faults. I say: philosophy and psychology should be a major component in children's education.

    Matter of fact, ordering Tao Of Pooh for my kid now
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  3. The Star Wars Archivist Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2013
    star 3
    To combat the problem? One's big-headedness should not be so much of a problem as it is an annoyance.
  4. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    I can't agree with this enough. I would add that we should also be teaching children coping skills for things like anxiety and uncertainty and depression - actual life skills that they can use down the road - instead of just assuming that all kids have this built in automatically. We also need to quit assuming that everybody operates at the same level of intellectual and emotional capability.

    As far as FID's post, I think we can combat this with additional instruction on developing critical thinking skills, like how to fact check information sources and learning to distinguish between biased sources and reliable sources. This is not an easy area to navigate in the information age. It is far too easy to surf the net to find an opinion that mirrors one's own and believe that you are knowledgeable in any area.

    Its funny cuz last night I just sampled a couple episodes of the Discovery Channel show, Doomsday Preppers. Wow - what a giant bag of crazy being sold as a perfectly reasonable and sound mentality without any counter point that perhaps these people are going a little over-board. What struck me particularly was a woman who basically claimed that any parents that weren't doing this were being neglectful of their child's welfare.
  5. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    While I think teaching more about critical thinking skills would be great, I do think that two things cause extra problems. The first is that while you talk about telling the difference between biased and reliable sources, there's studies that show people will perceive things in a way to benefit themselves such that I think you're up against not juts a lack of skills, but also human psychology, and that makes it an extremely difficult problem to tackle.

    The other part of this is that I think the crux of the whole issue with Dunning-Kruger isn't just that people think they're right but they're not, it's that people think they're competent when they're not. The other part of that is that as people become more knowledgeable or skilled, their confidence goes down. I'd also wonder if this ties in to how imposter syndrome seems to be extremely wide spread through grad school, to the point of I think I only know one person who shows no signs of it. So even if you taught people how to tell the difference between biased and reliable sources, the people that are worst at it would think they're the best (i'd argue the internet is full of that happening), and it also means that people who have the greater understanding are more likely to self-silence themselves.
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That's the crux of it. Educators would have to develop standards for helping people overcome their own cognitive biases and disengage the heuristics that they naturally use for belief-formation. I'm not sure such a thing is possible, but it's more than teaching critical thinking. People have to be taught how their own minds work and how its natural functioning forms barriers to critical thinking. And then learn specific techniques for overcoming them. I'm not sure if anyone has thought much yet about what that curriculum would look like.
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Dec 12, 2013
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  7. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    I know, I know, I can be naively optimistic about change. And I agree with everything you've said. But I'm not looking at it as a complete eradication of the problem. I see it more in terms of critical mass. The more critical thinkers there are, the more they will be able to fight back against the blind followers (or imposters) - and the more the blind followers will start to listen. Our whole history is filled with this. We no longer believe the earth is the center of the universe, that the sun revolves around it, that it is flat and we can sail off the edge, etc. These were indisputable tenets at one time that were changed by education.

    The internet age has given a platform to everyone with a computer. As long as it looks convincing enough, it can be sold. A seller of information can place a couple links in an article and because they did so some readers automatically think he/she is super smart and worth listening to (even without actually checking the links). It seems to me that right now the sellers of information seem to have a leg up on the buyers of information because the buyers are easily duped by official-looking bells and whistles. Pundits and political parties particularly have capitalized on this.

    People are definitely more willing to believe in things that benefit them, but they also don't want to be stupid or perceived as being stupid. There are always going to be stubborn hold outs and you can't stop that, but you can limit their effect on society.
  8. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I, myself am a victim of this effect. I lived a sheltered existence from birth to end of high school assuming that I could get out into the real world finding the job of my dreams and so on and so forth. When I got to college, it wasn't until end of sophomore year going into junior year that I realized that I was experiencing this self-delusion. Fortunately, it is anxiety based, so I am getting help in that regards because I was depressed for the longest time last year assuming I would never land a successful job or do the things I wanted to do. One needs to have a good amount of understanding that in the real world, you're not always going to achieve the goal you set out to reach. I just don't really know how our educators can approach this in a realistic way towards young children.
  9. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    I know one way - stop telling kids that they can be anything they want. It sets up false expectations. It also creates a sense of failure when it doesn't happen. And often there are reasons that are beyond their control.

    I'm not saying that we should stop telling kids they can't achieve their hopes and dreams, just that they need to be more realistic about it. More importantly, we need to teach them how to handle NOT achieving their dreams, accepting it, and how to move on to new dreams.
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  10. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Related question on this that Fire_Ice_Death may have more explanation of it with his reading, but does telling people this effect exists actually do anything? Or will people still presume it doesn't apply to them?

    It does seem like most people that know about the effect and mention the effect, do so to apply it to others, but I'm not sure if there's some level of selection bias or the like, or it really is that people will always apply it to others and rarely themselves.
  11. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I'm pretty sure they do. Other people, that is. Not me.
  12. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    Telling people this exists can change things--at least somewhat. It makes the person more aware of their psychological state and their behavior. However, the ignorant (I think) will always remain ignorant and continue to think they're extremely knowledgeable. My uncle is proof enough of that.

    A new topic is forthcoming.
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  13. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I need a better memory, I was about to respond to your last post by pointing out that the people that need to be most aware of it are the ones that would figure this just effects others and not themselves (in terms of thinking they're competent when they're not), just to realise that you said that in response to me saying that in the first place.