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Unskilled and Unaware of it
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - APA ^ | June 10, 1999 | Justin Kruger and David Dunning

Posted on 10/17/2002 6:53:35 AM PDT by gridlock

Unskilled and Unaware of It:

How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own
Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

Justin Kruger and David Dunning
Department of Psychology Cornell University

Abstract

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their
abilities in many social and intellectual domains.
The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs,
in part, because people who are unskilled in these
domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people
reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices,
but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive
ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors
found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile
on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly
overestimated their test performance and ability.
Although their test scores put them in the 12th
percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.
Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits
in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish
accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the
skills of participants, and thus increasing their
metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the
limitations of their abilities.

It is one of the essential features of such incompetence
that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing
that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would
already be to remedy a good portion of the offense.
(Miller, 1993 , p. 4)

In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o'clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. "But I wore the juice," he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one's face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras ( Fuocco, 1996 ).

We bring up the unfortunate affairs of Mr. Wheeler to make three points. The first two are noncontroversial. First, in many domains in life, success and satisfaction depend on knowledge, wisdom, or savvy in knowing which rules to follow and which strategies to pursue. This is true not only for committing crimes, but also for many tasks in the social and intellectual domains, such as promoting effective leadership, raising children, constructing a solid logical argument, or designing a rigorous psychological study. Second, people differ widely in the knowledge and strategies they apply in these domains ( Dunning, Meyerowitz, & Holzberg, 1989 ; Dunning, Perie, & Story, 1991 ; Story & Dunning, 1998 ), with varying levels of success. Some of the knowledge and theories that people apply to their actions are sound and meet with favorable results. Others, like the lemon juice hypothesis of McArthur Wheeler, are imperfect at best and wrong-headed, incompetent, or dysfunctional at worst.

Perhaps more controversial is the third point, the one that is the focus of this article. We argue that 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 mistaken impression that they are doing just fine. As Miller (1993) perceptively observed in the quote that opens this article, and as Charles Darwin (1871) sagely noted over a century ago, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (p. 3).

(Excerpt) Read more at apa.org ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government
KEYWORDS: psychology; selfesteem
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Excerpted from a rather lengthy article.

Found this linked over at AndrewSullivan.com. Great stuff.

1 posted on 10/17/2002 6:53:36 AM PDT by gridlock
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To: MrConfettiMan
I thought this was hilarious.
2 posted on 10/17/2002 7:04:20 AM PDT by Explorer89
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To: Explorer89
"But I voted Democrat.... Why am I still poor?"
3 posted on 10/17/2002 7:21:45 AM PDT by gridlock
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To: gridlock
doh ;-)
4 posted on 10/17/2002 7:23:06 AM PDT by lodwick
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To: Explorer89
"But I wore the juice," he mumbled.

LOL!!!! Great stuff, Exp89. Thanks for the ping.

Looks like I got me a new line to use whenever I make a mistake, "But I was wearin' the juice!" :)

5 posted on 10/17/2002 7:29:21 AM PDT by MrConfettiMan
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To: gridlock
There are at least two states of unknowing:

Don't know and know that you don't know.

Don't know and don't know that you don't know.

Apparently, there are a lot of persons in the last category.

6 posted on 10/17/2002 7:39:22 AM PDT by Citizen Tom Paine
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To: gridlock
Chicken and the egg problem. How do stupid people know that they are stupid? They don't.
7 posted on 10/17/2002 7:40:41 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: gridlock
Wait a minute! Lemon juice doesn't keep bank cameras from taking your picture?

Uh-oh...gotta run...

8 posted on 10/17/2002 7:42:55 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: gridlock
"Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."--Frederich von Schiller, The Maid of Orleans.
9 posted on 10/17/2002 7:49:14 AM PDT by boris
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To: gridlock
It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense.

Exhibit A: Madelaine Albright

I get this. Its similar to a wise man understanding that he is really not all that wise.

10 posted on 10/17/2002 7:56:31 AM PDT by KC_Conspirator
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To: boris
...Against stupidity....

For the record, what is stupidty?

Is stupid a condition that can be remedied or is it a congenital condition that cannot be corrected with education?

11 posted on 10/17/2002 8:00:33 AM PDT by bert
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To: gridlock
Most interesting. I have a son who is MR, and can tell you that the inability to recognize or admit ignorance seems impossible to overcome.
12 posted on 10/17/2002 8:06:32 AM PDT by antidisestablishment
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To: Leisler
I read the long article and while the methodology was good, all the tests were done on Cornell students which are not very typical of the population. To me, poor performers must a)admitt they are lousy or b)scapegoat someone or something else or ignore their own incompetence. It is much easier on the brain to choose b. The article concludes that you can improve self evaluation by training the incompetent. I disagree (based only on observation). It is just a lot easier to scapegoat than to blame oneself.
13 posted on 10/17/2002 8:11:43 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: TotusTuus; nickcarraway; Siobhan; american colleen; Polycarp; patent; sandyeggo; Catholicguy; ...
Ping (I need to develop a list, because I keep forgetting people)

Long, but an interesting read. In light of recent spinning in circles on other topics....

See, I was right. When I was 20, I knew everything. By the time I reached XX, I realized I knew jack. Maybe I'm not so dumb after all.
14 posted on 10/17/2002 8:13:35 AM PDT by Desdemona
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To: Desdemona
"I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance." - Socrates

The old Greek said it first.

Regards, Ivan

15 posted on 10/17/2002 8:17:52 AM PDT by MadIvan
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To: gridlock
good observations.

I am reminded of two specific examples -

1. A discussion with a liberal newsman who kept arguing how unbiased the major media news shows were, middle of the road, unbiased reporting.

2. A group of poor black drug users who kept arguing that they weren't afraid of using dirty needles because AIDS was curable and if they got AIDS, all they needed to do was to go get a shot.
16 posted on 10/17/2002 8:22:51 AM PDT by XBob
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To: Desdemona
When I was 20, I knew everything. By the time I reached XX, I realized I knew jack.

Umm, jack who?

17 posted on 10/17/2002 8:35:05 AM PDT by 70times7
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To: gridlock
I don't know anything, and I can prove it!
18 posted on 10/17/2002 8:40:21 AM PDT by alaskanfan
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To: XBob
"A group of poor black drug users who kept arguing that they weren't afraid of using dirty needles because AIDS was curable and if they got AIDS, all they needed to do was to go get a shot."

Or did you hear the story of the junkies caught sharing a second-hand syringe? "Don't worry" they replied "we're all wearing condoms."

Anyway, timely topic, given the last 10 years'"self esteem" psychology.

19 posted on 10/17/2002 8:44:06 AM PDT by tsomer
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To: 70times7
Okay, didn't know jack.

You must excuse me. I recently went back to blonde.
20 posted on 10/17/2002 8:47:23 AM PDT by Desdemona
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To: dighton
I bet you'll like this...
21 posted on 10/17/2002 9:13:26 AM PDT by Cogadh na Sith
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To: gridlock

"Although our analysis suggests that incompetent individuals are unable to spot their poor performances themselves, one would have thought negative feedback would have been inevitable at some point in their academic career. So why had they not learned?
One reason is that people seldom receive negative feedback about their skills and abilities from others in everyday life."

Of course, this article was reluctant to place any blame on public education, but it basically proves that the direction we have taken in the schools and have been told to take in parenting is [surprise!] completely wrong. We have been told that self-esteem is everything for a child - so much so that you should not correct them or tell them something is wrong.

This article shows that people do not develop proper self-monitoring skills if they are never properly taught the material AND are never forced to compare right answers to wrong answers. This applies to social, moral and academic areas.

In addition, I just heard of a study a last week that concluded most criminals do NOT suffer from low self-esteem, but from artificially high self-esteem.

So if you wonder why there are so many more 'clueless' people in our society today, it's because modern public schooling techniques and modern parenting techniques - both based on flawed psychobabble - are turning them out by the millions.

The most frightening part is...after a couple more generations of this, there will be not be anyone left who knows they don't know.
22 posted on 10/17/2002 9:20:30 AM PDT by Route66
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To: Desdemona
When I was 20, I knew everything. By the time I reached XX, I realized I knew jack. Maybe I'm not so dumb after all.

Umm...you do know that 20 = XX?

23 posted on 10/17/2002 9:25:21 AM PDT by dark_lord
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To: dark_lord
you do know that 20 = XX

Yes, but for the purpose of this example, just assume XX > 20. Okay?
24 posted on 10/17/2002 9:27:25 AM PDT by Desdemona
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To: chookter; gridlock; Poohbah; Orual; aculeus; BlueLancer; general_re

25 posted on 10/17/2002 9:56:51 AM PDT by dighton
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bump
26 posted on 10/17/2002 10:02:01 AM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: bert
is it a congenital condition that cannot be corrected with education?

Education reinforces stupidity.

27 posted on 10/17/2002 10:09:29 AM PDT by RightWhale
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To: Route66
Right on target.

And this is my fear with regard to the performance of our education system, and how those shortcomings are intertwined with other negative changes in our society. We have gone from an auditory to a visual society; replacing knowledge and reasoning skills with mind numbing amusement (take a moment and look up amusement).

Our leaders are forced to pander to our ignorance as a society [i.e.: incompetence] in order to take and hold office. Yet the ability to see that we are on a self-fueled power dive eludes the ever growing liberal ranks, as well as some "conservatives" who don't know why they are so.

28 posted on 10/17/2002 10:14:25 AM PDT by 70times7
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To: bert
For the record, what is stupidty?

It is well recorded. "Stupid is as stupid does."

29 posted on 10/17/2002 10:18:23 AM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: antidisestablishment
...that the inability to recognize or admit ignorance seems impossible to overcome.

Ahhh, but there is a vast difference between ignorance and stupidity.

30 posted on 10/17/2002 10:20:04 AM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: Route66
Exactly, this is what came to mind when reading this. The Self-esteem crapola from modern education.

In particular, work on overconfidence has shown that people are more miscalibrated when they face difficult tasks, ones for which they fail to possess the requisite knowledge, than they are for easy tasks, ones for which they do possess that knowledge ( Lichtenstein & Fischhoff, 1977 ). Our work replicates this point not by looking at properties of the task but at properties of the person. Whether the task is difficult because of the nature of the task or because the person is unskilled, the end result is a large degree of overconfidence.

The worst thing in the work place is to work with someone like this. They don't know squat about the job, but think they do. One of my favorite sayings is that the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I really know about it.

31 posted on 10/17/2002 10:32:54 AM PDT by machman
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To: gridlock
Dunno who said it, but it applies here:

"He who is unaware of his ignorance will only be confused by his knowledge."

That includes an awful lot of people.

32 posted on 10/17/2002 10:43:24 AM PDT by Steve1789
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To: bert
It's a combination of the two. People's mental ceilings are fixed at varying heights. How close to their personal ceiling their mental functioning actually gets is determined by things like education and other environmental factors. Lots of people with very low ceilings are operating right up next to their ceiling. Lots of people with very high ceilings are operating down near the floor. Accordingly, some very low-ceilinged people are operating at a much higher level than some very high-ceilinged people, and vice versa.
33 posted on 10/17/2002 11:03:30 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: gridlock
[ We argue that 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. ]

From a democrat think tank, no doubt.....
Guess I'm too incompetent to see the seriousness in this article.

34 posted on 10/17/2002 11:09:50 AM PDT by hosepipe
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To: hosepipe
BUMP
35 posted on 10/17/2002 11:23:30 AM PDT by Publius6961
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To: Route66
The lack of negative feedback in the US stems from a "kill the messenger" mentality. I have a high school friend who I am afraid to say anything to, because she takes any criticism harshly. She is a democrat of course.
36 posted on 10/17/2002 11:45:21 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: staytrue
Who cares about this junk? What time does Seinfeld come on?
37 posted on 10/17/2002 11:59:05 AM PDT by msru
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To: KC_Conspirator
Exhibit B: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
38 posted on 10/17/2002 1:47:33 PM PDT by GunsareOK
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To: tsomer
your's is a funny joke (probably), mine is a discussion I personally had with a group of several at our VA hospital, while waiting for a doctor. I couldn't even get them to
39 posted on 10/17/2002 2:41:11 PM PDT by XBob
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To: bert
"Is stupid a condition that can be remedied or is it a congenital condition that cannot be corrected with education?"

Hey, I just quote the quotes. Ask von Schiller.

Whatever it is, there is an inexhaustable supply.

=================

Ignorance can be corrected by education. Stupidity, on the other hand--as I view it--is incorrigible.

Ignorance does not equal stupidity. One can be highly-educated and utterly stupid. I suspect that here on FR we could compile a long list of names of those who qualify.

--Boris

40 posted on 10/17/2002 3:03:19 PM PDT by boris
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To: gridlock
"But I wore the juice," he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one's face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras.

This reminds me of a true story I heard (well, it could be an urban legend, never can tell anymore).

A bank robber in the Bay area went into a particular bank, say a Bank of America branch, and proceeded to write a holdup note on a bank slip. Well, the line was too long so he decided to go to the bank across the street, a First Interstate branch, to rob it instead. When the teller received the note from him, she cooly explained to him that she couldn't accept a holdup note written on another banks slip and that he would have to rewrite it on a First Interstate slip. She was, of course, pushing the button. Frustrated and not wanting to write another note, he went back across the street to hold up the Bank of America branch. Just as the police arrived.

41 posted on 10/17/2002 3:56:18 PM PDT by TotusTuus
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To: Desdemona
Okay, didn't know jack.

Does somebody out there in FReeperland have the "Jack" family genealogy handy for her? I lost mine.

42 posted on 10/17/2002 4:03:09 PM PDT by TotusTuus
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To: boris
...Ignorance can be corrected by education. Stupidity, on the other hand--as I view it--is incorrigible....

I concur with the ignorant part.

There is an really is inexhaustable supply.

43 posted on 10/17/2002 4:58:31 PM PDT by bert
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To: TotusTuus
Does somebody out there in FReeperland have the "Jack" family genealogy handy for her?

As big as my family is, I'm probably related to him.
44 posted on 10/17/2002 7:28:11 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: gridlock
Many actions look easy, and seem easily understood, and yet are much less easily mastered than they would appear. Driving with a manual transmission, for example. It seems easy (just press the clutch when shifting gears, and shift into neutral when you don't want the car to be moving). Doing it effectively, however, takes a degree of practice which can only be appreciated by someone who has actually tried it. That isn't to say that it's "hard" (indeed, I can go between a manual and automatic without thinking about it) but until one learns the right "feel" one won't be able to do it smoothly.

In other fields, a common problem is that people often fail to grasp what may be called (depending upon your statistical mood), the "nines" principle: getting something to "90%" work is often not terribly difficult, but not terribly useful. Getting it to "99%" work is a bit harder, and may start to be somewhat useful. 99.9% is much harder, and still not totally useful. Each additional "9" adds a considerably more difficulty. Unfortunately, many people think that if they can do a "90%" job, they're almost able to do the whole thing. They fail to realize that the extra "9"'s are everything.

45 posted on 10/17/2002 8:33:42 PM PDT by supercat
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To: gridlock
Well, I'm at least smart enough to know I'm an idiot.
46 posted on 10/17/2002 8:39:33 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: 70times7
I knew jack once, but I lost his address...
47 posted on 10/17/2002 8:41:37 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: gridlock
This is pretty heavy stuff. Can they really be suggesting that dumb people understand less than smart people?
48 posted on 10/17/2002 8:48:04 PM PDT by Belial
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To: gridlock

When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the prophetess mean? For I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can she mean when she says that I am the wisest of men? And yet she is a prophet and cannot lie.  After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the prophet with a refutation in my hand. I should say to her, "Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you had said that I was the wisest."

Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him - his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination - and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.”

 Plato, Apology

49 posted on 04/18/2006 6:27:49 AM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (The MSM is a hate group and we are the object of their disdain.)
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To: Bloody Sam Roberts

"Ahhh, but there is a vast difference between ignorance and stupidity."


One of my favorite quotes, but I can not find the original reference, is "Ignorance can be cured, but stupid's forever."


50 posted on 04/18/2006 7:14:47 AM PDT by Geritol (All I need is another hole in my head...)
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