The Dunning-Kruger Effect

One of the more entertaining and often insightful blogs I follow  is Eric Baerren’s Michigan  Baerren describes himself as “a professional berry picker, tomato gardener, and coffee drinker” who also happens to be a freelance journalist.  His irony and satire skewers Michigan’s politicians (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) calling out absurdity, hypocrisy and bullshit.

Baerren explains the public policy nonsense of our Republican controlled state government on a continuing experiment with the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The phenomenon was first tested in a series of experiments published in 1999 by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the Department of Psychology, Cornell University.[1][2] The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, as lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.[3]They noted that earlier studies suggested that ignorance of standards of performance lies behind a great deal of incorrect self assessments of competence. This pattern was seen in studies of skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis.


If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. […] the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.

—David Dunning[7]
Put more simply and crudely, stupid people tend to be too stupid to know they are stupid.
 There is a lot to be said for this concept.  Thoughtful and more educated people tend to understand nuance and subtlety.  They are much more likely to concede that often there are two sides to any story and that one does not always have all of the answers.  Simple people are much more likely to be comfortable with absolute answers.  Whether its politics or religion they possess an unshakable certainty about things that I’ve rarely experienced.
When we look at the Republican record regarding requiring women to purchase “rape insurance”, preventing local government from offering domestic partner benefits, and tacking nominal “appropriations” to controversial legislation to prevent voters from engaging in the right of referendum we see a political party that believes it know better than anyone else.  The Dunning-Kruger Effect makes as much sense as other explanation.
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.  Wm. Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act 5 Scene 1

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