Saturday, December 18, 2010 and the Dunning-Kruger effect

For those of you who haven't heard about you should surf on over there and take a look, after reading my blog post of course.  While the site doesn't have much original content, it has more links than a suit of chain mail.  There are hundreds of links in the section on debunked subjects.  The concepts for your debunking toolbox section is smaller but still pretty impressive and worth a look.  The last section of links is resources and communities. There are a number of them in there I was not previously aware of.  So,, not only is it fun to say, there is a lot to link to from there.

A concept I stumbled upon while looking through the overwhelming number of links on the site was something called the Dunning-Kruger effect.  In short, this is a phenomena where incompetent people overestimate their ability and seem unaware of the extent of their ignorance while skilled individuals underestimate their ability, relative to other people.  The upside is that if an individual can acquire some degree of skill in an area, they will become aware of their previous ignorance.  While this information doesn't make the world a better place it does help one to understand how some debates/arguments they have been in ended the way they did.  You have a discussion with someone, in the process you refute all their arguing points, pick apart their reasoning and build up your position through reasoned arguments and information.   After all that, the person walks away, thinking you are an idiot and still clinging to their belief in dowsing, anti-vaccination nonsense or that the moon landing was a hoax for example.  That could well be described as the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.  It's kind of like reading Max Weber writing about bureaucracy, it may not make it any easier to deal with, but at least you understand it better.