The American Dunning-Kruger Epidemic (Or Why Ignorant People Are So Sure They’re Right)

by | Apr 10, 2018 | Headline News | 34 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    This article was originally published by Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper

    It’s time to address an epidemic in the United States. It’s one that could be deadly, particularly to liberty.

    It’s an epidemic of Dunning-Kruger. It’s why ignorant people are so certain that they’re right.

    What’s that, you ask?

    The Dunning Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which individuals, who are unskilled at a particular task, believe themselves to possess above-average ability in performing the task. On the other hand, as individuals become more skilled in a particular task, they may mistakenly believe that they possess below-average ability in performing those tasks because they may assume that all others possess equal or greater ability. In other words, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” (source)

    And haven’t we all seen that lately? Let’s look at a recent example right here in the good ole USA.

    Those who haven’t lived like the rest of us are the ones shouting the loudest.

    Let’s start with the current gun control debate.

    We have high school kids who think they are experts on policy, firearms, and the Constitution, smugly telling us how clueless they believe we are.

    We have movie stars who make millions from movies where they shoot people and who are protected by armed security guards, telling us that we law-abiding citizens who have guns are vicariously responsible for every school shooting that has ever happened.

    We have wealthy city dwellers who live in buildings with doormen telling the rest of us that we’re nuts for wanting to protect ourselves.

    And all of these people who want to loudly tell the rest of us how to live our lives have one thing in common: they are completely out of touch with the real world.

    When you live in your guarded castles, you don’t have to worry about defending yourself from a rapist who might break in through your bedroom window. When you’re a kid, you can’t fathom the vast responsibility one feels as a parent to protect one’s children from home invaders or kidnappers. When you haven’t yet gone out there and lived your life with jobs and crime and financial instability, you have no idea what it’s really like for the average American.

    And yet, these out-of-touch people are the ones screaming the loudest that only they know what is right for America.

    And that’s where the Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play.

    Back in 1999, social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University performed tests on some subjects and discovered that in many cases, the lower the performance of a subject, the higher their confidence was that they had done well. They published their findings in a paper entitled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.

    In an article by David Dunning called “We Are All Confident Idiots,” he wrote of his studies:

    In 1999, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, my then graduate student Justin Kruger and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.

    What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

    This isn’t just an armchair theory. A whole battery of studies conducted by myself and others have confirmed that people who don’t know much about a given set of cognitive, technical, or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it’s grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, or financial knowledge. College students who hand in exams that will earn them Ds and Fs tend to think their efforts will be worthy of far higher grades; low-performing chess players, bridge players, and medical students, and elderly people applying for a renewed driver’s license, similarly overestimate their competence by a long shot. (source)

    Hmmm….that sounds familiar.

    And the way Dunning applies this to politics vividly demonstrates why we have the polarization we’re currently experiencing in the US.

    Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals. Each of us possesses certain foundational beliefs—narratives about the self, ideas about the social order—that essentially cannot be violated: To contradict them would call into question our very self-worth. As such, these views demand fealty from other opinions. And any information that we glean from the world is amended, distorted, diminished, or forgotten in order to make sure that these sacrosanct beliefs remain whole and unharmed…

    …Political and ideological beliefs, too, often cross over into the realm of the sacrosanct. The anthropological theory of cultural cognition suggests that people everywhere tend to sort ideologically into cultural worldviews diverging along a couple of axes: They are either individualist (favoring autonomy, freedom, and self-reliance) or communitarian (giving more weight to benefits and costs borne by the entire community); and they are either hierarchist (favoring the distribution of social duties and resources along a fixed ranking of status) or egalitarian (dismissing the very idea of ranking people according to status). According to the theory of cultural cognition, humans process information in a way that not only reflects these organizing principles, but also reinforces them. These ideological anchor points can have a profound and wide-ranging impact on what people believe, and even on what they “know” to be true.

    It is perhaps not so surprising to hear that facts, logic, and knowledge can be bent to accord with a person’s subjective worldview; after all, we accuse our political opponents of this kind of “motivated reasoning” all the time. But the extent of this bending can be remarkable. In ongoing work with the political scientist Peter Enns, my lab has found that a person’s politics can warp other sets of logical or factual beliefs so much that they come into direct contradiction with one another. (source)

    And most importantly:

    Sacrosanct ideological commitments can also drive us to develop quick, intense opinions on topics we know virtually nothing about. (source)

    This isn’t just about gun control, though.

    This article isn’t just about the hot-button topic of gun control. It’s about how we’re living our everyday lives.

    Here’s an example: People either love President Trump so much they are unwilling to see any wrongdoing or they despise him to the point that they are unwilling to recognize any right-doing. Most people’s analyses of the actions of the President are completely warped by their sacrosanct ideologies of whether he is “good” or “bad.” They don’t weigh the merits of the actions – instead, they judge them from a place of deeply committed cognitive bias.

    The same thing is true for many topics:

    • Illegal immigration
    • Freedom of speech
    • Political ideologies
    • Economic theories
    • Gay rights
    • Abortion
    • The right to bear arms
    • Taxes
    • The bathroom drama at Target

    All of us – myself included – can look at the list above and immediately say whether we are for or against these things, and what our specific belief is – but do we honestly know the details of these topics? Are our opinions sourced from cognitive bias or fact?

    I have biases. You have them. We all do. However, the ability to recognize your own cognitive bias is the gold standard of intelligence.

    This isn’t something that is going to change.

    It’s completely normal for us to base our opinions on our own moral beliefs. As Dunning wrote, we are, at heart, either individualist or communitarian, hierchist or egalitarian. These are core attributes that would be difficult, if not impossible, to change.

    But what we CAN do is make a conscious effort to catch ourselves when we make rapid judgment calls without the facts. We can educate ourselves on both sides of an issue and make an effort to use facts instead of feelings in our arguments.

    What we CANNOT do is expect everyone to play by these rules. But that’s okay because by understanding how an opposing view was developed, we can use that to fuel our own arguments. We can call out the cognitive biases. What we can’t expect is for facts to change their deeply held beliefs, no matter how ignorant those beliefs might be.

    We can correct the lack of information, but we can’t really expect someone with a confident, sacrosanct opinion to change their minds. They’ll hold on to a belief even after it is proven factually incorrect because, as Dunning said, “We are all confident idiots.” Remember, facts have nothing to do with why they have their points of view.

    The good news is that there are folks in the middle, who may not have a deeply held opinion on hot-button topics. These are the folks who can be reached by logic and facts. It’s nearly impossible to battle confident ignorance, but with facts, you can influence people who are undecided.

    If you ask me what is going to be the end of our civilization, the rampant epidemic of Dunning-Kruger seems to be the most likely cause. Let’s not be guilty of this confident ignorance ourselves. Let’s vow to inoculate ourselves with facts instead of enabling ourselves with emotional biases.

    Hat tip to Suzanne

    The Pantry Primer

    Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to The Organic Prepper and the following bio.

    Daisy Luther is the author of The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide To Whole Food on a Half Price Budget.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]</e


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      1. Daisy – much of what you say is absolutely true. But, I disagree that even if I’ve not completely accumulated all the facts to support my beliefs as to how I’d vote on your list of examples – I ask you if common sense, practicality, pragmatism and years of having to make decisions often on lessened research and lack of time to cogitate for long periods of time are worth anything to you in this matter. We’ve not the time to argue anymore about which way we ‘fly’ when a crisis comes up. Somewhere each of us has a compass – moral, ethical, sensical – that guides us. We are divided simply due to being unwilling to accept certain truths for they are hard to grasp and thereby allow change within to occur. Most here are on what I’d call more or less, the ‘right’ side of the arguments. Even when statements are made that are dire or even threatening. Call it exasperation at the raw ignorance we’re increasingly assaulted with by the media, neighbors, even family and friends.

        • Nothing either political side cares about will be preserved if whites become a minority.

          Non-whites arent capable of sustaining the white mans civilization. Period.

          • Idiocracy had a lot of white people, hmmm maybe the future is bright! Ever notice there are no naggers on the jetsons? The future IS bright 😀

            • Mind BLOWN!(Jetsons fan)

            • well, idiocracy WAS a documentary, you know…..

          • Kreutz: You are so correct! ALL White folks need to majorly wake up and do it yesterday!!

          • can you say Dunning-Kruger in effect? No seriously!! irrational, vehement, illogically held beliefs!!??? you have the right to those beliefs but SHOULD you? are they good for you? are they good for society?? just saying…..

        • Heartless, it sounds like Dunning and Kruger are libturds; no surprise there. Can’t fix libturds. Libturds have to be eliminated if we’re going to save this country.

          • Brave: You are Right!! ALL libfeces must HANG!!

        • Syria overflite air space has been cleared.
          UK-France-US? launching on Syria?
          If Russian ground forces or Russian equipment destroyed in this process?
          ——————–Do you think Russia will do nothing?
          ————————–Are you people aware or awake?
          BTW: Isreal has already launched missles into Syria over past week.
          World War 3 is here. The INSANE are running the party.

          • “RUINING”…..”The INSANE are ruining the party.” there, i fixed it for yuh.

      2. The real problem arises when you become so convinced of yourself and your position that you no longer consider or recognize anything that shows you are wrong.

        It becomes a situation of letting ego get you in a bad position with pride keeping you there.

      3. Trenton NJ Statehouse 1990 maybe 1991, gun control debate of S-166. From an anti gun State Senators mouth, “Don’t confuse me with facts”. Heard it with my own ears.

        • Kevin:

          That’s halarious, but it is not necessarily off.

          I was listening to a man that was well versed in facts of a historical nature, but he was lying, and trying to deceive.

          Only because I happened to be acquainted with the core subject was I able to see through the numerous and confusing barrage of facts, intended to overwhelm.


      4. Mark Twain said something along these same lines; “nothing is so overrated as a bad lay and nothing is so underrated as a good sh*t!”. What does this say about how people rate themselves as lovers?

        • he ALSO said “if you DON’T read the internet, you’re uninformed, if you DO read the internet, you’re MISinformed”.

      5. One of my guiding principles in life is: “I have educated myself to the point that I am aware of my own ignorance”!
        One can learn from both the sage and the village idiot, as each have unique views on the world around them, and can envision something that I may have missed.
        Yes, you can fix stupid, but is it worth the effort???

        • “One can learn from both the sage and the village idiot, as each have unique views on the world around them, and can envision something that I may have missed.” nowhere MORE true than right here in the comments section of shtfplan!

      6. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

      7. I went through this in a firearms training class many years ago but I have found this theory very valuable in most aspects of my life. I am fighting against confirmation bias now days. I started making a point of reading a few things each week I know I am going to disagree with trying to help on this.

        >>The four stages of competence
        Unconscious incompetence
        The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.[2] The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.[3]

        Conscious incompetence
        Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.[4]

        Conscious competence
        The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.[3]

        Unconscious competence
        The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

      8. Second the Mark Twain quote. One of the contributing factors here is that folks who truly and deeply know a topic are far more likely to understand subtleties and, most important, what is just not known for sure. As a result, they will be unlikely to make absolute and categorical opinions. As a result, they will sound less certain than the person who knows nothing about a subject and feels like they can make absolute comments because “it is just so obvious.” This is the essence of Dunning-Kreuger. Anyone who is absolutely certain they understand something completely is pretty likely to be way overestimating their own knowledge.

      9. I tell people that I’m slightly above average in intelligence. Most people accept this. Once, however, a woman I hardly knew tried to convince me that it wasn’t so.

        She wanted to know who had told me I was above average. She just knew, I guess by osmosis, that I was not above average.

        I tried really hard not to laugh. If she had any brains, she would have known that I am WAY above average. Lol.


        • years ago i got a speeding ticket, and went to school to get it erased. the instructor asked the question “who thinks they are an above-average driver”……nearly EVERY PERSON raised their hand……his retort? “if you are above average, what are you doing HERE?”

      10. Never teach a pig to sing… frustrates the teacher and annoys the pig

      11. No Hillary for prison. No tariffs for China. No wall. Fake news is still allowed.

        What if the real agenda is something completely different from the ideologues, and you were given these talking points for busywork, like forced laborers breaking rocks.

        Confidence, dominance, and submission are lower emotions, used to disengage critical thought. It’s like selling an idea with sports, sex, or violence.

      12. As a college professor, I have found repeatedly that this is absolutely true. The students who get 100 on their exam are always the ones who sit in the exam-session until the very last minute, re-reading and polishing their already excellent essays, to make sure that they’re good enough.

        In contrast, the students who get D’s and F’s throw a few sentences onto the paper and then sail out the door before anyone else does–and later complain with outraged indignation about their grades.

        For this reason, before handing graded exams back, I began the practice of reading (anonymously of course) an outstanding essay to tne entire class, so everyone could hear what an A essay sounds like. It helps; but a student who failed STILL came to me in amazement that her ten-line answer (riddled with errors) wasn’t considered as excellent as the flawless ten-page example I’d just read in class.

        It’s true what they say, you can’t fix stupid.

        • You are a good teacher. Don’t be frustrated – you aren’t going to get through to the D’s & F’s. Forget them. You ARE going to help the B’s & C’s learn how to learn and learn what excellence looks like. They are your target and they will appreciate your efforts although they may not be able to verbalize it at the time. The satisfaction for you is knowing this.
          We need more like you.

          • very well said, indeed, stuart! thanks to both of you!

      13. I have always described the most dangerous people as those who are both ignorant (know nothing) and arrogant (think the know everything). This combination is far more dangerous than plain ignorance, as these people may admit their ignorance and become informed of the facts, or plain arrogance, as these people may recognize that they know much, but not everything. But if you’re both ignorant and arrogant, then you will never self-correct. Thank you for confirming my belief about this personality fault by providing the clinical terminology for this condition!

        • Well said.

      14. My god! This explains congress to a T!

      15. As knowledge expands exponentially, the world both becomes more complex and our ability to have expertise in a significant proportion of knowledge areas or subjects decreases. My understanding of the original context for the term “Renaissance man (person)” is that it was possible as late as the Early Renaissance for an individual to have expertise in most subjects. Clearly, there are few truly Renaissance persons alive today. Humility teaches us that we should be aware of our ignorance in areas of knowledge with which we have had little or no contact. The challenge is that as greater knowledge in each subject reveals greater complexity and thus requires more time and effort to achieve or maintain competence within that subject, we have less time and effort available for other subjects. Thus does the exponential growth of knowledge increase the potential for knowledge atomization. However, we are called to make decisions or judgments about an increasing array of everyday functional matters, so each of us form core values and/or an overarching philosophy of life with which to make good decisions and judgments about as many subjects as may impact our personal lives. For example, our democratic system of government empowers each of us to make decisions about an array of offices and public matters, often far beyond our knowledge capacity. Our core values that enable us to make these decisions might need to be boiled down as simply to: Does one favor less or more government in total? in some areas as opposed to others? Can one tolerate more wealth inequality or favor less? Rather than have to know how a given politician votes on every bill, one can learn enough about that politician’s votes to judge whether he or she shares one’s core values. We should always then seek to integrate new knowledge from other subjects into our core values or philosophy of life and even be open to challenging those values if for no better reason than to want to continually confirm them.

        • I question how the exponential expansion of knowledge is relative to everyday life. I am astounded by the work of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, because they had to invent the instruments, methods, and mathematics to achieve their discoveries. Much of what they discovered is so fundamental today that we fail to appreciate where they started. But none of these men could ever envision what the modern scientist studies today.

          However, understanding the work of the early geniuses makes me informed (the sun is not the center of the universe, good to know!). But understanding the work of today’s scientists does little for my life (don’t need to know the details of quarks gluons, neutrinos, bosons, etc). So, yes, knowledge is expanding but not necessarily in ways that fundamentally impact how we live. Therefore, the “increased complexity” of the world sounds like an excuse for our current state of ignorance — either I can’t know everything so why bother, or I’m comfortable making it up as I see fit to fill the gaps.

          I thought the term “Renaissance man” leaned more towards widely read in all subjects rather than expertise in all subjects, but either way we’ve raised a generation of Can’t Read Anything Except Texts. Full sentences that impart knowledge are no longer required to be considered educated.

          In short, it’s not that the world is now too complex to understand, it’s that we’ve debased our standards to meet the lowest common denominator.

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