The dumber you are, the less you know it….

There is an interesting study out there that we all should think about – where are you in this study and in society?

………….the Dunning-Kruger effect — has at least halfway filtered into public consciousness. In the classic 1999 paper, Cornell researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger found that the less competent people were in three domains — humor, logic, and grammar — the less likely they were to be able to recognize that. Or as the researchers put it:

We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer from a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.

Some people believe that this helps to explain phenomena like vaccine denial, in which medical authorities have voiced a very strong opinion, but some parents just keep on thinking that, somehow, they’re in a position to challenge or ignore this view.

A new related study says that many people relate in a different way in some cases……Yes, that’s right — we’re all right, nobody’s wrong, and nobody gets hurt feelings.

The new study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is by Ali Mahmoodi of the University of Tehran and a long list of colleagues from universities in the UK, Germany, China, Denmark, and the United States. And no wonder: The research was transnational, and the same experiment — with the same basic results — was carried out across cultures in China, Denmark, and Iran.

Basically it reports the study authors, “the worse members of each dyad underweighted their partner’s opinion (i.e., assigned less weight to their partner’s opinion than recommended by the optimal model), whereas the better members of each dyad overweighted their partner’s opinion.” Or to put it more bluntly, individuals tended to act “as if they were as good or as bad as their partner” — even when they quite obviously weren’t.

The researchers tried several variations on the experiment, and this “equality bias” didn’t go away. In one case, a “running score” reminded both members of the pair who was faring better (and who worse) at identifying the target — just in case it wasn’t obvious enough already. In another case, the task became much more difficult for one group member than the other, leading to a bigger gap in scores — accentuating differences in performance. And finally, in a third variant, actual money was offered for getting it right.

So why do we do this? The authors, not surprisingly, point to the incredible power of human groups, and our dependence upon being good standing members of them:

By confirming themselves more often than they should have, the inferior member of each dyad may have tried to stay relevant and socially included. Conversely, the better performing member may have been trying to avoid ignoring their partner.

Great instincts in general — except, of course, when facts and reality are at stake.

So – do you do any of the above? Consider the above theories in your career and your life.

Just being aware of such things can help. Food for thought.

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