The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Why the uninformed scream the loudest
by Nathan Empsall, Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 04:35:25 PM EDT
Technically speaking, I'm a weekend frontpager - but here it is 8:30pm with only four posts today and Jerome busy at Netroots Nation, so I feel it's my duty to step up to the plate. ;) Cross-posted from Blue Moose Democrat.
Now here's an interesting theory that may help explain not just the town hall disruptions but the birther movement and the anti-science crowd too.
We've all seen the clips from yesterday's three most disturbing town hall meetings. Arlen Specter's has gotten a lot of play, and there were several threats of violence outside Obama's New Hampshire meeting (though fortunately everything inside went smoothly). Getting slightly less attention was Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who I thought did a pretty good job of handling things.
There's another video of how McCaskill handled things after the police had to escort a protestor out of the room, but I think the money quote is from the video above: "I don't understand this rudeness... Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out like that?" That's a good question, and one I asked a few weeks ago about abortion protestors. How can anyone possibly think that shouting is more intellectual or effective than reasoning? "I'm sorry, you almost won the vote, but you were two decibels shy!"
an example of cognitive bias in which "...people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence. It also explains why competence may weaken the projection of confidence because competent individuals falsely assume others are of equivalent understanding. "Thus, 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."
In other words, people who can't get it think they actually get it better than everone else and people who do get it think everyone else can too. It is the affliction of those whose arguments have been completely destroyed and are left with no evidence, and yet think they won the debate anyway - like the birthers. It is also why the smart ones don't understand the failure to communicate and keep pressing. If this theory sounds overly simplistic or arrogant, it's worth pointing out that it's based on a study by two Cornell professors called "Unskilled and Unaware of it." It certainly explains a lot about the national discourse.