Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger Effect, Blogisattvas, and Competition

Whilst recuperating from my recent bout with bad food (getting better thanks all!) I did some web surfing.   One of the side-effects of reading a range of blogs is a range of exposure to ideas.  On P.Z. Myers's  blog,  I saw an a reference to the "Dunning- Kruger Effect,"  which is a cognitive bias which seems to be somewhat pervasive in the United States:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence. Competent individuals falsely assume that others have an 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."[2]
The Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999 by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. Similar notions have been expressed – albeit less scientifically – for some time. Dunning and Kruger themselves quote Charles Darwin ("Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge")[3] and Bertrand Russell ("One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."[4][5]). W.B. Yeats put it concisely thus: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." The Dunning–Kruger effect is not, however, concerned narrowly with high-order cognitive skills (much less their application in the political realm during a particular era, which is what Russell was talking about.[6]) Nor is it specifically limited to the observation that ignorance of a topic is conducive to overconfident assertions about it, which is what Darwin was saying.[7] Indeed, Dunning et al. cite a study saying that 94% of college professors rank their work as "above average" (relative to their peers), to underscore that the highly intelligent and informed are hardly exempt.[4] Rather, the effect is about paradoxical defects in perception of skill, in oneself and others, regardless of the particular skill and its intellectual demands, whether it is chess, playing golf[8] or driving a car.[4]...

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.

Nellalou,  in a considered post on her Blogisattva award, asked the question, "Is there such a thing as healthy competition?"   People in schools, workplaces, etc. are keen to recognize when their skill levels are not recognized and others less competent are not acting properly on feedback related to their actions.  People don't view themselves as in a dog-fight per se, but on the other hand, they know when the people at the back of the pack are being graded on a curve simply to ignore the fact that differences exist.  I see this in complaints from my son about how various activities are recognized in his school, whether it be a science fair or a talent show.   When the school administration or other folks bend over backwards to avoid recognizing outstanding merit it comes across as disingenuous and cynical to the students. No doubt it it is intimately related to the prevalence of the Dunning-Kruger effect in American society.  It may be that the administrators of the school don't want anyone to "feel bad" about not having "won," but life is not about not experiencing feelings that we label as "good" or "bad."  We may not like a particular feeling/sensation but that does not mean that we therefore are better off never having felt it; you know, it's the old saying, "It's better to have loved and lost..."

I think if Nellalou wants to regift her award, well, it's her award, isn't it?  Did the Blogisattva folks protect in any way, shape or form intellectual property associated with the Blogisattva awards in such a way that dissemination of images, etc. was restricted? Did they trademark the logo?   I'm not a lawyer but one thing I do know:  All this possessiveness or lack thereof relating to this award doesn't seem apt..

What I do know is this is the largest brouhaha about nearly nothing I've seen in a few days.   Though I am glad to know that somebody has been studying the effects of the incompetent in our midst.


Kyle said...

Like we told her, she can give her award to whoever she wants, and they can plaster their blog with "I AM A WINNER" badge all they like. We did not agree to change her blogs name to one of her choosing, but we would move the next nominee up if she didn't want it. When told that, she said "Remove my name from this ridiculous venture immediately" which we did. It's a stupid blog award, and its a big deal out of nothing. Over 6 months when we asked for suggestions and volunteers, we got little response. Seems a lot of people like playing the Monday morning QB, because hey, who doesn't like to read 20 paragraph posts on why awards suck. See my post today.

Mumon K said...

Hi Kyle,

Well, you know most good deeds do not go unpunished.

SlowZen said...

Most punishments are intended as a good deed.

Mumon K said...


That's the knottiest, most self-referential sentence I've read today. Of course it's early.

But probably it's the knottiest, most self-referential reply permeated by karmic truth I've read all month.

Have a good holiday!

NellaLou said...

"We did not agree to change her blogs name to one of her choosing, but we would move the next nominee up if she didn't want it. When told that, she said "Remove my name from this ridiculous venture immediately" which we did."

This is bullshit.I did not ask to change anything on the website of their little club with regard to my regifting decision. I did not communicate at all to anyone before my post. I got angry because I was told I could not regift the award after the fact by way of some non-existent rules these guys were making up as they went alone. I'm not going to sit by and be falsely accused by others doing ass-covering.

If you've got the communication you refer to Kyle then post it. Anywhere. Everywhere. With the headers so people can verify the IP. You won't because you can't because it doesn't exist.

Mumon K said...


All I know is that we're all the good ones.

Who're the bad ones?