Dunning-Kruger revisited

The teaser at Boing-Boing for this ABC Science article on the Dunning-Kruger effect caught my eye because of the last sentence quoted there.  I’ll include the last three for context – “It beautifully explains the utter confidence of those who, with no expertise, remain stubborn in their views regardless of overwhelming evidence. It makes you want to shake them by the collar and scream about how stupid they are. But evidence shows that’s not the best strategy.”

Oh yeah? Well, I had my ideas already about what a good strategy would look like in a perfect world, but there are problems with it. That perfect world approach is supported by the research:

The rather odd element of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that the incompetent don’t become aware of it until they become more competent. The key is education. Extending on their earlier experiments, Dunning and Kruger took half of their volunteers and trained them in how to solve the logic puzzles. It was as though a light went on for the under achievers. For the first time out of all the tests they began to realise that they were below average. Suddenly aware of their incompetence, they readjusted their estimates to something more realistic.

For example, before being trained they had thought that they answered five out of the ten questions correctly, whereas in reality they had barely managed to score a single mark. After being trained their estimates plummeted to a more realistic score of just one out of ten.

Yeah – so far so good.  But there is a catch-22 here. Sure, if you have a real simple problem and have a captive audience, a logic puzzle, and no merry band of anti-logicians doing their best to keep their recruit, it is a simple matter to help a person increase their competence.

In the real world, though, what motivation does a person have to increase their own competence when they are already unshakeably certain that they are fully competent?  What if these confident beliefs are part of a cultural identity that no one wishes to surrender? What if their self-satisfaction is reinforced continuously by their peers?

What do you* do when a D-K-er refuses to be taught how to work the logic puzzle?

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any clues to help answer that.  Feel free to brainstorm in the comments.

* Writing this, I tried to figure out a way to avoid coming off as arrogant.  I couldn’t figure out a way to do it. People who know me know that I’m not immune to a bout of it, but the quick answer is “no, I don’t think I’m the all-knowing one whose job it is to educate the rest of the world.” On the other hand, I do perceive that anyone who does have a little bit of good information has an increasingly difficult job getting it out these days. And it’s not my problem and not my business… but if there is a secret to the game, I’d love to know what it is.

1 comment to Dunning-Kruger revisited

  • From the article comments

    Proverbs 12:15 The way of the foolish man seems right to him; but the wise man gives ear to suggestions.

    I liked that.

    If doubt and uncertainty are signs of intelligence then I must be Einstein.

    This article brought back to my memory a situation that happened to me on another board when a couple of guys that I was going back and forth with came back and both said in absolute honesty that they did not care what the facts were. That the facts were unimportant to them. I was gobsmacked. I had no idea that it was even possible to not care what the facts were in any situation.

    Then a day later I read this post over at Balloon-Juice and it helped explain their mindset to me a little bit.

    But it goes to your question “What do you* do when a D-K-er refuses to be taught how to work the logic puzzle?” and as far as I know there is not a damn thing you can do when a person is not interested in facts to help them draw a conclusion.

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