The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Remember this?

The more you know the less you care — at least that seems to be the case with global warming. A telephone survey of 1,093 Americans by two Texas A&M University political scientists and a former colleague indicates that trend, as explained in their recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Risk Analysis.

It turned out, as John Mashey noticed, that “knowledge” in the study was self-assessed by the subjects. The real negative correlation is between how much you care and how much you THINK you know, a very different measure.

Via a comment on the Python list, I stumbled across something on Wikipedia called the Dunning-Kruger effect that would indicate that this wasn’t an unusual outcome at all.

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (as Charles Darwin put it). They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

– Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.

– Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.

– Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.

– If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

Meanwhile, people with true knowledge tended to underestimate their competence.

H/T to Anna Haynes who reminded me of all this in a recent email exchange.