About a month ago a coworker sent me the following article from American Psychological Association – Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments
It is worth a perusal if only for the story of the bank robbing moron who thought that lemon juice would hide his face from surveillance cameras. The gist for those of you who might not want to click through is in the header paragraph
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.
In a nutshell if you are really really bad at something you lack the part of the brains to know that you are really bad at it.
Well it all makes perfect sense but I have never thought about it before. I am hoping that this information now nested in my brain will mitigate the frustration I have with the incredibly dumb. Specifically the ones that delusionally think they are irreplaceable and brilliant. Instead of spinning my wheels making new similes to express their profound ineptitude like this person is dumb as a fence post or that person has the IQ of a protozoa, I can be more empathetic. When I receive the crass mass email from my brother that it titled “Fw: Politically accurate joke SAD, BUT TRUE!!!” and has the following anecdote that he believes wholeheartedly has merit, I will be kinder in my head.
A Russian arrives in NYC as a new immigrant to the United States. He stops the first person he sees walking down the street and says, “Thank you, Mr. American, for letting me in this country, giving me housing, food stamps, free medical care, and free education!”
The passerby says, “You are mistaken, I am Mexican.”
The man goes on and encounters another passerby. “Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in America!”
The person says, “I not American, I Vietnamese.”
The new arrival walks further, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand and says, “Thank you for the wonderful America!”
That person puts up his hand and says, “I am from Middle East. I am not American!”
He finally sees a nice lady and asks, “Are you an American?”
She says, “No, I am from Africa!”
Puzzled, he asks her, “Where are all the Americans?”
The lady checks her watch and says…”Probably at work.”
IF YOU DON’T PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS, TOMORROW AT 11:30 AM YOU WILL RECEIVE THREE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ABSOLUTELY FREE.
Kinder. It would do no good to talk about the statistics of working hours of first generation Americans vs third (which we both are.) I think that a correction on this assumption that immigrants don’t work would be received with the thought that I obviously haven’t a clue. Academically he couldn’t be more wrong, but hasn’t got a speck of capability to assess that. Now instead of thinking wow my brother is a total idiot, I can think poor guy he can’t even realize how stupid he is showing himself to be.
I get email forwards from him regularly that make me groan. Racist, mean, sexist here is another one that he thought that his single, independent, feminist sister would get a big kick out of.
One day, long, long ago…….
there lived a woman who did not nag or bitch.
But this was a long time ago…….
and it was just that one day.
I got disparaging cartoons about Obama the day I donated to his campaign. If I can’t be entirely kind about it, at least the emails have some positive effect.
Since this study looked at four different aspects of assessment: grammar, humor, and logic, I am wondering if this is compartmentalized. What things that I think I am stellar at where in reality I totally suck? There are only a few things I think I am really good at so hopefully this doesn’t apply. But there is probably some skill that I am so bad at I would have not an inkling of my ineptitude. I am wondering what it is and will I believe you when you tell me?
Commenters: keep in mind that I can make fun of my brother but I might be sensitive if you do. After all he is my brother – so be nice even if I am not.