Incompetent People


This article says that incompetent people don’t realize it.

I often fantasize about selecting people for a space colony. I’d already come to the conclusion you pick the best and the brightest all things being equal. And there are a lot of people in the world who don’t qualify. But I’m wary of deciding other people are stupid. I fear I’m just being egotistical. But I have to say this article gives me hope because of that very fear:

Unlike unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate their competence. The researchers attributed this to the fact that, in the absence of information about how others were doing, highly competent subjects assumed that others were performing as well as they were — a phenomenon psychologists term the “false consensus effect.”

I wonder if a competency test could be developed based on this study.

A parenting aside related to this. My kids like to make up jokes. They’ve been doing it since they were around 5. Mostly these jokes don’t work. I used to laugh politely at them as an encouragement. Then I started thinking, “How do you know something is funny?” because people laugh at it. And I was laughing at stuff that wasn’t funny. So they weren’t getting any better at joke creation because they didn’t have good data. So now I don’t laugh, but still encourage them in other ways.

In various situations, feedback is absent, or at least ambiguous; even a humorless joke, for example, is likely to be met with polite laughter. And faced with incompetence, social norms prevent most people from blurting out “You stink!” — truthful though this assessment may be.