Does that pretty well nail Dunning-Kruger, or what?
A cartoon from Jon Wilkins at the Santa Fe Institute, no less.
(Yeah, I know — it’s not big. Click the image, go see a bigger version at Wilkins’s site.)
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77 (6), 1121-1134 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1681
Earlier flotsam in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: “Quote of the moment: Bertrand Russell on the Dunning-Kruger Effect, 64 years prescient”
Back in the life as a corporate consultant and occasional (too-seldom) lecturer, Perry W. Buffington and I got some good mileage out of our observation that, were you in need of delicate brain surgery, you’d probably cross off your list of potential surgeons the guy who had a copy of The One-Minute Brain Surgeon on his desk. You wouldn’t trust your future to anyone who displayed The One-Minute Financial Planner.
Why in the world would you be ecstatic when your boss read a copy of The One-Minute Manager?“
My recollection is that the first time I actually heard Buff use the line, he got an immediate standing ovation from the very large assembly of workers and middle managers (hey, he’s good — audiences really like his stuff). Someone whose study of their profession is limited to one-minute bon mots, should be regarded with great skepticism, or perhaps be ignored completely, no matter how bon the mots. One-Minute [insert your profession here] makes a catchy title, and may even carry some good value in new ideas and good ideas reduced to readable length. Ken Blanchard, the lead author of the One-Minute Manager series, did not intend his book to be the only text anyone used on a path to an MBA. It’s frosting, it’s not the cake. It’s quip, not quote, not prose. Remember that.
One-minute experts do not exist. (Some experts may refresh themselves with one-minute reviews of material — but you won’t take pharmaceuticals from the “One-Minute Pharmacist,” if you’re wise.)
One minute climate expert? No. That dog won’t hunt.
And here’s why, in 20 seconds: Our concern for global warming is not produced by charts that show rising temperatures, but by two centuries of observations that natural plants and animals, and ice and weather, show effects from climate warming, and the thermometer measurements confirm that the planet is warming. The Earth still warms, regardless what any chart says.
Here’s the 60 second explanation for the 20-second rebuttal. Coyote blog makes eight statements or observations, all of them based on the science of carbon dioxide, a science which the author himself appears not to have mastered (he argues that additional carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere are immune from absorbing energy, if there are a lot of carbon dioxide molecules already present, apparently due to some magic mechanism he never mentions)
For 200 years scientists have measured carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — since at least 1960, with special concern for getting the measurements done accurately and right, because our industrial cultures dump a lot of CO2 waste into the air and any scientist understands that wastes cannot be absorbed without effect forever. (Newton, Coyote. You’ve heard of Newton?) These measurements show increasing CO2.
Separately, botanists, zoologists, other biologists and especially those practicing ecology observed that plants and animals migrate north in the Northern Hemisphere, and south in the Southern Hemisphere, plus up mountain slopes where mountains exist, as if climate were warming, and it this warming were changing their climates, and hence, their habitat.
Beginning about 1965, atmospheric scientists have discussed what might be causing this warming. At great length, after having eliminated every other known explanation (in true science and Sherlock Holmes fashion), CO2 is left as the likely culprit, the one changing thing that best explains the rise in global temperatures well past the time that paleoclimatologists rather expected a turn toward the cooler.
In short, the charts are used to try to explain the actual observations and measurements, and no matter how badly those charts may have been botched, the plants and animals have really moved, and the measured temperatures have really risen.
Coyote Blog tries to explain away reality as a figment of a scientist’s imagination. But the Earth is still here. As Galileo is reputed to have observed, regardless your religious views on heliocentricity, the Earth, she still moves. Similarly, regardless one’s views on the dastardliness of scientists who carp in e-mails about unfair attacks on them, regardless how badly one misunderstands CO2 chemistry, regardless any errors in creating charts for a UN agency, the Earth, she still warms.
Coyote Blog fails to discuss any of the effects or observations which lead to the charts on CO2.
“One-minute climate skeptics” can make a great contribution to science: They are models of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and may be studied to understand that science.
The trouble with the world
is that the stupid are cocksure
and the intelligent
are full of doubt.
- Bertrand Russell, The Triumph of Stupidity in Mortals and Others: Bertrand Russell’s American Essays, 1931-1935 (Routledge, 1998), p. 28
With these words Russell stated, in 1935, a phenomenon observed and chronicled by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, in research at Cornell University, published in 1999 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments” reported on research they had conducted on subjects at Cornell. The effect they observed is generally called, after them, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to the abstract:
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 the participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)
In other words,
- 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.
Thus, the Dunning-Kruger effect explains the existence and arguments of creationists, climate change denialists, Tea Baggers and birthers, and the actions of the right-wing historical revisionist faction of the Texas State Board of Education, and provides Monty Python’s Flying Circus with volumes of new material each month, should they ever care to revive the program.
Broadcast the news: