Dunning Kruger becomes melody, in the “Incompetence Opera”

February 15, 2019

This should be worthy of watching, and of future commentary

"The Incompetence Opera" appears to have been a production of the 2017 IgNobel Prize ceremony in 2017. "‘They don’t know that they don’t know!’ Ray Bauwens sings about the Dunning-Kruger effect at the 2017 Ignobel Prizes ceremony in Harvard 2017 (AIR)"
“The Incompetence Opera” appears to have been a production of the 2017 IgNobel Prize ceremony in 2017. “‘They don’t know that they don’t know!’ Ray Bauwens sings about the Dunning-Kruger effect at the 2017 Ignobel Prizes ceremony in Harvard 2017 (AIR)”

Bookmark this video. Sadly, you’ll have much use for it over the next two years.

Tip of the old scrub brush to The Weekly Sift.

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Quote of the moment: Darwin, on confidence begotten by ignorance

February 12, 2014

Italian panel depicting Charles Darwin, created ca. 1890, on display at the Turin Museum of Human Anatomy. Wikimedia image

Italian panel depicting Charles Darwin, created ca. 1890, on display at the Turin Museum of Human Anatomy. Wikimedia image.  Darwin sits contemplating two of his works, title in Italian, Origin of Species (1859), and Descent of Man (Origin of Man), 1871

How could I have forgotten this wonderful passage from Darwin?

Maria Popova’s Literary Jukebox reminded me today.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

— Charles Darwin, Descent of Man; Introduction, p. 2.

Today was the 205th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.

Faithful readers of this blog may recognize Darwin’s thought as very close to a description of the Dunning Kruger Effect, as indeed it is.  How many others, through the years, recognized the phenomenon, and commented on it, before Dunning and Kruger gave it scientific heft?

The quote attributed to Darwin is edited just a tiny bit from his actual statement, though without loss of effect.  Darwin, ever the hard science stickler, had limited his statement much more.  In the introduction to Descent of Man, Darwin wrote:

This work contains hardly any original facts in regard to man; but as the conclusions at which I arrived, after drawing up a rough draft, appeared to me interesting, I thought that they might interest others. It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. The conclusion that man is the co-descendant with other species of some ancient, lower, and extinct form, is not in any degree new.

Any way the knowledge is sliced, creationists are cock-sure they’re right, when they are most solidly in the wrong.

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Just stay quiet: Poster hoax about the Pledge of Allegiance

September 15, 2013

Anybody send this to you on Facebook (100 times, maybe?)

Hoax claims about the Pledge of Allegiance, found on Facebook and innumerable e-mails

Hoax claims about the Pledge of Allegiance, found on Facebook and innumerable e-mails

Clever, eh?  It repeats the McCarthy-era editing of the Pledge of Allegiance, and then comes up with this whopper:

. . . My generation grew up reciting this every morning in school, with my hand on my heart.  They no longer do that for fear of offending someone!

Let’s see how many Americans will re-post and not care about offending someone!

Not quite so long-lived as the Millard Fillmore Bathtub Hoax — which started in 1917 — but a lot more common these days.

Just as false.  Maybe more perniciously so.

Consider:

  1. Actually, 45 of our 50 states require the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.  The five exceptions:  Iowa, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wyoming.  See any pattern there?
  2. None of the five states previously required the Pledge, and then stopped.
  3. None of the five states claim to not require the pledge in order to avoid offending anyone.  Oklahoma would be happy to offend people on such issues, most of the time.
  4. Reposting historically inaccurate claims, without fear of offending anyone, is no virtue.  It’s just silly.

The creator of that poster is probably well under the age of 50, and may have grown up with the hand-over-heart salute used after World War II.  That was not the original salute, and I’d imagine the author is wholly ignorant of the original and why it was changed.

Students pledging to the flag, 1899, 8th Division, Washington, D.C. Part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston 1890 - 1900 Washington, D.C., school survey.

Wikipedia image and caption: Students pledging to the flag, 1899, 8th Division, Washington, D.C. Part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston 1890 – 1900 Washington, D.C., school survey.

Wikipedia gives a concise history of the salute:

Swearing of the Pledge is accompanied by a salute. An early version of the salute, adopted in 1892, was known as the Bellamy salute. It started with the hand outstretched toward the flag, palm down, and ended with the palm up. Because of the similarity between the Bellamy salute and the Nazi salute, developed later, the United States Congress instituted the hand-over-the-heart gesture as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States, instead of the Bellamy salute. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred on December 22, 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code language first passed into law on June 22, 1942.

Students in an unnamed school in 1941, offering the Bellamy Salute for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Students in an unnamed school in 1941, offering the Bellamy Salute for the Pledge of Allegiance. Wikipedia image.

One might understand why the Bellamy Salute was changed, during war with Nazi Germany.

Arrogance and ignorance combine to form many different kinds of prejudices, all of them ugly.  The arrogant assumption that only “our generation” learned patriotism and that whatever goes on in schools today is not as good as it was “in our day,” regardless how many decades it’s been since the speaker was in a public school, compounds the ignorance of the fact that since 1980, forced patriotic exercises in schools have increased, not decreased.

Like much about our nation’s troubles, assumptions based on ignorance often are incorrect assumptions.  Consequently, they give rise to what is today clinically known as the Dunning Kruger Effect (or syndrome), so elegantly summed by by Bertrand Russell in the 1930s:

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Humorously summed up by “Kin” Hubbard:

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

Ignorance is a terrible disease, but one easily cured, by reading.  We can hope.

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Quote of the moment: Trouble? It comes from “what we know that ain’t so.”

October 15, 2011

Kin Hubbard and Will Rogers, image from Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Kin Hubbard and Will Rogers, image from Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

It was a warning from a prophet of the past, and it applies to almost every controversy you can think of in 2011:

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

The only problem is, to whom do we attribute it?  Was it Will Rogers who said, or Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, or Artemus Ward?

Virtue may be its own reward, but ignorance costs everybody, especially when it is elected or promoted to power.

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Graphic version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

April 13, 2011

Mark at Sting of Reason may have the graph to illustrate the Dunning-Kruger Effect perfectly:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Comics for March 8, 2011

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for March 8, 2011, via Sting of Reason

Original here, at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Does that pretty well nail Dunning-Kruger, or what?


Dunning-Kruger effect — in a cartoon?

February 18, 2011

A cartoon from Jon Wilkins at the Santa Fe Institute, no less.

Dunning Kruger Effect, cartoon by Jon F. Wilkins

Dunning-Kruger Effect by jonfwilkins

(Yeah, I know — it’s not big.  Click the image, go see a bigger version at Wilkins’s site.)

Wilkins added:

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: 10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121

Earlier and other flotsam in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

  1. “Quote of the moment:  Bertrand Russell on the Dunning-Kruger Effect, 64 years prescient”
  2. Dunning Kruger Effect explained, with links

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jason G. Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal.


Quote of the moment: Bertrand Russell, on the Dunning-Kruger Effect, 64 years prescient

March 14, 2010

Lord Bertrand Russell in a BBC Radio studio

Lord Bertrand Russell in a BBC Radio studio,circa 1940 – BBC Radio 4 image

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,

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. 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.

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Tip of the old scrub brush to Mal Adapted, commenting at Open Mind.

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