The American Dunning-Kruger Epidemic (Or Why Ignorant People Are So Sure They're Right)

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

It’s time to address an epidemic in the United States. It’s one that could be deadly, particularly to liberty.

It’s an epidemic of Dunning-Kruger. It’s why ignorant people are so certain that they’re right.

What’s that, you ask?

The Dunning Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which individuals, who are unskilled at a particular task, believe themselves to possess above-average ability in performing the task. On the other hand, as individuals become more skilled in a particular task, they may mistakenly believe that they possess below-average ability in performing those tasks because they may assume that all others possess equal or greater ability. In other words, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” (source)

And haven’t we all seen that lately? Let’s look at a recent example right here in the good ole USA.

Those who haven’t lived like the rest of us are the ones shouting the loudest.

Let’s start with the current gun control debate.

We have high school kids who think they are experts on policy, firearms, and the Constitution, smugly telling us how clueless they believe we are.

We have movie stars who make millions from movies where they shoot people and who are protected by armed security guards, telling us that we law-abiding citizens who have guns are vicariously responsible for every school shooting that has ever happened.

We have wealthy city dwellers who live in buildings with doormen telling the rest of us that we’re nuts for wanting to protect ourselves.

And all of these people who want to loudly tell the rest of us how to live our lives have one thing in common: they are completely out of touch with the real world.

When you live in your guarded castles, you don’t have to worry about defending yourself from a rapist who might break in through your bedroom window. When you’re a kid, you can’t fathom the vast responsibility one feels as a parent to protect one’s children from home invaders or kidnappers. When you haven’t yet gone out there and lived your life with jobs and crime and financial instability, you have no idea what it’s really like for the average American.

And yet, these out-of-touch people are the ones screaming the loudest that only they know what is right for America.

And that’s where the Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play.

Back in 1999, social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University performed tests on some subjects and discovered that in many cases, the lower the performance of a subject, the higher their confidence was that they had done well. They published their findings in a paper entitled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.

In an article by David Dunning called “We Are All Confident Idiots,” he wrote of his studies:

In 1999, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, my then graduate student Justin Kruger and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

This isn’t just an armchair theory. A whole battery of studies conducted by myself and others have confirmed that people who don’t know much about a given set of cognitive, technical, or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it’s grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, or financial knowledge. College students who hand in exams that will earn them Ds and Fs tend to think their efforts will be worthy of far higher grades; low-performing chess players, bridge players, and medical students, and elderly people applying for a renewed driver’s license, similarly overestimate their competence by a long shot. (source)

Hmmm….that sounds familiar.

And the way Dunning applies this to politics vividly demonstrates why we have the polarization we’re currently experiencing in the US.

Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals. Each of us possesses certain foundational beliefs—narratives about the self, ideas about the social order—that essentially cannot be violated: To contradict them would call into question our very self-worth. As such, these views demand fealty from other opinions. And any information that we glean from the world is amended, distorted, diminished, or forgotten in order to make sure that these sacrosanct beliefs remain whole and unharmed…

…Political and ideological beliefs, too, often cross over into the realm of the sacrosanct. The anthropological theory of cultural cognition suggests that people everywhere tend to sort ideologically into cultural worldviews diverging along a couple of axes: They are either individualist (favoring autonomy, freedom, and self-reliance) or communitarian (giving more weight to benefits and costs borne by the entire community); and they are either hierarchist (favoring the distribution of social duties and resources along a fixed ranking of status) or egalitarian (dismissing the very idea of ranking people according to status). According to the theory of cultural cognition, humans process information in a way that not only reflects these organizing principles, but also reinforces them. These ideological anchor points can have a profound and wide-ranging impact on what people believe, and even on what they “know” to be true.

It is perhaps not so surprising to hear that facts, logic, and knowledge can be bent to accord with a person’s subjective worldview; after all, we accuse our political opponents of this kind of “motivated reasoning” all the time. But the extent of this bending can be remarkable. In ongoing work with the political scientist Peter Enns, my lab has found that a person’s politics can warp other sets of logical or factual beliefs so much that they come into direct contradiction with one another. (source)

And most importantly:

Sacrosanct ideological commitments can also drive us to develop quick, intense opinions on topics we know virtually nothing about. (source)

This isn’t just about gun control, though.

This article isn’t just about the hot-button topic of gun control. It’s about how we’re living our everyday lives.

Here’s an example: People either love President Trump so much they are unwilling to see any wrongdoing or they despise him to the point that they are unwilling to recognize any right-doing. Most people’s analyses of the actions of the President are completely warped by their sacrosanct ideologies of whether he is “good” or “bad.” They don’t weigh the merits of the actions – instead, they judge them from a place of deeply committed cognitive bias.

The same thing is true for many topics:

  • Illegal immigration

  • Freedom of speech

  • Political ideologies

  • Economic theories

  • Gay rights

  • Abortion

  • The right to bear arms

  • Taxes

  • The bathroom drama at Target

All of us – myself included – can look at the list above and immediately say whether we are for or against these things, and what our specific belief is – but do we honestly know the details of these topics? Are our opinions sourced from cognitive bias or fact?

I have biases. You have them. We all do. However, the ability to recognize your own cognitive bias and not useit as “evidence” in a debate is the gold standard of intelligence.

This isn’t something that is going to change.

It’s completely normal for us to base our opinions on our own moral beliefs. As Dunning wrote, we are, at heart, either individualist or communitarian, hierchist or egalitarian. These are core attributes that would be difficult, if not impossible, to change.

But what we CAN do is make a conscious effort to catch ourselves when we make rapid judgment calls without the facts. We can educate ourselves on both sides of an issue and make an effort to use facts instead of feelings in our arguments.

What we CANNOT do is expect everyone to play by these rules. But that’s okay because by understanding how an opposing view was developed, we can use that to fuel our own arguments. We can call out the cognitive biases. What we can’t expect is for facts to change their deeply held beliefs, no matter how ignorant those beliefs might be.

We can correct the lack of information, but we can’t really expect someone with a confident, sacrosanct opinion to change their minds. They’ll hold on to a belief even after it is proven factually incorrect because, as Dunning said, “We are all confident idiots.” Remember, facts have nothing to do with why they have their points of view.

The good news is that there are folks in the middle, who may not have a deeply held opinion on hot-button topics. These are the folks who can be reached by logic and facts.  It’s nearly impossible to battle confident ignorance, but with facts, you can influence people who are undecided.

If you ask me what is going to be the end of our civilization, the rampant epidemic of Dunning-Kruger seems to be the most likely cause. Let’s not be guilty of this confident ignorance ourselves. Let’s vow to inoculate ourselves with facts instead of enabling ourselves with emotional biases.


NoDebt Stuck on Zero Tue, 04/10/2018 - 21:59 Permalink

In a world where everyone gets a trophy, nobody is a failure, everyone is a "special" and "important" person, and it is immoral (or racist or sexist or whatever) to tell somebody bluntly "you're a fucking idiot and have no idea what you're talking about", the fact that many people have a completely undeserved sense of accomplishment and skill is in NO WAY surprising to me.

Please remember that half the people you meet every day are below average IN SOME ASPECTS OF THEIR LIFE.  If you can get that far, it's possible you might someday be able to drill through your own denial and realize that you are, too.


In reply to by Stuck on Zero

D503 NoDebt Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:11 Permalink

When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know. -Plato's Apology, attributed to Socrates

In reply to by NoDebt

HopefulCynical D503 Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:18 Permalink

In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know. 

But that, in itself, can be a certain type of arrogance. Be wary of the self-satisfaction that philosophical introspection brings. It can become a most perfect barrier against continued growth.

In reply to by D503

bigkahuna City_Of_Champyinz Wed, 04/11/2018 - 08:50 Permalink

It does explain the statist socialists. Like it says we all have our own problems - in an individualistic biased mindset, we tend not to use the government to place our problems at the feet of others. The statist socialist by means of their own "logic" readily offloads their problems to others because they feel their individual problems are a community responsibility - in turn each of them make their problems endemic to their entire statist socialist system - thus the reason that the collectivist systems are always unsustainable, brutal, and oppressive (because as we know here, any government by its own nature cares about nothing but itself and its own survival). Too bad we as a group of 3.5 million will have to learn this lesson the hard way, again, and again, and again.....

In reply to by City_Of_Champyinz

A Sentinel HopefulCynical Tue, 04/10/2018 - 23:31 Permalink

The entire framework built around the concept of “expert” as in “he’s an expert in x so his opinion has value” comes (intentionally) with the corollary: “you are not an expert in x therefore your opinion has no value.”

And that’s where I sense some error in this hypothesis. The very notion of expertise is DESIGNED to downplay or eradicate the concept of common sense.

—- that, the assault on common sense (which this theory would seem to support) is utterly detrimental to society and culture.

I’m feeling skeptical about extending this finding beyond the very narrow areas where it was demonstrated. Natural law,for instance, is imprinted and if anything,tends to be reversed as people age. Children know that cutting in line is wrong. Adults see their own exploitation of others as justified.

And that is a counter-example.

In reply to by HopefulCynical

Whatta NoDebt Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:19 Permalink


People should embrace "I don't know". It's very satisfying to not have to be a fucking expert on everything.

And speaking to the point of the article, I used to argue politics with a guy that was a PhD BioEngineering or something way out there like that. He worked on cancer cure shit. I have a graduate science degree also. We both came to the same conclusion..."The more you learn, the less you know".

It's usually pretty obvious who the bullshitters are in a discussion or argument.

In reply to by NoDebt

Creative_Destruct Whatta Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:32 Permalink

The longer I live ( and I've lived a good while now) the more I become convinced that very few of us ever REALLY "knows" very much AT ALL... Taking the scientific method as my epistemology, VERY few things we BELIEVE are true have been rigorously verified or falsified repeatably and empirically with controlled testing. Belief, in this philosophy of knowledge, even when strongly held emotionally, or based on anecdotal evidence, is NOT knowledge.

We function daily on emotional biases and unverified beliefs we create to affirm our own prejudged world views. 

In reply to by Whatta

Vilfredo Pareto Creative_Destruct Tue, 04/10/2018 - 23:10 Permalink

Lol.  When you realize that people have tons of beliefs but very few facts, and most judgments are made without logic and filtered thru a person's cognitive biases you do wonder how humanity has made it this far.  


The logical positivist at least realizes there is no there there.  In fact recognizing what little, if any, factual basis and logical reasoning is involved in most people's beliefs and decisions and how fucking ignorant we all are gives you a leg up.  The one eyed man with very bad vision can defeat the blind man every time.  

In reply to by Creative_Destruct

Phil Free Vilfredo Pareto Wed, 04/11/2018 - 00:21 Permalink

 The one eyed man with very bad vision can defeat the blind man every time.

Heh.. not true. You are not familiar with Zatoichi, the blind swordsman.  A famous character in a series of Japanese movies, starting back in the 1960's.  Some great, great stuff.

See this u-tube clip of a fight between the blind Zatoichi and a skilled Samurai:


In reply to by Vilfredo Pareto

ThanksChump css1971 Wed, 04/11/2018 - 07:03 Permalink

Education plays a very small role in both intelligence and expertise. Very small, like a Chihuahua.

Education itself is (mostly) a lie that liberals propagate to shift discourse away from the role IQ plays in overall long-term performance expectations.

A person with a 100 IQ can reason 50x as fast as a 90 IQ person, solve unfamiliar problems 50x as fast, and remember vastly more. Most people are unaware that IQ is an exponential scale.

A person with an 83 IQ can't even work for the US military because they can't be educated much at all, not even to peel potatoes, and we have 56 million of those. Nearly every one of them is a publicly educated Democrat.

In reply to by css1971

Deep Snorkeler booboo Tue, 04/10/2018 - 21:23 Permalink

Undereducated Americans Live in Shame

Easily exploited, victimized by con men,

they suffer the pain of ignorance.

Smart people perform inhumane experiments on them.

Their thoughts and feelings are not real.

The American mind is cursed with haze

and inability to remember past events.

Living lives of quiet oppression.



In reply to by booboo

Oldwood Deep Snorkeler Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:16 Permalink

Education today does NOT necessarily infer informed, much less intelligent.

Weak minds have been induced to go into substantial debt to become educated when in reality they were robbed, or actually worse. Not only were they defrauded but had their heads filled with rotten progressive indoctrination that leads them to self Destruction.

Meanwhile, these righteously educated elite look down their arched noses at the deplorables left to deal with their misguided agendas, laughing at their misplaced work ethic that enables the progressives to steal their hard earned wealth to be used to oppress them.

In reply to by Deep Snorkeler

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 True Blue Wed, 04/11/2018 - 00:00 Permalink

I agree. But other steps need to be taken. What steps? End tax exempt status for the large foundations. It is a scam. End tax exempt status for universities. Let them use their endowments to teach those who are poor. End the entire dot gov funding for higher education. It should all be private or paid for by endowments or private scholarships.

I am fine having the US Taxpayer pay for community college and for trade schools. Anything more than that is insanity. Let the leftists fund their dreams. Their dreams are my nightmare.

In reply to by True Blue

HardAssets Deep Snorkeler Tue, 04/17/2018 - 11:05 Permalink

It didn’t start out that way. At the time of the original American colonies the literacy rate was extremely high, much higher than in Europe. Most people today would need to have a dictionary handy to read the books that were extremely popular with self taught American farmers, shopkeepers, etc from that time. Yes, this was a threat to European rulers who didn’t want their subjects to get any dangerous ideas.

The attack on American education started in the 1890s - early 1900s. It sought to purposely dumb down the citizenry and turn them into compliant factory workers. Those efforts really started accelerating in the 1960s. Now, most of the population  lacks critical thinking skills, knowledge of history & civics.

A war was waged against Americans in their living rooms ( the t.v. idiot box) and in the ‘schools’, and people didn’t even know it. 

In reply to by Deep Snorkeler

Dilluminati Tue, 04/10/2018 - 21:20 Permalink

I guess always it comes down to those @ssholes who don't even know they are @ssholes! 

Those @ssholes don't understand that everybody has an @sshole and they smell well enough to the owner but no other @sshole.

And then you have these young smug @ssholes and they just need a brick in the face to smarten up.

But of all the intolerable @ssholes are the @ssholes demanding some other @sshole be legislated because solely they are @ssholes.

Finally and in conclusion David Hogg is an @sshole and he is so stupid he doesn't even know he is an @sshole.

Only George Carlin was proficient at all things in the universe, and he had a low regard for the @ssholes.


Dilluminati Vilfredo Pareto Wed, 04/11/2018 - 08:42 Permalink…

The left simply doesn't get it.  making light of their ignorance, lack of education, rational fallacies, is just too easy.  The sad thing is that these are people sucking up to those who have wronged them.  I see the kids at the school where spectacular failures were allowed by all the adults on TV promoting rewarding those that failed them.  And as those idiots believe that their worth and status are determined by grades and likes on social media they loose the capacity for original thought and innovation, even an ability to think for themselves and re-engineer themselves.  

Actually these people are a mess.  And their anger is misdirected at others based on dissatisfaction with their selves. The attacks on this girl with a gun, legally possessed just works their minds up because what it actually does is undermine their adherence and clinging to a social pecking order of norms, the norms of adolescents institutionalized in a similar way as prison inmates in their bizarre culture.  They insist on social conformance because they are scared!  They suck up to their abusers because they are scared!  The picture of a person with a gun is terrifying because it means that their agenda of forced compliance to their agenda is not assured.  

I disagree and so what?? Is not a disagreement with the left, it is an under minding of their actual identities because without them they are "nothings."

Two books illustrate these concepts one by Eric Hoffer and the other by Victor Frankel


The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements…

and then Viktor E. Frankl. Man's Search for Meaning

But these leftist are losers, they are clearly described between these two books and the people who do not understand this are trapped in constructs and a prison of their own creation.   And this along with accrual accounting will not be taught in schools because it undermines those whom abuse these stupid people for their own gain.

I poke fun at the leftists and call them cocksuckers and cunts, but what they really are is self-loathing idiots clearly described and I'm doing them a favor by calling them names, I give them an exit for their intellectual laziness and insecurity so they scream "profanity" and run from an idea that celebrates the individual instead of the herd.  However no matter how crass or obscene the idea of the left, that of course is acceptable.

But in summation these are genuinely stupid people who lack the capacity for reflective thought.  But the prison analogy and the school analogy is valid.  It is finally up, watch these idiots lick the hand that slapped them!…  

Go to the 43:00 minute mark.. and then watch the debacle, again these people are their own worst enemies and candidly deserve the sweet taste of shit.  Catch Hogg with the MLK quote.  

In reply to by Vilfredo Pareto

Dilluminati Savvy Wed, 04/11/2018 - 07:21 Permalink

The people I don't agree with I call cocksuckers and cunts!

You stupid leftist cocksucker, the point of the article is why some stupid fuck or anyone would believe that suddenly that cocksucker David Hogg is an expert on gun control, or better yet knife control.  Give most of these stupid fucking idiots a simple quiz on the constitution, you would understand that they don't understand it.…

1/3 of them still not convinced the earth isn't round, these people should not be allowed to vote but instead expected to consume what little trickle down that there is for stupid people and keep quiet about it!

And finally: the assumption that somebody else is responsible for your stupidity, fallacy huge fallacy.. I hear all the time that these people or that group need re-training.  BS pick up a book and read it three times on your own!

David Hogg is an expert on gun control because he was in a different building in an area that had a shooting, the cunt!  Your an expert at being an @sshole, well because you're simply an @sshole.

In reply to by Savvy BeerMe Tue, 04/10/2018 - 22:13 Permalink

How Beer Saved the World

For those of you who didn't know, beer is responsible for almost everything, short of the birth of the universe.

It is responsible for the wheel, the industrial revolution, the silicon chip, and yes, the computer.

Beer helped create math, poetry, pyramids, modern medicine, labor laws, and America.

If it wasn't for beer, we'd still be living in caves, if we weren't already extinct.

Think I'm joking.  Think again.

In reply to by BeerMe