Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

 
Bora alerted me to something called the Dunning_Kruger Effect. Here's the Wikipedia definition and description [Dunning–Kruger effect].
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the perverse situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.

...

The phenomenon was demonstrated in a series of experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, then both of Cornell University.[1][4] However, the phenomenon had been assumed by many philosophers for nearly a century prior to Kruger and Dunning's study (see Russell quote above).

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (as Charles Darwin put it).[5] They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree:
  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.
That last point is interesting. Perhaps we should focus our attention on teaching Intelligent Design Creationists about evolution? It's worth a try.


15 comments :

  1. There is a 5-part series in the New York Times this week talking about this. I didn't make it past the second part, but the opening anecdote in part 1 is just too funny: http://tinyurl.com/23a6pw6

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  2. I'm sure ID creationists feel that you scientists like you suffer from this effect. I guess no way of telling who is right..

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  3. That last point is interesting. Perhaps we should focus our attention on teaching Intelligent Design Creationists about evolution? It's worth a try.

    But isn't that what we are doing on our blogs, and what people always say us futile? That creationists are so stubborn that explaining to them how evolution really works will never make any difference.

    My own hope is that the fence-sitters and the younger generations will listen in and realize through understanding why evolution is true.

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  4. @Deepak: i guess you haven't heard of little things like experiments and results that science likes to use to improve itself and that religion whines about when asked to produce any sort of results.

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  5. I'm sure ID creationists feel that you scientists like you suffer from this effect. I guess no way of telling who is right..

    Deepak, your first sentence is probably true, but the second is a non-sequitur. Of course we can determine who is right. If there was no way to determine right, the very notion of a Dunning-Kruger Effect would not exist, as it is premised on the idea that people can be right while others are wrong.

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  6. 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.

    My wife suggested that this be renamed "Y Chromosome Syndrome"!

    wgc

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  7. 1) Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.

    Larry Moran is incompetent in matters of psychology, not being a trained psychologist, and so he overestimates his own skills in that field.

    2) Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.

    Larry Moran fails to recognize genuine skills of trained psychologists in psychology.

    3)Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.

    Larry Moran fails to recognize the extremity of his inadequacy in psychology.

    4) If they (Larry Moran) can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level (in psychology), these individuals (Larry Moran) can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill (in psychology).


    But as all people suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect, Larry will respond by merely repeating that psychologists have no idea what they're talking about (either in psychology in general or in parts of psychology), and that he is not suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect, as he is merely stating a fact that, apparently, all psychologists fail to see (you know, being less competent in the field of psychology than Larry).

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  8. anonymous says,

    Larry Moran is incompetent in matters of psychology, not being a trained psychologist, and so he overestimates his own skills in that field.

    I don't pretend to be an expert in psychology.

    On the other hand, I do know a few things about evolution.

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  9. Perhaps we should focus our attention on teaching Intelligent Design Creationists about evolution? It's worth a try.

    I strongly suspect that Prof. Moran has better things to do then wasting his time with IDiots whose minds are made up and to whom the facts are irrelevant.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. People who know their stuff oftentimes have a characteristic humility. First (in order to learn) you have to admit that you don't know. Then you're wrong a lot, exclaiming "this doesn't make sense!" and realizing later that it does. Then conclusions can change and what is established (there's no limit to speed, for example) gets overturned, sometimes quite dramatically.

    I have learned that the more boastful someone is, on the Internet especially, the less likely they are to be whatever they claim to be.

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  12. It's curious that on the internet, especially in skeptical circles, I consistently see this called the "Dunning-Krueger Effect", but among other psychologists we always call this the "unskilled and unaware" effect (after the paper's title).

    In psych it's really, really uncommon for effects to be labelled with researchers' names; I can probably count them on one hand.

    Not that important, just a tangent.

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  13. Kurt: In psych it's really, really uncommon for effects to be labelled with researchers' names; I can probably count them on one hand.
    Identifying with the in-group by using the in-group's jargon and style? Time for some sociology!

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  14. Seems more like a tautology: "People who don't know they are incompetent don't know they are incompetent." or "People don't know what they don't know."

    I'd say that in discussing skeptical issues cognitive biases in general are more important than the "Dunning_Kruger Effect". Chris Mooney is clearly a smart fellow, yet he seems unaware of just how wrong he is on many issues. I don't think it is because he is stupid.

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  15. INTRODUCTION

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby a collective of intelligent entities (at one or multiple intelligence levels) sum to produce a new biological entity behaviorally in its own image, likeness. Here human male and female gender has an intelligent cause from cellular male and female gender, which has an intelligent cause from a two-allele molecular replication process, which has a behavioral cause from nonrandom behavior of matter.

    The biological operational definition of intelligence (at all intelligence levels) is an autonomous sensory-feedback (confidence) controlled sensory-addressed memory system that through trial-and-error learns successful actions to be taken in response to environmental conditions. At the cellular level our cells can chemically sense what is needed thus differentiated into muscle cells and neurons to control them which behaviorally combined to produce a moving organism with muscle organs made of many cells pulling and brain organ that intelligently coordinates their motion. At all levels entities who do not serve a useful purpose in their society do poorly among those who can connect together a certain way so that the needs of each are being met. Whether created from molecules or cells or organs or organisms intelligence must on their own find a place where they serve a useful purpose in their collective society.

    Computer models show this common to all levels intelligence mechanism reduces to four necessary requirements. (1) Something for intelligence to control (motors, muscles, metabolic cycle). (2) Sensory addressable memory to store successful motor actions to be taken in response to sensed environmental conditions. (3) Sensory feedback to gauge failure or success in actions taken here called “confidence”. (4) A guess mechanism to try a new action. Good guesses as in crossover exchange safely controls variation to produce offspring each different from each other (not clones) and gene level recombination of small conserved domains which are the nuts and bolts and motor parts of complex molecular machinery that all together keep living things alive.

    From the perspective of intelligence, its genome is not a sewing "pattern" or “blueprint” showing each part and where each new cell that divides out must go and what to differentiate into each gene is learned response data for the next generation to try in response to sensed environmental conditions. In the social amoeba (slime molds) along with a self-replicating centrosomular control system for migration behavior their genome encodes for extremely adaptable cells which require no pattern to achieve their final form. Depending on conditions, in the process of each meeting their needs these social cells intuitively work together to form streaming or solid multicellular colonies of various designs. In human learning, newly produced social stem cells of the brain form new synaptic encoded neural networks. In each human social cell its epigenetically controlled genome greatly changes its gene expression in response to learning to serve a useful purpose, in their highly specialized cellular society.

    Genomic designs that successfully reproduce remain in the collective genetic memory of the population to keep going the billions year old learning process that is the cycle of life where through continual reproduction of previous state of genetic memory one replication at a time builds upon previous designs in memory. Thus a cladogram of resultant lineage shows a progression of adapting designs evidenced by the fossil record where never once was there not a predecessor of like design present in memory for the descendant design to have come from. It is this progression of intelligent causation from nonrandom subatomic behavior in matter that makes possible the complexity of cells, speciation, Cambrian Explosion and all existing biodiversity.

    http://theoryofid.blogspot.com/

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