I recently had a long and “interesting” exchange with an individual on a Reddit.com story about the Yes / No on 1 vote in the American State of Maine.
You can read the entire debate here:
..and my particular conversation thread here:
Needless to say I wasn’t very happy about the result of the vote, whereas my main opponent took the opposite stance. But I was reminded in the course of our conversation about cognitive framing biases—as is so often the case in matters where one side blindly argues X is a valid reason for turning reason Y on its head—such as arguing night is day, black is white or that old favourite, which is in-fact a corruption of something Bertrand Russell once said about mathematical axioms, 1 + 1 doesn’t always equal 2. Because these kinds of mental gymnastics are the only way a deeply misinformed opinion might begin to make some kind of sense, in the mind of the person who holds onto it, they are very easy to spot in someone else, but very difficult to identify in oneself.
Then, thanks to the power of the internets, this little gem came to my attention and things started to become a little bit clearer…
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”. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than actuality; by contrast the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to a perverse result where less competent people will rate their own ability higher than relatively more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, 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.”