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on stupidity

PostPosted: August 25th, 2020, 8:13 pm
by TheVat

Sir John Cleese, with a brief clip on stupidity. He is friends with David Dunning.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 25th, 2020, 9:15 pm
by Serpent
Suddenly, I feel so much better about all the things at which I suck.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 2:40 am
by charon
Vat -

Ha! Interesting, and I have things to say. I apologise for the length. For some reason there have been a spate of interesting subjects here recently and I've posted a lot.

Here's another one and it may involve too many words and become tl:dr. But anyway...

It's an interesting clip. Cleese got into a phase of being 'psychological' and 'serious' which doesn't really suit him. Self-help isn't terribly gripping at the best of times.

He's right in some ways, of course, technically speaking. If you're really, really stupid you won't know how stupid you are. Sounds logical enough but...

I've never met anybody who was really, really stupid. We're not talking about people who were born with diminished brain-power. It's an act of nature, a biological mishap. Generally they need care, and get it, and are usually quite gentle. But they're certainly aware of their state and therefore aren't 'stupid' at all. They just don't have a lot of capacity, which is slightly different.

But how stupid is stupid? We're relatively stupid, generally speaking. I can be quite clever at English but 'stupid' at maths. There are people who can't do words but are terrific with their hands, etc.

What is stupid, exactly? The word means stupefied, in a stupor, but we don't usually mean that. We mean people who don't understand things, don't see things, who are very slow on the uptake, who don't see the danger of things, even when it's pointed out to them.

Probably the human race as a whole is pretty stupid given the state of the world. Wars, violence, petty squabbling, mean-mindedness, worshipping materialism, all that. The politicians are among the most stupid because they're generally nationalistic, power-seeking, self-centred, ambitious, separative, ideological... they're never, ever going to bring peace for human beings.

To list all our stupidities would take us right down the page, so I won't.

But who are the intelligent people? I'd say those with insight, who see into things. They can see the way the world is going. They see through the stupidities that surround us and aren't fooled by nonsense.

The Dunning-Kruger thing is interesting, but not very. I thought Cleese was talking about that at the start. Then he mentioned he knew Dunning so it fitted into place - but he was copying, repeating the theory; it wasn't original.

Personally, I have grave misgivings about the Dunning-Kruger idea. It's definitely not as smart as it sounds because it contains logical contradictions. It basically says we can't know what we don't know. Which is merely obvious.

The 'effect' isn't just big-headedness or self-condemnation, it's to do with an over-estimation of one's abilities because one knows no better. It's also the under-estimation of one's abilities for the same reason. In other words, they fail to recognise the actual levels of their own competence.

But, from real-life experience, that isn't always true. I know, when I try to do something I'm not good at, that I'm not very good at it. Don't you? Of course you do.

But Dunning-Kruger would say you don't. They'd say that, however badly you perform, you think you're wonderful. Which is nonsense. Some people might but most people don't.

'"Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence" (2003), indicates that much incorrect self-assessment of competence derives from the person's ignorance of a given activity's standards of performance' ... ger_effect

This implies that somebody trying to do something has never seen someone who is really good at it, or read about the necessary skill-levels, and so on. Which is complete nonsense. I know absolutely nobody who has thought like that. Do you?

So I don't go for the Dunning-Kruger idea. It would only apply to real idiots. But there may be more to it and I can't be bothered to sort it out.

But I've certainly met incompetent people, managers usually. They don't see their own incompetence because they haven't been trained properly, or simply haven't thought enough about it, or are in a job which is beyond their capacities. They ought to be sent on a course or given something else to do.

'In 2011, Dunning wrote about his observations that people with substantial, measurable deficits in their knowledge or expertise lack the ability to recognize those deficits and, therefore, despite potentially making error after error, tend to think they are performing competently when they are not'

It's not true that people don't know they're not very good at things. They do, and often cover it over with airs of false confidence. We also tend to think we're slightly better than we really are once we've achieved a little bit of something. I think it's highly likely we all suffer from that to some extent and it's probably somewhat inevitable.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the D-G thing is rather shallow and a little too clever for its own good.

But back to stupidity. Probably the fundamental stupidity is the lack of self-awareness. We've had, as a species, thousands of years of destructive behaviour - war after war - yet keep repeating it, as we're doing today. The fact is we just don't see through it all, and I don't know why.

I suspect a certain blindness is inherent in our nature and not to be condemned.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 9:10 am
by Serpent
Is this the appropriate place to mention the convention speeches last night?

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 4:13 pm
by toucana
The speeches at the RNC somewhat transcend the ordinary scope and meaning of the word ‘stupidity’.

In keeping with the aphorism known as 'Hanlon’s Law’ - "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” - you would probably have to make an exception, and file them under the first term of that razor, rather than the second.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 4:16 pm
by Serpent
I saw plenty of both -- plus decibels.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 6:47 pm
by TheVat
This was placed in Lounge to indicate it's just to have fun with, and not a serious behavioral science thread. DK, btw, is a bit more nuanced than the opening wiki paragraph may suggest. The section on mathematical critique is more helpful. And there is considerable cultural variation, such that DK effect is much stronger in North America than Japan, to give one example. As someone with science training, I do occasionally notice a strong DK effect, in which public officials sometimes overestimate their competence in evaluating a scientific finding or claim. This is often paired with overconfidence in the powers of intuition or "the gut" or "common sense" in resolving complex questions or penetrating esoteric subjects.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 26th, 2020, 10:48 pm
by Serpent
Also manifests in DIY, orienteering and furniture assembly...
I wonder whether that's more the Testosterone Factor.
But then, there is the whole question of the effect of culture on the TF. There is a case to be made for co-operative cultures dampening the TF in areas other than combat, while competitive cultures would tend to enhance and reward it.
However, in a non-gender-biased arena, I learned in driving school that 78% of people surveyed consider themselves above average drivers.
It would be interesting to find out how closely the misassessment of one's own ability corresponds to what a society designates as masculine and feminine capabilities.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 27th, 2020, 5:32 am
by toucana

This little YT video from a couple of years ago is very much on point here. It links the Dunning Kruger effect to Salience bias, repetition reinforcement, and feel-good suggestibility as well.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 27th, 2020, 7:55 am
by toucana
One of the more impressive things about the witless Pittsburgh bank robber who inspired the Dunning-Kruger research was that he refused to believe that he had actually been captured on the CCTV surveillance cameras inside the banks. Even when police showed him the footage, the robber still refused to believe it, and insisted that the footage must be "fake".

Another short YT video explores several other aspects of the DK effect:

One interesting takeaway is that intelligent people *underestimate* their own competence just as thoroughly as ignorant people overestimate their own. Smart people tend to imagine that everyone else finds a task or test as easy as they do.

A second aspect was that the DK researchers found that it was relatively easy to alter the psychological behaviour of the more deluded DK affected subjects by giving them some cognitive counselling that helped them understand just how little they knew.

Re: on stupidity

PostPosted: August 27th, 2020, 8:33 am
by Serpent
toucana » August 27th, 2020, 6:55 am wrote:
A second aspect was that the DK researchers found that it was relatively easy to alter the psychological behaviour of the more deluded DK affected subjects by giving them some cognitive counselling that helped them understand just how little they knew.

Oh, if we only had those tools on internet forums!