Why we are unaware of how unaware we are


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I probably wouldn’t enjoy knowing how ignorant I am.

But sometimes I fantasize what it would be like for someone like Donald Trump to experience one moment of perfect, unfiltered self-awareness.


Why is David posting episodes from like a month ago?


He did, Sure, he’s still an yuuge asshole, but you should’ve seen him before.

It’s Groundhog Month.


At least we’re aware that we’re unaware of how unaware we are.


I hope it’s a measure of my true friendship to all here in the BoingBoing community that I have never let so much as a spelling error pass without comparing the offending party to at least one of the lesser Nazis.


Poor guy doesn’t realize how bad he is at posting new episodes.


As long as we remember that Dunning-Kruger is a cultural rather than a human phenomenon. This is primarily about North America having a culture of arrogance.


“Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed it must be habitual and uninterrupted.” --William Hazlitt


I knew it, I just knew it, I’m “unaware”.


Seems like it is mentioned daily since I heard this: http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/585/transcript

Is it a pop conversation piece right now, or was I just unaware of DK before hand?


And same for big parts of Europe.


Well look, it’s like, there are things we’re aware of being unaware of, but there are things we aren’t aware we’re aren’t aware of, too—like, unknown unknowns, you know?



It’s intuitively obvious that you are going to misunderstand your level of comprehension of that which you do not understand, but most people are surprised to discover we pretty much always over-estimate, rather than simply mis-estimate, our comprehension.

If our mis-estimates of competency were all over the map, instead of clustered at the high end of the scale, it wouldn’t be so interesting and nobody would be talking about it.



Surely the main part of being unaware is not knowing that you are unaware?


Or did he…?


Well, like I said above, North Americans and western Europeans almost always overestimate. In eSports they try to do player interviews just like pro sports do, but a lot of the very top competitors are Korean. So after the game they say, “How do you like your chances next round?” and instead of getting a “We’re gonna win it all, baby!” they get a, “We’ve played them a fair bit before, I would say we have a 35% chance.” (Though gradually the competitors are shifting to a more North American attitude because it riles up the crowd)

Also, it’s incompetent people who overestimate. Experts often underestimate.

SMBC had it in 2011:


It’s amazing how many people I know who are experts at something who have trouble coming to grips with the fact that they are better at it than 99% of people, let alone 99.9% of people (which isn’t even that hard to achieve if you are working in a specialized field).


No, that’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.


I think these are separate effects, although one feeds the other. The DK effect could be more associated with the human urge to have a cohesive narrative and to tie up loose ends, obscuring the gaps in our knowledge. Perhaps the North American and western European way of encouraging charisma and a more flat authority structure would mean that people are much more likely to speak out about things they know very little about (including presenting themselves as authorities in the media), drowning out more knowledgeable voices and exacerbating the effect.