Why Stupid People Think They’re Smart?

Why is it that stupid people think they are smart? This article looks into this question and the cognitive bias (The Kruger Effect) that it’s related to.

Fools & Fanatics Quote

Dunning – Kurger Effect

The Kurger Effect is when people believe that their intelligence or cognitive ability is beyond actual reality. It’s an inability to objectively judge their ability or competence, partly down to a lack of self-awareness and perhaps an excessive ego. It’s a self-deception and illusion that gratifies their self-belief, self-esteem, and ego.

The Known & Unknown

When it comes to knowledge about a particular subject, there is the known, and the unknown territory. The trouble is, individuals will decide subjectivity and unconsciously the size of both areas.

Some people may think that they know everything that there is to know about a subject, they’re unaware of what they don’t know. It’s an illusion of knowledge, which can be reinforced by the need for ego gratification. This is when people get locked into an idea, and they reject ideas that conflict with what they think they know. At this point, they are closed off to new information, their views become rigid.

The Known & Unknown - Kurger Effect
Stupid People & Smart People

The Process of Learning

When we start learning about a particular subject, both the known and unknown areas start to change. The known area will obviously increase in size, but the unknown area increases as well. The unknown area will often enlarge at a greater rate than the known area. This is because when we start learning about a particular subject, we start to realize how complicated it is, we develop an awareness of the complexity of that subject. Basically, we begin to realize how little we knew, and how much more there is to learn and understand.

This is particularly true in a complex subject like human psychology. Many people think that they understand themselves and others. However, commonly it will be a shallow understanding with a limited tool set from which they use to judge themselves and others. Anyone with an open-mind that wants to see that area of the unknown expand into the subject of human behaviour; look into cognitive biases/distortions, personality psychology (big five traits), defence mechanisms, projection, and Jungian psychology. If your ego can take the lesson in humility, you’re in for a shock.   

Only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

The more you open yourself up to learning, the more you realise how little you actually know. It’s like living in a house all your life, thinking that you knew everything that there was to know about it, then one day you discover a hidden trap door to a basement that has multiple layers and rooms. Suddenly you realise that you didn’t know as much about your own house as you thought you did.

Or considering yourself an expert with computers, installing programs, understanding file systems and how everything is organised and grouped. Then something goes wrong, either a hardware or software problem, the computer stops working, then you realise you haven’t got a clue what is wrong with it, or how to fix it. Suddenly you realise you’re not the expert that you thought you were.

It’s an awakening of awareness which can be a blow to the ego. People tend to go in one of two directions. Either they go into denial and prefer to live in delusion in order to preserve their ego. Or they accept the dose of humility, and learn in order to gain knowledge.

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