The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Proof You Might be Stupid

Have you ever been in an argument with someone so stupid there was no point in even trying? And eventually you just give up because they would never understand, let alone admit they were wrong? Well, I have good news for you: there's a scientific explanation for it. Well, kind of.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a research study conducted by Cornell University psychology professors David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999. Essentially, we can attribute the phenomenon to a person’s failure to realize their own incompetence. Their lack of awareness, ironically, is due to their low level of competence, which fails to allow them to acknowledge they don’t, in fact, know what they’re talking about. This would explain the ever-frustrating confidence every not-so-intelligent person seems to (erroneously) have.

The study was inspired by McArthur Wheeler, an unsuccessful bank robber who believed covering his face with lemon juice -- under the impression it would prevent his being recognized by surveillance cameras since lemon juice is used as invisible ink -- would help him get away with it. (I will never not laugh at this.)

This research was based on experiments which focus on logic, grammar, and evaluating humor (author’s note: with emphasis on the latter). Similar discrepancies were found in self-assessments, noting that below-average people overestimated their IQ scores. However, on the other hand, above-average people underestimated their scores, suggesting that the Dunning-Kruger Effect not only applies to people who think they are smarter than they are, but the opposite, as well. In addition, these people not only underestimate themselves, but overestimate others -- bless their souls.

I'm bringing this study to your attention for two reasons: firstly, I have only just discovered it, and it has changed my life. I desperately needed to share it. And also, the presidential election is coming up. Need I say more? Truthfully, I’m not much of a politics person. I am, however, an English major, writer and editor. This information made me realize that while I dwell on the fact that people older than me still don’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your,” it’s not entirely their fault. Well, it is. But now I know that there’s a scientific explanation for their confident and incorrect use of it in everyday sentences.

So next time you find yourself wanting to rip your hair out after a conversation with an especially...simple-minded human being, think about David Dunning and Justin Kruger. Or maybe even reread this article! I know I'll certainly look back on it given the composition of my Facebook feed.

It helps. Trust me.

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