Thursday, July 12, 2012

President Dunning-Kruger

In their 1999 article Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments," Justin Kruger and David Dunning described what is now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect:
We ... make three points. The first two are noncontroversial. First, in many domains in life, success and satisfaction depend on knowledge, wisdom, or savvy in knowing which rules to follow and which strategies to pursue...Second, people differ widely in the knowledge and strategies they apply in these domains ..., with varying levels of success. Some of the knowledge and theories that people apply to their actions are sound and meet with favorable results. Others...are imperfect at best and wrong-headed, incompetent, or dysfunctional at worst. 

Perhaps more controversial is the third point...We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. 
Some people get it. Some people don't get but know enough to recognize that they don't get it. And some not only don't get it, they don't even recognize that they don't get it.

Which brings us to yet another comment from President Dunning-Kruger...
"When I think about what we've done well and what we haven't done well," the president said, "the mistake of my first term - couple of years - was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times." 

Mr. Obama acknowledged the dissonance between others' perception of his strength as an expert orator, and his own. 

"It's funny - when I ran, everybody said, well he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?" he said. "And in my first two years, I think the notion was, 'Well, he's been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where's the story that tells us where he's going?' And I think that was a legitimate criticism."
So, in his mind, he's done a spiffy job on policy, fine and dandy in all respects, but just hasn't talked enough about it. If only the story he told was better, everyone would be thrilled with Obamacare and 8.2% unemployment and the mushrooming (or, if you prefer, skyrocketing) apocalyptic national debt and the mortgage crisis and the higher education bubble and the Islamist takeover of Egypt and Solyndra and Fast and Furious and ...

The mind boggles...

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