FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From the Annals of Psychology

by DAVID MACARAY

Do conspicuously gifted people—people who are prodigiously and undeniably skilled—go around boasting of their abilities? I can understand them occasionally “showing off” just to confirm or re-establish their creds, but I can’t see them needing to brag about stuff. In other words, it’s hard to imagine Albert Einstein going around telling people that he was “fiercely intelligent.”

There is a phenomenon in psychology called the “Dunning–Kruger Effect.” It’s a theory that was developed, in 1999, by Dr. David Dunning and Dr. Justin Kruger, two Cornell University psychology professors.

Broadly speaking, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is defined as “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to recognize their [own] ineptitude.”

To be clear, this not to say we don’t need strong, resilient egos, or that a healthy sense of self-esteem isn’t essential to performing our most productive work. Indeed, most would agree that low self-esteem can be a real hindrance. I’m reminded of the Woody Allen joke about the guy who had such low self-esteem, that when he was drowning, another person’s life flashed before his eyes.

But when you read Dunning-Kruger, and consider its implications, you instantly think of Sarah Palin and Herman Cain. Palin was the short-term governor of Alaska, who ran for vice-president on the platform of getting the government out of our lives, even though Alaska had the highest per capita rate of government subsidy in the nation, and Herman Cain was a successful businessman who believed that by virtue of having been a former pizza maker, he was entitled to be president.

In Barbara Walters’ interview with Palin, she delicately mentioned the fact that people were “concerned” about Ms. Palin being put in a position where she could accede to the presidency. Palin’s face lit up with utter astonishment. “But why would they think that?!” she asked plaintively, without so much as a sliver of self-doubt. How could anyone think I wouldn’t make a great president? Her certitude was scary.

More weirdness: In 2012, when a goofy reporter asked Donald Trump if he planned to run for president in 2012, didn’t Trump answer him by saying, solemnly, “I don’t want to, but I may have to.” What a preposterous statement. To paraphrase the late Christopher Hitchens, if Donald Trump were given an enema before his funeral, they could bury him in a match box.

Think of any lightweight Republican politician, and imagine him or her as president. Take John Boehner, for example, the gutless, mealy-mouthed Speaker of the House, who can’t read the telephone book without being reduced to tears. Say what you will about Boehner—call him a clumsy, bumbling second-rate political hack—but compared to the likes of Palin, Cain and Trump, he’s Venerable Bede.

The next time we assume it’s simply a combination of inflated ego and wild-assed ambition that drives certain people to want to become president, we may want to reconsider. These people could actually be suffering from a metacognitive inability to recognize their own ineptitude. In which case, there’s an epidemic of it.

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail