I've seen a lot written about the Dunning-Kruger effect lately. Usually it's used to insult someone with an accusation of lower intelligence or make a direct claim of intellectual superiority. Like most abbreviated references to so many issues on the Internet, this is only half true.
From Wikipedia,  "In the field of psychology, the Dunning--Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.
"The cognitive bias of illusory superiority comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognize their lack of ability; without the self-awareness of metacognition,  low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence."
In plain terms, this means you're not smart enough to know you're not smart, but you think you are. In other words, you don't know what you don't know, but you think you do.
It may be a surprise to some but there's another half to the Dunning-Kruger effect.
"On the other hand, people of high ability incorrectly assume that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for other people."
In plain terms, if I can do it, I assume you can too. In other words, you know what you know, and you think others do too.
So, both the smart and the not so smart have something in common. They think they know but they don't, and think they do.
"The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, (I think I'm smarter than I am) whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others." (I think you're smarter than you are.)
This all boils down to explaining how difficult it is to resolve differing opinions with others of differing levels of intelligence. Sound familiar folks? Our national narrative brims over with these kinds of differing opinions.
"As described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the cognitive bias of illusory superiority results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability."
Okay, so what does this all mean to the average person in the U.S. today. If you're smart, be kind to those who aren't. If you're not, be kind to those who are. (I know that last one sounds strange, but they need a little love too.) Both groups are struggling to figure things out and live happier lives.
Some plain ol' human compassion and a good dose of humility could go a long way to making us all feel better. Yes, I know, these lessons should start at home. I promise I'm trying.
Robert De Filippis
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