Dunning-Kruger effect is at play

In the current post-truth era, where truth no more matters, and when fake information is pedalled and imbibed through osmosis, everyone behaves as the most authentic person in town; the pseudo-savants. The deluge of half-cooked information has produced people with shallow knowledge who are nothing more than intellectual quacks. Such people actually suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect under the influence of which individuals with half or no knowledge about a phenomenon paradoxically pose as the most authentic source of information on that very topic.

This is to perpetrate intellectual dishonesty and reasoning corruption. Although the Dunning-Kruger effect remained scientifically undiscovered till the late 20th century, it was present in human society as is corroborated in proverbial sayings, like ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.

Even writers through the ages warned of its deleterious impact. Charles Darwin said: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” But now the whole thing has attained pandemic proportions, especially, but not exclusively, in our part of the globe with questionable digital literacy.

The ubiquitous affectees, the victims of Dunning-Kruger effect, are ever ready to express their half-baked opinions unasked on every matter whether it falls in their purview or not. They shun others opinions with definitiveness without giving a single thought.

It makes them intolerant in discussions and dialogues where they barge into on their own. Actually it springs from knowledge gap when they fail to keep pace with the world around them which is moving on at high velocity. Their inflated self-assessment makes them egoistic regarding the acceptance of their opinions. Their inauthentic ideation ends up making them persona non grata in public discourse.

The study of the Dunning-Kruger effect in the field of education goes a long way in gauging the rot that is eating into the vitals of our education system. Students spending more time on digital screen are know-it-all, and they do not like to listen to teachers even on topics that require experience-based knowledge.

Students gloss over their incompetence because they genuinely and most sincerely overestimate their abilities. It further leads to their inability to recognise that their performance in studies is poor. They are incapacitated to rectify their shortcomings as long as they remain under the spell of their self-delusion.

Interestingly, the effect also affects teachers who excel in a given discipline of knowledge and think a task is as simple for their students as it is for them. They express exasperation when students do not perform to their expectations. They seal the students’ fate then and there, ignoring the fact they have not come down to students’ level in their pedagogical approach. Their own cognitive blind spot does not let them acknowledge the gap between their calibre and that of their students. They will have to come down to their students’ learning level to make the learning process comprehensive and effective.

Socrates once said that his wisdom was knowing how much he did not know. And the self-acclaimed ‘Socrates’ of today simply play the role of some internet search engine, overblown with random knowledge that is doled out the moment someone uses the ‘keyword’.

The simplest remedy for this suffocating malady is metacognition, that is thinking about one’s own thinking. It is to critically watch one’s own cerebral behaviour, the self-accountability of one’s thought pattern. One needs a few moments of solitude and monologue because the moment one recognises and acknowledges the inherent psychological snobbery, one is half way through the solution. After all, it has hampered one’s own positivity and growth.

Efforts super-saturated with sincerity and motivation to remove and recognise deficiencies in one’s own knowledge or cognition help one in the self-recovery phase. Books and newspapers keep one abreast of a kaleidoscopic range of changes in the global intellectual landscape. Books and newspapers develop mindfulness and soulfulness whereas on the screen every bit of knowledge is flashy and superficial.

For starters, such souls first have to demarcate the domain whereat they compare themselves with the others. Everyone is prone to this effect, but openness to feedback, objectivity in analysing others’ opinions, and a lifelong commitment to learning can help minimise its impact.



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