Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just in Time for Halloween: Scary Brain Story

Erica Good's NY Times' story this past week sent chills up my spine, a loud, ghoulish fright, just in time to haunt my mind for the scary season. Dr. David A. Dunning of Cornell and a graduate student, Justin Kruger, have been studying people who do things badly, who are, in other words, incompetent. These are the people who just keep at it, no matter how many signs and clues they get from others. They found that these folks are supremely confident of their abilities, in fact, often more confident than people who are really experts. Dunning says, "I began to think that there probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn't know it."

In the paper they wrote for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they say of these folks, "Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it." Yikes! Then they go on to give examples, which are a little too close to home. This is why, they say, inept joke tellers just keep at it (and you can just guess the rest of the examples). I feel like I'm lost in a Holiday Inn ad. You know, the one where some "expert" (pilot, surgeon, whatever's needed) pops up to solve the crisis. When asked, "are you a surgeon, pilot, whatever? The answer, "no, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night." Well, trick or treat.

And once again, Garrison Keillor nails it: "And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

No comments: