Have you ever pretended to be modest and kept quiet on a topic you actually know plenty about?
Well according to a new study, published recently in scientific journal Political Psychology, you’re not alone.
In fact, the research demonstrated that the ones who shouted the loudest about their political opinions were actually the least-educated on the subjects, whereas those who were less vocal and less confident tended to be more knowledgeable.
The academic term for this superiority felt by people who actually know very little is the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect’, coined by the two named psychiatrist back in 1999. At the time, they were studying the case of a criminal who had covered his face in lemon juice, falsely believing that it had the properties of invisible ink and would obscure him from view in CCTV footage. Spoiler: it didn’t.
Anson’s own interest in the effect came during the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election. More specifically, he noticed his timeline flooded with scholars pointing out the number of ill-informed articles and critique of the candidates involved. Although he clarifies that some of these comments were probably tongue-in-cheek – “accusing someone of being ignorant to their own ignorance is very serious in the political arena” – Anson follows up with the observation that the lens soon turned to the winner himself.
As some point after the election, several individuals began referring to Trump’s presidency as the ‘Dunning-Kruger Presidency, as Trump appears to opine incredibly confidently about topics he appears to know little about.
With this in mind, Anson delved into the project by surveying more than 2000 participants but, he admits, began to question his own capabilities as an academic. It’s fair to say most of us have experienced these feelings of imposter syndrome at some point – the alternative to modesty in this case is arrogance, an arguably far less endearing trait – but Anson luckily managed to overcome his and complete the study.
I feel very grateful and relieved to see the article receiving some early positive feedback.
Hopefully I can continue to steer clear of the ‘double bind of incompetence’ in my future studies!