The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I have really struggled to understand how supporters of this administration think. It makes sense that people who are trapped in poverty, who are discriminated against, who have serious health issues, etc. would want their lives to be improved.

But how do they possibly think the blitzkrieg of presidential executive orders from President Steve Bannon (yes, I know he’s not nominally the president) will improve their lives? The nominated and confirmed Cabinet members seem intent on demolishing the departments they will oversee, and the Muslim Ban and deportations are wrong and inhumane.

I am afraid, truly afraid, that terroristic acts will be fomented by this administration in order to introduce martial law. Thank heavens for the judiciary, which so far is preventing the United States Constitution from being ripped up.

I live in Brownbackistan (Kansas) and in recent months have spent way too much time contemplating why people are acting against their best interests and are stupidly following a malignant narcissist.

It turns out that incompetent people don’t know they’re incompetent, and stupid people don’t know they’re stupid. Once we had a “reporter” who had none of the requisite skills: no idea how to investigate, no idea how facts differed from opinion, no ability to write or proof, no common sense and few journalistic instincts. The rest of us did the best we could to clean up after this person, who instead of being grateful thought we were all being mean and picky. In yet another example of an unfair world, this co-worker had a spouse who made pots of money, and they both retired to lie on a beach in paradise while we others continue to work to cover real news.

What the hell? It turns out that this co-worker was an exemplar of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the unshakable illusion that you’re much smarter, and more skilled and/or knowledgeable, than you really are.

I read an informative article in Addicting Infowhich was revelatory.

“People like (this) labor under the illusion that their knowledge about things is at least as good as, if not better than, the actual facts. For these people, though, their knowledge isn’t just superior – it’s superior even to those who have intimate and detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. Trump himself has exemplified this countless times, such as when he claimed he knows more about ISIS than even our military generals do. His fans simply take his word for it, and believe that because he knows, they know. They are literally incapable of seeing that they don’t know.”

Another article in Psychology Today  is also enlightening.


The authors observed that you need skill and knowledge to judge how skilled and knowledgeable you are. A tone-deaf singer may be unable to distinguish her talent from that of the greatest stars. Why then shouldn’t she believe she’s their equal?

Those who are perfectly willing to accept alternative facts over real facts, fake news over real news, white supremacists over so-called judges, and corporate interests over human interests are impervious to reason. They are adamant that they are right in holding to their warped world view. Our hope is with those many who are wavering, who are intelligent enough to see at some point that they’re being played.


About elizandersen

Elizabeth Andersen considers it a great triumph that despite two degrees in English literature, she has been able to live by, for, and with words her entire career. She has taught English composition at three universities, including Rockhurst University. As an editor at Andrews McMeel Publishing on the syndicate side from 1984 to 2001, Elizabeth edited newspaper columns and comic strips. She is currently an editor/proofreader for Bywater Books. Besides being on the production team for Kansas City's LGBT Film Festival "Out Here Now," she is on crew for the National Women's Music Festival. She hosts the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club every second Saturday of The Tenth Voice on KKFI 90.1 FM.
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