“None of the gods love wisdom nor desire to become wise, for they are wise already…” — Plato

“None of the gods love wisdom nor desire to become wise, for they are wise already — nor if someone else is wise, do they love wisdom. Neither do the ignorant love wisdom or desire to become wise; for this is the grievous thing about ignorance, that those who are neither good nor beautiful nor sensible think they are good enough, and do not desire that which they do not think they are lacking.” –Plato, Symposium 203E-204A

Illusion of superiority : Unskilled and unaware.

In one particular Architecture firm that I once worked, I was often intrigued by some of the comments I would hear about others, such as: “______ (insert name) does not know what they’re doing!” or  “_________ has personality problems but is SO talented, that is the reason, why we cannot let him go.”  Both of these statements were made by two different people, about others, but for different reasons and with different intentions. Both of these statements share one thing in common: They were made by people who lack the necessary skills to make them.

The former statement is made by an untalented woman commenting on others in her profession whom she has assessed AS, “untalented“.   The latter was made by a man who works for the same firm, but, not in a technical capacity.  He was assessing someone AS, “talented.”  Both statements were made by two completely different people for completely, different reasons.  Her motives were jealousy and insecurity, while, his motives were that he is just, generally, a nice guy.   He was trying to give someone the benefit of the doubt based, purely on, what he had been told to think–by a third party.  Here is what they share and why both people made incorrect statements: The skills needed to be competent in an area are the same skills needed for evaluating competence.

Both are assessments regarding the skill-sets and competence of other people. The problem is not that the statements that were made, were wrong, as much, as it is with the people who made them. The former statement was frequently made by a woman who ran around making them about others, although, she herself was/is horribly inept.  In fact, most ALL of her own work had to be either completely redone by others, or, redistributed TO others, because of her unwillingness/inability to even begin assigned tasks. Everyone she came into contact with was a threat to her, thus, she deemed them as, “No good”.  She liked to broadcast this, often.  Almost hilariously, she would remark about others and that they, “…need to be in an environment in which they can succeed.”  Oddly, the people who she made these remarks and assessments about were, much more highly-skilled and intelligent than she will ever be, or could ever dream of being.  They were succeeding and far outpacing her in, both, quality and quantity.  This bothered her.  A lot.

She thought her skills were good, even though, she has trouble with the most simple of drafting techniques and construction assemblies. Even though she made unimaginable errors– she still believes– that she is highly competent.  She often referenced that she is, “licensed”, as a panacea for all of her ills, or, to somehow “prove” that her work was not actually–AS bad–as it really is.  The problem with any standardized testing  is that it tests, baseline minimums which, on paper, make if appear as if there is no difference between people who are highly-skilled and those just minimally/marginally-competent. It is pass/fail, after-all. She could not wrap her head around that and also, the fact, that people who had not, yet, taken this test were not even part of her inaccurate standard of measure, nor, could be measured against her imaginary watermark.

BankRobberThere was a man named McArthur Wheeler who was arrested after robbing two Pittsburgh banks, without any disguise-at all.  When he later was shown the surveillance tapes that convicted him, He exclaimed, “But I had on all of the juice!!!” He believed by rubbing lemon-juice on his own face and skin he would render himself invisible to video cameras!” Psychologists Kruger and Dunning were interested in this cavernous gap between someones self-assessed competence and their actual competence. They constructed a series of tests to help give some explanation to this phenomena. It turns out that incompetent people suffer in two ways.lemon-juice

  1. Their incompetence leads them to make poor choices.
  2. They do not realize that they are the making poor choices.

They put their poor work off on other factors–mostly external, and they remain under the blissful illusion–that they are doing, quite well.   Again, the skills needed to be competent in an area are the same skills needed for evaluating, competence.

  • The skills needed to put forth a logical argument are the same skills needed to recognize a logical argument.
  •  The skills for detailing a building correctly, are the same skills needed to evaluate the detailing work of others, thus, the skills for doing, are the same skills needed for assessing, competence. 

Psychologists Dunning and Kruger state that, “Incompetent people lack, Meta-cognition.”  Meta-cognition is an individual’s knowledge about their own cognitive processes and abilities. Dunning and Kruger ran a study among highly-skilled, intelligent individuals and those, who, like the aforementioned woman, believe themselves to posses those qualities. The two areas formally inventoried were, logic and humor.  The one value that came through in all of these studies is that highly competent people were assessing themselves as less-able, than they actually are. Why, you ask?  It is not that highly-competent people are incompetent in self-assessment, but that, highly-competent people actually give others– too much credit. If you think others are as competent as you, you will rate yourself  lower on the percentile scale, thus, pushing yourself more toward the average of the bell curve, in ability. It is the same phenomena at the other end of the curve–as with the aforementioned woman–she was giving others too little credit–based on her own incompetence, all stemming from: Her own lacking meta-cognitive abilities. She incorrectly, not only misassesses her own skills as being too high, but assigns others the place holder and ability level that she–IN TRUTH–rightfully occupies, that is, one of being in the lower end of the scale in both, intelligence and ability.

Dunning and Kruger devised an even more clever experiment: They invited both groups back to correct the work of others from each group. The top quarter of the group, upon seeing the work of others, revised and corrected their self- assesment to show a much more accurate reflection of where they actually stand, which is, higher than their self assesment. The bottom quarter, sadly, were still unable to recognize their own incompetence– EVEN when– correcting the work and test scores of other people who were, vastly, intellectually superior  to themselves. Unlike the true top quarter of people, they chose not to revise their self-assessment, which stayed the same and revealed an untrue score that was hopelessly, way-over the mark and much, much, higher than their actual abilities.

Good News: It is not all doom-and-gloom for the people at the bottom end though: Things like training, self study and IQ testing, will lead not only to more accurate self-assessments but also to a higher assessment and regard of other people, who are–actually competent. Instead of the prior combative stance and assessment that people who lack meta-cognition often, incorrectly deem those truly competent as: deficient. It does beg the question, How do you know if you are in the bottom percentile group?  Independently, greater testing, would be one way. Testing to verify your competence via IQ testing, with a licensed psychologist (not online or not a facebook IQ tests. LOL)  Math testing and science testing would also be beneficial, especially, when assessing the math and science abilities of others.   Getting social feedback from others may or may not work, depending, on who you surround yourself with. Many people tend to ask a spouse as their definitive answer which, not only, cripples the persons ability to asses the situation accurately–but also–their ability to be honest.  Asking a spouse about one’s own meta-cognitive ability is along the lines of asking, “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?”   It turns out that people who lack meta-cognition also surround themselves, with others, who also lack meta-cognition, thus, handicapping the whole group’s ability to asses talent in, neither, themselves nor others–correctly.


So the next time you experience someone completely inept and unskilled, yet, they are making claims about the absence of talent in others. Two words: “Dunning-Kruger.”

Have a wonderfully meta-cognitive day! 😉


2 Responses to ““None of the gods love wisdom nor desire to become wise, for they are wise already…” — Plato”

  1. The Javelineer Says:

    Bad money drives out good money. I guess bad minds also drive out good minds.

    Lots of good info in this post.

    • Archiminister Says:

      Thank you 🙂

      Yes so very true re: bad minds driving out good minds. The bad minds, I think, in some sense must know that they received an inferior model for a brain, thus, instead of doing their work they spend the better part of the day seeking out management and trying to discredit and harm others, professionally and personally. Others, who happen to be doing their work for them. They feel so threatened that they believe if the person is discredited–enough–they will magically be removed. That is the worse thing that can happen to these imbeciles, because, then they are left, alone-to do the work they do not know how to do. (Yes, you read that correctly 😉 )

      What is even more frightening than that is: the “get to daddy first”, mentality. Sure, we all know that there are going to be unskilled, jealous people who run and try to cause trouble for others, however, the dangerous people are the people who believe it–without ever questioning, “Why is this person telling me this, what is their objective?” It has been my experience that truly talented people are too busy doing their work and, sadly, the work of others, to even have the time to be able to run and tattle on others or, sadly, to be able to defend themselves. In the end, Vice is its own punishment. As Rand (Galt) mentions in “Atlas Shrugged”, “We have removed the threat from you…We have no demands, we ask nothing of you–you have nothing to offer us… our strike is one of granting wishes. We are ,now, leaving you alone.” Now incompetence is left to breed, on its own– in collectively non-threatening environments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: