“Dumb people is 2 dumb 2 know dat they is dumb. Yolo swag lol.” – Mushroom Sup
The very minute I stumbled upon the Dunning-Kruger effect – precisely 4:32 pm on a Monday afternoon – it became my Philosophy of Life. Nothing had ever made more sense to me (the concept of putting pineapple on pizza included). I’d always wondered why the guy at Subway insisted on making my sandwiches like he was a Neanderthal eliminated in the early – but not nearly early enough – rounds of MasterChef USA. Why people constantly curse George R.R. Martin for Game of Thrones character deaths even though they know that he is the spawn of Satan. How Kim and Kanye thought it was a good idea to produce progeny.
Stupid people are too stupid to realise how stupid they are.
This is why the most overconfident people are idiots. Not all overconfident people are idiots, of course, but all idiots are overconfident. Scott Adams, in The Dilbert Principle, goes one step further to say, “People are idiots.”
But not all idiots are people.
Empirical evidence for the Dunning-Kruger effect comes directly from my exhaustive background in zoological research. I know a pigeon. I know him (it’s definitely a he) well enough to use the possessive pronoun: my pigeon. He lives outside my window. It appears that he wants to change that – he wants to start living inside my window instead. Rather than ask politely, he prefers to sit on the ledge and bangs his head against the glass, repeatedly, every single day. I open the window partially, because I can sense his desperation. He cocks his head at me quizzically, spreads his wings in one glorious flourish, and flies into the upper half of the glass, full force.
My pigeon is dumb.
This was a harsh reality to face, but it does make sense. Pigeons lack self-awareness. In other words, they have no conception of self. If they looked in a mirror, they’d probably just bang their heads against it. Which is also what I do, but more out of frustration than lack of recognition.
Pigeons are stupid. Pigeons don’t know that they are pigeons, because self-awareness constitutes higher-order thinking, and the highest-order thinking my pigeon can manage involves attempting to hatch my clothes pegs. Ergo, pigeons do not know that they are stupid.
Another animal – one that I don’t particularly like to study, but oh, the sacrifices I make for well-informed blog posts – is the Elevator Guy.
Everyone has an Elevator Guy. The Guy who holds the unshakeable belief that pressing the button 276.42 times per minute will actually make the elevator arrive faster. The Guy who thinks that the elevator is powered by pressing the “open doors” button non-stop when it is in transit. The Guy who assaults the “close doors” button when the doors actually open, almost killing your pet dog in the process.
One might say that he has higher order reasoning skills, since he is arguably human, but I disagree. Human is a state of mind.
A more scientific explanation comes from the smart-people definition of the Dunning-Kruger effect: “Illusory superiority”. His actions are obviously an attempt to present himself as being in a hurry to get somewhere – to a meeting, perhaps – thereby presenting himself as being superior to the rest of us, who press the button in a sane, rational manner; we are obviously less important. He creates an illusion of superiority for himself, and this illusion gives him confidence enough to pick his nose between floors.
This raises the most important question that arises from the Dunning-Kruger Effect:
How does one answer the question, “Are you stupid?”
You can’t say, “Yes” because that sort of information can be used against you. But saying “No” might mean that you are just too stupid to know that you’re stupid.
For this, my friends, I present the Mushroom Sup’s Pigeon Paradox. You’ve heard about Schrödinger’s Cat – we don’t know if the poor thing is alive or dead until Schrödinger opens the box. (Which he won’t, because he’s dead, so I guess we’ll never know).
Mushroom Sup’s Pigeon Paradox is just like that. The only difference is that, unlike Erwin, I’m thinking outside of the box. Literally. If the pigeon is outside and can’t make it into the room, even when you open a window, he’s stupid. If the pigeon makes it into the room through a partially opened window, he’s probably still stupid, because, I mean, he’s a pigeon. But he is relatively smarter than the Elevator Guy. I call that Mushroom Sup’s Theory of Relativity.
So next time someone asks you “Are you stupid?” (which, interestingly, happens to me more often than you might think) just say, “You won’t know until you open the window.”
That’ll clear it up.