Reading Notes & Thoughts from…

“Elon Musk Thinks Every Child Should Learn about these 50 Cognitive Biases” 

By Jessica Stillman , Inc Magazine

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Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect). The bias behind the appeal of astrology. We see vague statements as applying specifically to us even when they apply to most everybody. The famous showman P.T. Barnum, who was happy to manipulate people by drawing on their belief that he “understood” their personality in some implicit way. What was really happening? Simple: Barnum was giving a very broad description of “personality” and finding that everyone was gullible enough to consider the terms unique to them.

Dunning Kruger Effect. One of my personal favorites. This principle states that the less competent you are, the more confident you’re likely to be because you’re too incompetent to understand exactly how bad you are. The opposite is also true — those with greater skills are often plagued with doubt. 

This phenomenon is something you have likely experienced in real life, perhaps around the dinner table at a holiday family gathering. Throughout the course of the meal, a member of your extended family begins spouting off on a topic at length, boldly proclaiming that he is correct and that everyone else’s opinion is stupid, uninformed, and just plain wrong. It may be plainly evident to everyone in the room that this person has no idea what they are talking about, yet they prattle on, blithely oblivious to their own ignorance.

Dunning and his colleagues have also performed experiments in which they ask respondents if they are familiar with a variety of terms related to subjects including politics, biology, physics, and geography. Along with genuine subject-relevant concepts, they interjected completely made-up terms.

In one such study, approximately 90 percent of respondents claimed that they had at least some knowledge of the made-up terms. Consistent with other findings related to the Dunning-Kruger effect, the more familiar participants claimed that they were with a topic, the more likely they were to also claim they were familiar with the meaningless terms. As Dunning has suggested, the very trouble with ignorance is that it can feel just like expertise.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is also related to difficulties with metacognition, or the ability to step back and look at one’s own behavior and abilities from outside of oneself. People are often only able to evaluate themselves from their own limited and highly subjective point of view. From this limited perspective, they seem highly skilled, knowledgeable, and superior to others. Because of this, people sometimes struggle to have a more realistic view of their own abilities.