Police officers from Pittsburg were surprised when they watched footage made by surveillance cameras in a bank. A man robbed two banks in broad daylight without even trying to hide his face. When they captured him soon, it was his turn to get surprised. He was absolutely sure that he was invisible. He knew that invisible ink is made of lemon juice, so he covered his face with juice and went to the bank with peace in mind.
It's a funny story, but something similar happens to us every day. For instance, 80% of drivers believe their driver's skills are above the average, which is illogical. Yet, we are sure that we can think rationally and straight and that our conclusions are based on firm facts. And when someone disagrees, we think that they just didn't give it enough thoughts, didn't get the trouble to speculate.
A belief that all our views and judgments are proper is a protective mechanism built by evolution. If we question all our decisions, including insignificant ones, our lives will become unbearable. Our cognitive abilities are limited, so in the course of evolution, our brains learned to save precious energy (human brains consume up to 25% of the energy our bodies expend). Moreover, the less we know about something, the more we believe we are experts in it.
Are you a real expert?
Have you ever been in a situation when somebody makes ridiculous assertions about anything you are an expert in? It can drive us crazy, especially if that person is obviously an amateur. But do not rush to judge them – we all do such things more often than we think. In 1999 David Dunning and Justin Kruger from Cornell University, USA, published their study called "Unskilled and Unaware of It". Their takeaways were later called the "Dunning-Kruger effect".
The scientists claimed that people unskilled in a matter feel more confident than they should have, whereas experts often tend to doubt their expertise. The reason is simple – amateurs know little about the subject and don't realize all its complexity and depth. Experts, vice versa, know a lot about it and, therefore, see how much they still don't.
An interesting side effect of Dunning-Kruger effect is that amateurs who are convinced that they are experts don't have much motivation to learn. A know-it-all doesn't need to bother reading books and attending courses. The experts, on the contrary, try not to miss any possibility to learn more. So, amateurs stay unskilled when experts sharpen their skills all the time.
Every time we say "I'm sure", or "It's obvious", we need to remind ourselves that even if we are pros in what we are talking about, our expertise is unlikely that deep to assert that there is nothing we missed. But when we rant about something in which our knowledge is superficial, we should remember that, maybe, an expert is rolling their eyes listening to us – and with good reason.
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