The Dunning–Kruger effect and its implications for voting

The Dunning–Kruger effect

is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.

The effect is named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the department of psychology at Cornell University who published a paper in 1999 which described a series of experiments which they conducted which demonstrated the effect.

In an interview, Dunning described his understanding of the effect as follows:

Dunning: [I]f you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.

[Interviewer:] Why not?

Dunning: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.

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Class, not party

Ray Fisman, a Boston University economist, and Daniel Markovits from Yale Law School write in Slate about “The distributional preferences of an elite”, a study they recently published in Science magazine. In the final paragraphs they say:

Elites’ preferences matter. The American elite overwhelmingly dominates both campaign finance and political lobbying, and American policymakers themselves come overwhelmingly from elite circles—the powerbroker Yale Law alumni mentioned above represent just the tip of a vast iceberg.

Our results thus shine a revealing light on American politics and policy. They suggest that the policy response to rising economic inequality lags so far behind the preferences of ordinary Americans for the simple reason that the elites who make policy—regardless of political party—just don’t care much about equality. Hemingway’s illusory but widely shared view that the only thing that separates the rich from the rest is their money thus disguises a central pathology of American public life. When American government undemocratically underdelivers economic equality, the cause is less party than caste.

Democracy gives the mass of citizens a path for protest when the gap between ordinary views and a closed rank of elite opinion grows too great. The populist insurgencies that increasingly dominate the contests to select both the Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming presidential election show the protest path in action. Elites—in both parties—remain baffled by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ appeal; and they prayerfully insist that both campaigns will soon fade away. Our study suggests a different interpretation, however. These bipartisan disruptions of elite political control are no flash in the pan, or flings born of summer silliness. They are early skirmishes in a coming class war.

A Citizen Jury in Action: Report from Morris Rural Climate Dialog

Speaking of Citizen Juries, I’ve wanted to share something about this “Rural Climate Dialogue” since I attended as an observer last month in a small town in the Minnesota prairie. Below are excerpts from the participants. The the full report includes a statement to the public drafted entirely by the 15 randomly selected participants and an explanation of the CJ process as facilitated by the Jefferson Center.

Personally, I was quite impressed by what these regular people–the youngest a high school teenager, the eldest in her 80s–were able to do. They actually listened, engaged each other, and decided together. Unanimity was not required but almost always reached. Even their writing-in-committee was well done.

I was very impressed with this group’s ability to come together as community members, as neighbors, and talk about these things in an open, civil, and friendly manner.

I have to admit when I came here when people talked about climate [change] I thought ‘oh come on’ – did I ever learn a lot. I am grateful.

I think I’ll be a little bit more active and learn a little bit more in the future as a result of that. The overall experience was wonderful and the people were great.

We are the ones responsible for making these decisions…I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of a process that reminds me why this grand [democratic] experiment continues. And it’s not been perfect, and it will not be perfect, but we can always make it better, and things like this are a start. Thank you for the opportunity.

The Warm, Fuzzy Side of Sortition: When Deliberation Goes Right

Has anyone read Tom Atlee’s Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics? Chapter 5 is called “Citizenship and Randomly Selected Ad Hoc Mini-Publics.”

Tom’s been an advocate of sortition for decades and it seems there hasn’t yet been a discussion of his thought on Equality by Lot. Beyond being a long-time advocate of “Citizen Deliberative Councils” and other sorts of minipublics, he has deep insights into group dynamics—the conditions under which groups go beyond simple bargaining and reach something closer to creative wisdom.

In my humble opinion, there’s an inadvertent academic bias on this blog that leaves out significant work from activists and non-academic writers like Tom. I think it would serve us well to do otherwise.

To that end I will list some brilliant ideas I’ve gleaned from his latest book, Empowering Public Wisdom (2012), and from reading some of his blog.
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Discussions of sortition in German?

Does anyone know of organizations, publications or websites that discuss sortitional selection of legislatures in German?

Sortition Research

Where is sortition (both its history and potential) being studied?

[Many researchers have been mentioned before on Equality by Lot, and it would be helpful to have a current list in one place.]

How Lotteries Affect Choices

Watched a TED talk this evening featuring a Stanford Business School Professor.  (We’ve never met.) He presented a study suggesting that people might have more difficulty with certain types of tasks if they are presented with a difficult choice in advance than if the choice is made for them–even if the choice is made for them randomly. The argument isn’t completely clear to me, but that’s par for the course for TED. The talk is here–

Baba Shiv: Sometimes it’s good to give up the driver’s seat