The man—and I use that word only in its most general sense—pictured above has proven to be startlingly incompetent throughout his life. Yet he constantly brags about his superiority in all manner of things. Sad.

Actor Stephen Fry (yes, I, too, have barely heard of him) was voted the most intelligent person on TV in the U.K according to this article in HuffPo wherein he provides an explanation of why the man pictured above has so many supporters who believe everything he says, even when it is obviously pure twaddle and outright lies.


Fry believes a psychological lesson helps explain this effect.


For example, researchers found students who were least proficient often overestimated their own abilities.

“The skills they lacked were the same skills required to recognize their incompetence,” Fry said. “The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

That’s now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect was developed by psychologists at Cornell. It considers that incompetent people

fail to recognize their own lack of skill

fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy

fail to accurately gauge skill in others

recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill


Both Fry and Wikipedia offer oversimplifications of Dunning-Kruger, but the entire Dunning-Kruger paper can be found here:


We focus on the metacognitive skills of the incompetent to explain, in part, the fact that people seem to be so imperfect in appraising themselves and their abilities.1 Perhaps the best illustration of this tendency is the “above-average effect,” or the tendency of the average person to believe he or she is above average…

That, the man pictured does to the max. Indeed, the Washington Post compiled a litany of such claims last October. Among them

“I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone, which is why I’m the one who can truly fix them,”

“I think nobody knows the system better than I do.” (on government)

“Nobody knows more about trade than me.”

“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”

“So a general gets on, sent obviously by Obama, and he said, ‘Mr. Drumpf doesn’t understand. He knows nothing about defense.’ I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand, believe me. Believe me. Than they will ever understand. Than they will ever understand.”

“Because nobody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me.”

And, of course, there is his constant bragging about his negotiating skills.

He understands the tax laws but insists he can’t release his tax returns because he is under IRS audit. The IRS tells him he can, though whether he is under audit is a private matter.

He “knows the system” but yet many appointed positions remain unfilled that are vital to the workings even he wishes to occur.

As to the military and the generals, he also promised to have a plan to defeat ISIS “within 30 days” Still not done.


And when the Seals mission in Yemen went awry did he take responsibility because he knows the military? Hell no.

On Visas he knows more than anybody? Several federal judges have told him he does not. And that is compounded by his utter lack of understanding of how the federal courts work—or else it reveals that he doesn’t care that federal courts exist, he wants to be a dictator.

On trade he’s an expert? He’s gone from totalling condemning NAFTA to a willingness to renegotiate with Canada and Mexico on some of its terms. All the while he ignores mountains of evidence that NAFTA is not a disaster, but at worst only a lukewarm success for the United States

And negotiating skills? Gee, where were those demonstrated when Republicans were forced to give up ACA repeal and all the program cuts he wanted in order to keep the government financed for the remainder of this fiscal year? He got NOTHING he wanted.

This piece provides a more recent perspective on Dunning-Kruger.


Unfortunately, in those places ruled by the smug and complacent, a classic paper has become a weapon. The findings of Dunning and Kruger are being reduced to “Stupid people are so stupid that they don’t know they are stupid.” Rather bluntly, Dunning himself said, “The presence of the Dunning-Kruger effect, as it’s been come to be called, is that one should pause to worry about one’s own certainty, not the certainty of others.” And that humorously suggests the Dunning-Kruger effect is now a candidate to become a second Godwin’s law.

Like Dunning, I do not take such a dim view of humanity. In fact, Dunning-Kruger and follow-up papers give us cause for hope. They show that people are not usually irredeemably stupid. You can teach people to accurately self-evaluate—though, in their specific examples, this also involved teaching them the very skill they were trying to evaluate.

(Godwin’s law, incidentally, is the proposition that in any comment thread, if long enough, some comparison to Hitler will emerge.)

But remember the fourth point of D-K

recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill

While that may be true, that presupposes that the person demonstrates a desire to cure their lack of skill. In our present case, do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

What, ME worry? Damned right I worry.


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  • Anonymous  On May 14, 2017 at 4:48 PM

    So-called Trump supporters, many of whom are not Trump supporters, do not believe everything Trump says and do not believe everything others say-with good reason.

    As I read D-K, everyone who is a victim of that effect is doomed to failure throughout that person’s life. You can argue all you want that Trump has failed throughout his life but I would argue that he has achieved his objectives throughout his life (success as he or most would define it); bankruptcies not withstanding.

    Now, I must ask this question of you UMOC, quite respectfully. I am led to believe that you consider yourself quite worldly and quite intelligent. How would you consider your life, your successes, to have been-in and of itself and in comparison with Trump’s? Is it possible that you have been a victim of the D-K effect?

    • umoc193  On May 15, 2017 at 3:17 PM

      I don’t think D-K concludes that at all.
      “But remember the fourth point of D-K

      recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill”

      So it is curable. And D-K may not apply to all aspects of one’s life read the Chris Lee link from Ars technica where he explores that on a personal level.

      As to me I am quite intelligent, though whether I am all that wordly is subject to debate…and I would argue the negative. And, oddly enough, that intelligence has not always been evident in my words and actions. I readily admit that. I have no illusions that I am vastly more competent at things than the next person. but the exception to that is where I look at proven and proveable facts.

      There’s a difference between using alternative facts, the au courant phrase, to make one’s case, and drawing different conclusions from the same facts. For instance, do not insult me by denying climate change in toto. We may disagree on what steps are necessary to address it and their attendant urgency, but denying its existence is a non-starter.

      As to Drumpf himself, I would argue that he’s not really all that much of a success. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has really only added a matching knife and fork. But what keeps him from true success is that he lies to everybody including himself. Many wildly successful people have experienced failures but they acknowledge them and learn from them and try to keep from making the same mistakes.. He simply denies failure or even when failure is evident, it is never his fault.

      I was attracted to D-K and the fry piece as a possible explanation for both him and his supporters. But the dynamics prevent that simplified explanation from carrying all that much weight. I think D-K would agree.

      The real problem is that, at heart, Drumpf is a thoroughly despicable amoral entity. And his supporters don’t give a shit.

      • Jack Mennis  On May 15, 2017 at 3:30 PM

        Trump didn’t inherit the presidency!

        If climate change means the world is warming, there are not many climate change deniers out there. It is what you said-steps necessary to address it and the attendant urgency. I would add cyclicality. That’s what it is all about and it is the Chicken Little’s out there who have ruined the discussion and not the so-called climate change deniers.

  • Jack Mennis  On May 15, 2017 at 11:12 AM

    Judging by their lives, UMOC would seem to have suffered from D-K syndrome a lot more than did Trump-who seemed to have suffered not at all since failure seems to be the prediction for sufferers.

  • LIttle_Minx  On May 15, 2017 at 12:52 PM

    You might enjoy Stephen Fry as Jeeves to Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster, in the series that aired in the US on PBS some decades ago. Fry & Laurie started out as a comedy team.

    • umoc193  On May 15, 2017 at 3:22 PM

      As i noted I’ve barely heard of Fry but did some background checking and found the Laurie connection there. As to Laurie I’ve watched a few episodes of House but gained an appreciation of his considerable musical skills seeing this.

  • LIttle_Minx  On May 15, 2017 at 4:36 PM

    Kellyanne Conway sold her soul in order to shill from Trump, after having cogently opposed his presidential candidacy earlier:

  • Little Minx  On August 2, 2017 at 2:46 PM

    It’s not just them dirty lib’ruls resisting Drumpf. Some doctrinaire conservatives always have. “If the President Lies, Does It Matter?”:
    Other conservatives are jumping on thanti-Drumpf bandwagon too, as he lies more and more, e.g., Sasse and Flake in their new books, laying their necks on the line for their conservative principles.

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