We Are All Flawed Intellects: So How Can We Judge Excellence in Reasoning and Knowledge?

Monday, September 28, 2015

David Dunning

Professor of Psychology
University of Michigan

I discuss the “predicament of the flawed evaluator” in judgments of expertise in self and others. People are often left to their own devices when evaluating a person’s knowledge and reasoning, but how can they do so accurately when they inevitably suffer from gaps and defects in their own expertise? I note problems this predicament creates for self-judgment (e.g., the Dunning-Kruger effect), as well as difficulties it suggests for evaluations of others—in particular, that people often fail to recognize high competence or genius in the people and ideas surrounding them. The talk will touch upon problems the flawed evaluator predicament produces for social comparison, the marketplace of ideas, the wisdom of crowds, advice-taking, as well as political debate and civic engagement. The underlying theme of the talk is that Karl Popper was right when he observed that the scope of our ignorance greatly outstrips that of our knowledge. But the real problem is that we are paradoxically unaware of how frequently that ignorance visits us in everyday life.


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