The science of protecting people’s feelings: why we pretend all opinions are equal
It’s both the coolest — and also in some ways the most depressing — psychology study ever. Indeed, it’s so cool (and so depressing) that the name of its chief finding — the Dunning-Kruger effect — has at least halfway filtered into public consciousness. In the classic 1999 paper, Cornell researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger found that the less competent people were in three domains — humor, logic, and grammar — the less likely they were to be able to recognize that. Or as the researchers put it: We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer from a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Dunning and Kruger didn’t directly apply this insight to our debates about science. So why do I bring this classic study up now? Yes, that’s right — we’re all right, nobody’s wrong, and nobody gets hurt feelings. But that’s not what happened. So why do we do this?
• psychology & behaviour