… but ignorance of how ignorant we are may be causing much of our conflict…
I just read an interesting article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It describes a common form of confirmation bias in which it isn’t so much what we don’t know that is the problem, but the overestimation of what we think we do know that is… That made an incredible amount of sense to me.
Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of confirmation bias to one extent or another. I know I am. Whether it’s in our perceptive bias (selective perception that primarily notices what we expect to find), our cognitive bias (more readily accepting as “fact” what we already believe to be true), or emotional bias (interpreting events to fit our current mood), we all shape reality according to pre-conceived notions. It’s simply how we are constructed. Our brains make connections based on connections already established; if it fits, it sticks. But what happens when you don’t know that you don’t know something? Worse yet, you don’t actually know something you think you do?!
How many others here have found themselves (recently!) shaking their head in bewilderment at something someone else said or did? I don’t mean simple confusion, or disbelief, but a deep-down, profound sense of wtf?! I can hear your thoughts here as clearly as my own, that moment when your inner dialogue sounds like this:
“Really?! Like seriously?! You didn’t just [say/do] that, did you?!”
The actions of the person we are interacting with are simply incomprehensible to us! We cannot even imagine…
THAT moment is a Dunning-Kruger moment… Either the person we are dealing with is downright delusional about reality, or we are. Either way, someone truly doesn’t grasp their own ignorance about the matter at hand.
I know I’m guilty of being on both sides of that equation. I recently heard myself “lecturing” my co-workers about something I strongly believed to be true. I sensed the resistance of at least one in the room, though she chose not to challenge me. The others all radiated validation my way, except one who chose to question my biases. It was then I heard myself admit, “of course, these are all just my opinion; there is no logical reason for you to accept them as anything else. I know I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but that’s just the confidence with which I express all my viewpoints you hear. I could be wrong. And if you can show me where I’m wrong, I’m more than willing to listen…”
The conversation moved on to other things after that. But that memory stuck with me. “Arrogance” is a word often used to describe me, and I can’t honestly deny it, though I would prefer to mute it. More like confident in my intelligence, my ability to grasp both abstract and actual “truths,” and make reasonable, sensible connections between them. But I understand that my basic premises may be wrong, that my intellectual bias may be leading me astray, that I may not have my “facts” straight at all. But to have to add that qualification to every “point” I make in a discussion makes any such debate cumbersome at best, pointless at worst. For how can we “learn” anything, if every sentence we utter begins with “I may not know what I’m talking about, but…”
Much better, in my opinion, to have someone challenge my assertions, point out where I’ve led myself astray. If your facts, reason, logic, or bias makes more sense after questioning, then I have no problem adjusting my point of view to be more in alignment with yours; I am quite capable of admitting I am “wrong” and you are “right.”
But if no one ever challenges me…? Or if those who do have nothing more to offer than insults and insistence on their own point of view, regardless of any contradictions or alternative ideas I might challenge them with…?
Then no true exchange of views, no “learning,” is possible. Right? Or am I missing something obvious here? Lol!
I’m not sure what the solution might be. I’m not even sure a solution exists! I can’t actually think for someone else, any more than I can make decisions about what might be best for them. But I can better discipline myself, and my own thought patterns. And I think it’s time to make a conscious effort to do so.
So, for a time anyway, I’m going to make a effort to add those annoying, cumbersome qualifiers to any discussion I have about “reality.” Maybe I won’t say them out loud all the time (since some already resent the number of words I use to express my point of view – lol!), but to myself, at least. While conversing with these people who make me want to tear my hair out in frustration, I will continuously repeat the mantra:
Ignorance may be bliss, but ignorance of my ignorance is not going to exacerbate this!
Or, in simpler, less verbiose terms…
I could be wrong here…