Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Expertise And Ignorance: We Are All Ignorant—Some of Us Know It and Some Of Us Don’t

Expertise And Ignorance: We Are All Ignorant—Some of Us Know It and Some Of Us Don’t

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Kevin Weitz, Psy.D. and William Bergquist, Ph.D.

To recognize superior expertise would require people to have already a surfeit of expertise themselves. David Dunning (2012)

There is a growing body of knowledge coming out of psychology and cognitive science that you have no clue why you act the way you do. David McRaney (2012)

In our previous essay on “the crisis of expertise”, we not only commented on leadership hubris and over-confidence, but also noted that many people (especially lay-people) are often blatantly ignorant, More importantly, they are unaware of their ignorance. In our digital world of the mid-21st Century, information – and misinformation – is readily accessible.

Lay-people are especially susceptible to believing that they know a lot about a particular topic. Unknowingly, they are woefully ignorant or misinformed about this topic. This mis-informed sense of knowledge is sometimes accompanied by a zealous (and often aggressive) defense of their incompetence. As psychologist David Dunning (2012) concludes: “we are all stupid, it’s just that some of us are aware of how much we don’t know, and what makes us stupid” and are therefore less likely to parade our stupidity.

The Challenge: Ignorant About Our Ignorance

In You Are Not So Smart, David Mc Rainey (2012) rather humorously (but accurately) notes that all of us humans are to some degree unaware of why and how we think, feel and behave. Our unconscious biases and behavioral drivers or triggers (heuristics) are largely unknown to us: “There is a growing body of knowledge coming out of psychology and cognitive science that you have no clue why you act the way you do”.

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