Sunday, July 09, 2006

Unskilled, and Unaware

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

This reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut quote: "The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart."

The study holds out hope. By improving their abilities in humor, logical processing, and grammar, the participants were able to more easily recognize when they were being incompetent. Without this knowledge, improvement is not possible.

It would seem that recognizing when something is not working would be the easiest thing in the world. And it is, if one's reality skills are working properly. Yet the world is full of battered spouses who insist there's nothing wrong with their marriage, disastrous political decisions that the makers insist were right, and Wars on [Insert Favorite Social Problem here].

How can anyone tell? By recognizing that Excuses are Useless, but Reasons are Valuable.

• If it weren't for the killings, Washington would have one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
• Mayor Marion Barry

See the difference? If alien frogs landed in Washington, DC, and started blasting away, the murder rate would go up. There would be a Reason. But what Mayor Barry offered is an Excuse.

And Excuses are bullshit.

If one is late for work because they kept hitting the snooze and sang along with seven songs in the shower and stopped to get a latte even though they were already late, those are Excuses, because one had control over these actions. Being late for work because traffic was clogged from the refugees fleeing the invading frog-aliens, now that's a Reason!

And what we have control over is the key.

We usually have control over our Excuses. That is what makes them so. And we can change them. Even if it would take great effort, we can change them.

Reasons are not so easy. Reasons are supposed to come from reality. While we can't always change Reality, we can try. And sometimes we succeed.

But we always must adapt to reality, and not live in the illusion that it is the other way around.

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