As a society, we therefore miss learning from the best of the best, because their confidence keeps them behind closed doors. At centre stage, all too often, can be people of below-average capabilities.
Unfortunately, those who are the most ignorant—in the bottom 25% of any skill—also overestimate themselves the most. In the context of our democracy, this means our most uninformed citizens are also our most confident ones. Not only are these ignorant people extremely resistant to being taught—since they believe they know the most—they are also guilty of sharing the most information (read: misinformation).
At its core, the Dunning-Kruger effect preys on just that: not a lack of information, but rather an abundance of misinformation. We know when we know nothing, but it is information that is wrong that causes us to think we know everything, and absentmindedly press “share.”
On a national or global level, this effect has dangerous consequences that we’ve already seen in action. In essence, if you are a politician, you may actually benefit from having a more uneducated audience. People who know less about political and world issues are more likely to believe what you say, consider themselves well-informed, go out and vote, and share your views with others. Those in the upper to middle of the pack—somewhat informed about political issues—are more likely to disengage from political discussion and avoid voting, because they don’t believe themselves to be worthy contributors. While experts—the most informed of all—know they have a strong knowledge base, but they avoid educating the public, simply because they don’t realize the rarity of their experience.
Our society’s disease of self-awareness causes ignorant and misinformed people to have the confidence to claim the microphone, while experts and well-informed folks are behind the stage, rolling up the curtains. This phenomenon spreads misinformation and ill-informed views throughout our social worlds, causing us to miss real learning opportunities we could gain from one another.
If too many ill-informed people think they are the best, our society is left with many growing fish in a tiny, shrinking pond.