There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.
Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.
On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.
"I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn't know it,'' Dunning said.
One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.
The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,'' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and Dunning.
In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the most likely to "grossly overestimate'' how well they had performed.
This could, I suppose, explain Bush, if you don't hold to the hypothesis that he's just plain evil, that is.