Dunning, Kruger, Canute, and Confucius


Though of mature years, Aardvark still relishes learning new information, new ideas, new concepts. This morning I am pleased to share with you, gentle reader, the news that Donald Trump is the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Many of you, I am sure, are fully knowledgeable on this topic. For many of you, Dunning and Kruger are as familiar as Freud and Jung.

But in case you, like Aardvark, are not among the cognoscenti, please read Jonathan Chait on how Donald Trump Thinks He’s Good at Being President.

Donald Trump’s disorienting, surreal press conference contained one moment of pristine clarity, when the president predicted, “Tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’” This prediction, while quite correct, raises the question of why Trump thought it was a good idea to hold a media event whose principal effect would be to produce headlines depicting him as rambling and unhinged. Reports from the administration have supplied the answer, which is quite simple: His boasts spring from a place of utter, self-delusional conviction. … …

Trump, as many have noted, is the world’s highest-profile case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the phenomenon by which incompetent people are unable to gauge their own competence. Of course, Trump is not bereft of talent. He mastered the technique of using the media to raise his profile, flooding the news with arresting quotes and tidbits and scandal, turning the ordinary heir to a real-estate portfolio into America’s most famous rich person — a branding triumph that he leveraged into a lucrative licensing operation, some outright swindles, and, most crucially, a television show in which he played a brilliant executive.

All the evidence suggests Trump truly believes he is the character he plays on television. And now that he is surrounded by courtiers and the trappings of power, and constantly flattered by powerful people who are secretly terrified of his incompetence, he is convinced of it more deeply than he ever has been before.

The link in Chait’s post takes you to Donald Trump, the Dunning-Kruger President, where you may read all about it.

As was so often the case, Confucius captured the essence of the thing: