Dunning-Kruger and Supporting Trump

How could any sane person ignore reality, believe Trump’s lies, and continue to support him passionately? At least a part of the answer seems to lie in a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.


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Some who support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.”

These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

[Emphasis mine.]

John Cleese turns the problem into a joke:

You see, if you’re very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you’re very stupid? You’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.

It’’s not really a laughing matter though. At the simplest level, it can lead to disruption and personal violence:


A Trump supporter was arrested in Iowa after allegedly hitting an attendee at Elizabeth Warren’s rally there, NBC News reports.

The incident happened in Storm Lake, where the Democratic Senator was campaigning for president. According to the report, a Trump supporter “unfurled a Trump banner and began yelling, which led to an altercation with other attendees.”

A man attending in support fo Warren “tried to pull down the banner,” and the Trump supporter allegedly struck the man him on head using a selfie stick.Police said the man was disruptive as Warren was greeting attendees then “became aggressive and attempted to assault others in the crowd.”

At its worst it can lead to the destruction of our democracy itself–through the election of a guy like Trump (Dunning-Kruger personified), for example.


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