Natalie Wolchover of Live Science reports that incompetent people are unable to recognize the competence of others. When this is applied to politics, researchers have discovered that the same is true: people are too stupid to determine who is the best candidate, finally explaining why democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and idiotic policies.
The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.
As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don't have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.
He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people's ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as "above average" -- even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile.
The meagre consolation of this is that now you know why the people who are running the country are in power and coming up with incredibly stupid new legislation.
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