Whoose Inkompetent?

They’re everywhere. . . People who are dumb but do not know it. People who are exceptionally bad at something and keep right on plugging along, oblivious to the fact that that other people are jamming fingers in their ears at their singing, cringing at their jokes, or shaking their heads at their pool shots. I don’t mean just kind of bad. I mean people who fall into the bottom 15th percentile of something and bop around like they’re good enough to be consultants at their particular area of “skill.”

I saw some jackass pool nonplayer giving Ramiro Sanchez advice on a shot last night. For those who don’t know, last I checked Ramiro had either the highest or the second highest BCA league average in Lansing. This guy will play nine ball and rape his opponent of thousands, sending his opponent home with nothing but lint in his pockets. So some guy was giving him advice on a shot last night and I saw Ramiro poitely “listening”. If I was him I would have been like “Look, I’m Ramiro Sanchez. if I need advice on how to sit there and be an incompetent jackass, I’ll come to you. Now get away from me so I can shoot.”

This brought to mind a study that Phelps hipped me to about the quandry of the incompenent. The gist of the article is that people who are incompetent tend to overestimate themselves because the skills they lack are the very ones they would need to correctly judge their level of competence. While this concept is funny in and of itself, it also goes a long way to explaining why people who are incredibly bad at something tend to not know it. But not only do the incompetent tend to be unaware of it, people who excel at a given skill tend to understimate their ability, partially due to a false consensus effect, which is to say they believe since the skill is so easy for them that many others must find the skill similarly easy.

The big question posed by this study was why people who are grossly inept do not realize it from repeated failures in real life situations. The questions is addressed as follows:

One puzzling aspect of our results is how the incompetent fail, through life experience, to learn that they are unskilled. This is not a new puzzle. Sullivan, in 1953 , marveled at “the failure of learning which has left their capacity for fantastic, self-centered delusions so utterly unaffected by a life-long history of educative events” (p. 80). With that observation in mind, it is striking that our student participants overestimated their standing on academically oriented tests as familiar to them as grammar and logical reasoning. Although our analysis suggests that incompetent individuals are unable to spot their poor performances themselves, one would have thought negative feedback would have been inevitable at some point in their academic career. So why had they not learned?

One reason is that people seldom receive negative feedback about their skills and abilities from others in everyday life ( Blumberg, 1972 ; Darley & Fazio, 1980 ; Goffman, 1955 ; Matlin & Stang, 1978 ; Tesser & Rosen, 1975 ). Even young children are familiar with the notion that “if you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Second, the bungled robbery attempt of McArthur Wheeler not withstanding, some tasks and settings preclude people from receiving self-correcting information that would reveal the suboptimal nature of their decisions ( Einhorn, 1982 ). Third, even if people receive negative feedback, they still must come to an accurate understanding of why that failure has occurred. The problem with failure is that it is subject to more attributional ambiguity than success. For success to occur, many things must go right: The person must be skilled, apply effort, and perhaps be a bit lucky. For failure to occur, the lack of any one of these components is sufficient. Because of this, even if people receive feedback that points to a lack of skill, they may attribute it to some other factor ( Snyder, Higgins, & Stucky, 1983 ; Snyder, Shenkel, & Lowery, 1977 ).

This is the most revealing part of the whole study. People who are terrible are more apt to cite extraneous factors than blame their actual ability. I didn’t throw a bad pass. It was “the wind.” Okay. Shut up.

That last part is why I tend to take responsibility for all my weaknesses and not blame oustide causes. I think that’s why when people say “good luck” before a pool game, I’ll either answer that I don’t believe in luck or I’ll say luck is a superstition. If I am the cause, then I have no one else to blame for the effect. I take credit for my wins and if you beat me I’ll take responsibility for the loss and I’ll say good game. Then I’ll go home and make a voodoo doll of you and stab the shit out of it! But deep down inside, I’ll know I messed up.

2 Responses to “Whoose Inkompetent?”

  1. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    Dude I work with people like that all the time THey are members of a specific species the North American 2 legged Ass-Monkey

  2. Phelps says:

    Are you sure it isn’t the four assed monkey?

    It is funny in the way that you could apply this to the election. “Hey! We lost! How did that happen? I know — gotta be those damned evil Christians! I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling preachers!”