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post #350
bio: stu

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· Deadwood, Seasons 1 & 2

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The Dunning-Kruger-Stuart Effect
The Dunning-Kruger is a principle--articulated by Justin Kruger and David Dunning--that states a truism of stupid people and smart people. Smart people are able to see all the places where they might be misguided or confused, while stupid people are too stupid to recognize these places. So smart people feel an illusory inferiority, while the people who should feel inferior tend to vastly overrate themselves.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is thus a metacognitive blind spot; the stupid lack the capability to recognize that they are incompetent--the toolbox with which you evaluate your capabilities is the same toolbox you draw your actual capabilities from. It could just as easily have been called the Brent-Scott Effect, after the ridiculously overconfident characters from The Office UK/US.

It’s also the principle that makes traveling around the Internet both wonderful and intensely frustrating--the princple behind the joys of Lamebook and the intense anger that comments on Youtube or any newspaper article can bring to you. It can take you to the ineffable joy you might get when someone defends the spelling of their tattoo with “nope its spelt happy’ness”, or it can deliver you to those who think “If we evolved from monkeys, why are their still monkeys?” is a good argument.*
* For the answers to these respective questions, please repeat fourth grade, and seventh grade. North of the Mason-Dixon Line, preferably.
What the Dunning-Kruger Effect describes most succinctly for me is the collection of morons and fuck-ups I wind up feeling surrogate shame for. If they’re not going to feel shame, someone has to, and it winds up being delegated to me. I wind up feeling the shame that they would be feeling if they had the ability to recognize that they should be feeling shame.

A recent study discussed this surrogate shame feeling in more depth--finding that the vicarious embarrassment actually causes our brains to respond as if we’re in pain. In a study from British and German researchers, subjects were presented with uncomfortable everyday experiences and discovered that, whether the subject was oblivious to their shame or painfullly aware, viewing the situation activated regions of the brain related to pain, specifically, the anterior cingulate cortex and the left anterior insula and, as the researchers put it, “resulted in comparable activations in core regions of the pain matrix” as actual pain. They found that this was more acute in some people than in others.

You’re damn right it is.

This is what I go through when I see Jersey Shore, or The Office, or some random asshole on the subway. These are idiots who should know better. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should settle down and give it some thought and sort themselves out. But they don’t. And it hurts to watch them.

I’ve started thinking of it as the Dunning-Kruger-Stuart Effect: I feel the vicarious shame for those who are too stupid to feel the shame they should be feeling. I just want them to be smarter--not just for my sake, but for all of our sakes.

I’m not going to lie to you, though. It’s mostly for my sake.

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