Days of Change

It’s Not Ignorance | May 25, 2016

The more I know, the less I understand.

-Don Henley “The Heart of the Matter”

The internet’s free circular, Politico, went all out to intellectualize the meme that both Donald Trump and Donald Trump supporters are not only uninformed, but are unaware that they are uninformed. Plus, they think they are more informed than everyone else.

No less than David Dunning of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, authored a piece about how Donald Trump speaks to the “strong and wrong” crowd because he is less informed that other presidential figures in modern history. The Dunning-Kruger Effect shows that people who are not aware of their lack of understanding can be unaware of their ignorance and actually makes them more likely to think they are knowledgeable. In contrast, people who are well-informed and competent often underestimate their knowledge of a subject or skill.

What’s strange to me about the Dunning-Kruger Effect is that the original study is only 17 years old and yet quantifies something that people have basically understood forever. People with a superficial understanding of a subject are unaware of how deep it goes and the ones who do know the bottom goes much too far for them to find. Ironically, Dunning and Kruger became experts on a subject most people understand at a superficial level.

Here’s the problem. Political theory is not a subject with reproducible results. The article is filled with references to Donald Trump not knowing objective facts. This is fairly accurate. Trump shoots from the hip and often moderates his stances accordingly. Unfortunately, Dunning goes further to reference a study that made assumptions about subjective political opinions being fact. He references another study that showed people were uninformed about Common Core, a series of standards that are intentionally hidden from voters. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you can’t know what you are barred from learning.

I’ll agree that Donald Trump is generally uninformed and relies on public perception to shape his statements. However, many of his supporters objectively view the lack of forward progress in government and attribute it to the Benjamin Franklin statement that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. People like Dunning try to cloak themselves in this aura of higher understanding with these reinforcing theories that if you don’t agree with them you not only misunderstand, but you don’t have the knowledge to know that you are wrong.

Case in point. If this article is accurate, then if stands to reason that the Obama’s campaign’s idea of the “high information voter” in 2008 was a myth where a campaign was given intellectual credentials by the media and then used those credentials to confirm the ignorance of Obama supporters. Not only did Dunning not write an article about that in 2008, he didn’t mention it in this article. How about Bill Bennett’s references years before Dunning-Kruger that American students believed they were the smartest students in the world while the smartest students thought they were in the middle of the pack? Bennett attributed it to the Left’s focus on self-esteem over competence. I think that analysis is a lot closer.

A lot of Trump’s support is not because he’s the better cola, it’s because he’s the un-cola.


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