Hey, Thoughty 2 here.
Do you often find yourself getting into arguments with people over stupid stuff,
like why the Earth can not possibly be flat
or whether the moon is genuinely made of cheese?
And in your own mind,
you are almost 100 % certain that the Earth is oblately spherical,
and the moon is unfortunately not made of delicious melty cheddar,
but boring old rocks.
Yet incredibly you end up losing these arguments
against utterly moronic people.
You know you should have won the argument
and you provided them with countless irrefutable evidence,
yet no matter what you say,
you somehow fail to change their mind,
or remotely shake their ostentatious self-confidence
in their erroneous views.
Why is it so difficult to argue with stupid people?
Why do they fail to listen to empirical evidence
and instead favour the wisdom
that the smelly old weird bloke told them at the pub?
And why do they often think themselves
far more intelligent than their words and actions
would lead you to believe?
Let’s find out.
Neuroscientists think there are very real
and fascinating reasons and explanations for this frustrating phenomenon.
But before we talk about these,
we must first establish whether our suspicions are true,
do people think they’re smarter than they are?
Over the past twenty years,
two social psychologists have been attempting to answer this question,
他们是David Dunning和Justin Kruger
David Dunning and Justin Kruger.
David Dunning was inspired to begin this research
after reading a feature in the 1996 World Almanac.
About a Pittsburgh bank robber,
名叫 McArthur Wheeler
who held up a bank at gunpoint, in broad daylight,
without a mask.
his face was covered in lemon juice.
When the police arrested him later at his home,
he said: “but I wore the juice”.
He explained how,
since lemon juice is sometimes used as invisible ink,
he thought that by covering his face in lemon juice
he would somehow become invisible to other people
and the security cameras.
He apparently took a picture of himself whilst wearing the lemon juice
before the robbery to confirm this theory.
Remarkably obvious, according to Wheeler’s own account,
his face was not visible in the photo.
Police were never quite able to explain this.
But then, this is a man who tried to make himself invisible with lemon juice.
I wouldn’t put too much thought into it.
Inspired by this blatant idiocy,
Dunning teamed up with Kruger,
and conducted a series of experiments
in which they got participants to rate themselves on their grammar,
logical reasoning and sense of humour.
They then compared the participant’s self-appraisals
with the results of a series of tests they asked them to complete.
The studies all concluded that people consistently
rate themselves as being far more competent at everything
than they actually are.
Most people in the studies performed far worse
on the tests than they believed they had done.
A poll in 1980 conducted by a Swedish psychologist illustrated this nicely
when it showed that 93 % of American drivers
considered their driving ability to be above average.
Just think about that for a second,
the maths don’t quite add up.
The research shows that an overestimation of our talents is something
we, mostly, all do,
albeit some of us significantly more so than others
and that the more inferior a person’s talent and/or intelligence are,
then the greater the degree with which they overestimate these.
One of the biggest factors driving this is
the brain’s natural egocentric bias,
first identified by psychologists in 1979,
It turns out that the brain absolutely loves itself
and does everything it can do to makeitself look good.
Repeated studies have demonstrated that
the egocentric bias is present in all types and ages.
For example, we tend to associate ourselves very closely with positive events,
and we take credit for things that other people have achieved,
such as “ My team played well ”,
whereas when our favourite sports team loses
we try to distance ourselves
“ They performed poorly ”.
同样地 当我们的薪酬过高时 我们觉得很正常
Similarly, we have no problem when we are overpaid for work,
but we think it’s a bit unfair when others are.
We think that anyone who drives faster than us is a lunatic
yet anyone who drives slower is an idiot.
You get the idea,
your brain thinks it is the best thing
since single-celled organisms.
But how does this relate to winning arguments?
基本上 为了面子 你的大脑可以做任何事
Basically the brain will do absolutely anything it needs to
in order to save face.
Your brain must look good no matter what,
even if this involves ignoring facts, making up facts
or browbeating your intellectually-superioropponent into submission.
Now your brain isn’t being a dick for the sake of it.
Evolutionarily the egocentric bias
makes a lot of sense for self-preservation.
The hunter that steals the prey from other hunters
is a lot more likely to survive after all.
Our egocentric bias is so strong
that even when we irrevocably lose an argument,
we convince ourselves in our own minds that we somehow won.
As the legendary author Dale Carnegie
of the seminal “ How to Win Friends And Influence People ” wrote,
“ You can’t win an argument –
Nine times out of ten, an argument ends
with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever
that he is absolutely right. ”
There is, however, another reason
why learned people often walk away from arguments with those
who possess the intellectual aptitude
of a veritable sea sponge feeling wholly disappointed.
There is a general fear amongst the human race of intelligence,
even amongst the intelligentsia themselves.
This is a very real phenomenon
that numerous neuroscientists have observed –
true, we admire those of heightened intelligence
yet we simultaneously fear them.
In modern society, we have no need
to fear those of superior physical might over oneself,
unless you just made a pass at their wife.
But say you meet a huge burly bloke at a dinner party
with guns larger than your entire torso.
Most of us could converse with him rather happily,
without feeling intimidated.
Yet if we meet a weedy old professor
of astrophysics at a dinner party
who knows general relativity
better than you know where you left your car keys,
then suddenly, and for reasons which are unclear to yourself,
you feel intimidated by him.
Perhaps you don’t, if so, congratulations,
那么恭喜你 你要么才智过人 要么是个疯子
you’re probably rather intelligent or a psychopath.
The reason for this disparity
is strangely related to the egocentric brain.
We know how the bodybuilder gained his mass,
by relentlessly pounding the gym and protein.
We know that if we could be half as arsed or inclined as he,
then we too could match his level of esteemed physical prowess,
and look like a Soviet tank.
And most importantly,
we can usually predict his intentions and actions,
We don’t need to be as strong as him
to know what he’d probably do.
if we piss him off,
he hits us in the face.
Yet the scientist, unless we are intellectually superior than he,
and even if we are – then
we will be unable to predict what he might say or do.
He could say something that will reveal
our lack of intelligence and make us look stupid.
Thus we fear him.
To compound this fear, unlike the bodybuilder
most of us will feel that
even if we read 100 books
we could never reach the scientist’s level of intelligence.
And rather pessimistically,
research supports the idea
that many people are most likely, unable to do so.
As I have previously covered in another video –
we all have the ability to improve our crystalised intelligence,
our bank of facts and knowledge,
but once we hit our mid-20s
the brain becomes less plastic,
It is not totally, but mostly set in its ways.
The framework of your brain has been built,
like a car that has already been built,
parts can be swapped out and polished up,
but ultimately, there’s a hard limit
to what one can do with its performance.
And thus, after our mid-20s,
we lose the ability to improve our fluid intelligence,
that is the ability to pick up new skills quickly,
think on the spot, outwit your opponents,
and problem solve.
So, if the scientist has not only greater crystalised intelligence,
but also greater fluid intelligence than us,
then we subconsciously know
that this is a level of mental acuity
that we are most likely, unable to ever reach.
Biologically we are hard-wired
to be scared of this prospect,
and we will feel a natural propensity to repel that which we cannot better.
所以 有时为了自卫 你可能会对科学家
So you may defensively say something
rather stupid to the scientist, even if it is a joke
比如“哟 科学家 你觉得你特聪明 是吧？”
such as ‘oh, a scientist, you think you’re so clever, don’t you?’
even if he gave us no obvious reason to feel so intimidated.
This has a reciprocal effect –
clever people are generally well aware of others’ fear,
and distrust of their intelligence
and so feel less self-confident when in argument or debate with a peer,
even if they know they couldeasily win.
Also, most people become intelligent
because they have a proclivity to
question their surroundings and their self.
Intelligent people are generally more aware of the fact
that they don’t know everything.
– especially in the scientific fields
it is normal and expected
for one to criticise their own theories
and for their colleagues and peersto cross-examine them.
Thus smart people will always question
whether they are as intelligent as they think they are,
whether they put their own point across adequately,
And if, perhaps their opponent does in fact
have a point in their ardent cheesy moon and flat Earth beliefs,
as bonkers as they may sound.
So they will come away from the debate
with their heads swirling with questions and self-doubt.
Conversely, stupid people are far less likely
to question things including themselves.
They tend to be less introspective.
That’s probably why they are still so stupid.
So they seem and are
far more confident in their moronic, unfounded theories.
They don’t need to question them
or see how they actually stack up when confronted with empirical evidence
because they have never done this before
and they possess not a shred of self-doubt anyway.
To add to all this, as the Dunning-Kruger effect proved,
stupid people rarely think of themselves as stupid.
They have absolutely no idea
that they have less intelligence than a Swiss cheese.
As Dunning and Kruger’s research demonstrated,
there is a direct correlation between a lack of intelligence
and one’s high confidence in their own intelligence
To put it simply,
inept people think they are proficient
and proficient people think themselves less so.
Keep in mind that the Dunning Kruger effect is not an absolute
but a general trend,
not all stupid people overestimate their intelligence
and some intelligent people
are very aware of how smart they are,
and will happily tell anyone who will listen.
I’ll leave you with a brilliant quote
by the late great comedian George Carlin
that anyone who has ever despaired with human stupidity
will certainly sympathise with
“Think of how stupid the average person is,
and realize half of them are stupider than that. ”
I’ve recently launched my first book
which I’m crowdfunding ‘ Stick a Flag in it:
1,000 years of bizarre history from Britain and beyond’.
The crowdfunding campaign has reached 100%
so it’s definitely going to be published,
Thanks to everyone who has pledged.
But there are still stretch goals to reach.
So if you want a first-edition signed copy
then head on over to Unbound publishing.
The link’s in the description, and pledge today.