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Test your own competence
Thread poster: Jacek Krankowski
Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Dec 9, 2002

Incompetence is bliss, say researchers



BY ERICA GOODE New York Times



There are many incompetent people in the world. But a Cornell

University study has shown that most incompetent people do not know

that they are incompetent.



People who do things badly, according to David A. Dunning, a professor

of psychology at Cornell, are usually supremely confident of their

abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.



One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully

self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for

competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize

competence.



The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, the researchers -- Dunning

and Justin Kruger, then a graduate student -- suggested in a paper

appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and

Social Psychology.



``Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate

choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize

it,\'\' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of

Illinois, and Dunning.



This deficiency in ``self-monitoring skills,\'\' the researchers said,

helps explain the tendency of the humor-impaired to persist in telling

jokes that are not funny, of day traders to repeatedly jump into the

market -- and repeatedly lose out -- and of the politically clueless

to continue holding forth at dinner parties on the fine points of

campaign strategy.



Some college students, Dunning said, evince a similar blindness: After

doing badly on a test, they spend hours in his office, explaining why

the answers he suggests for the test questions are wrong.



In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of

incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest

quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the

most likely to ``grossly overestimate\'\' how well they had performed.



In all three tests, subjects\' ratings of their ability were positively

linked to their actual scores. But the lowest-ranked participants

showed much greater distortions in their self-estimates.



Aiming high -- real high



Asked to evaluate their performance on the test of logical reasoning,

for example, subjects who scored in only the 12th percentile guessed

that they had scored in the 62nd percentile and deemed their overall

skill at logical reasoning to be at the 68th percentile.



Similarly, subjects who scored at the 10th percentile on the grammar

test ranked themselves at the 67th percentile in the ability to

``identify grammatically correct standard English\'\' and estimated

their test scores to be at the 61st percentile.



On the humor test, in which participants were asked to rate jokes

according to their funniness (subjects\' ratings were matched against

those of an ``expert\'\' panel of professional comedians), low-scoring

subjects were also more apt to have an inflated perception of their

skill. But because humor is idiosyncratically defined, the researchers

said, the results were less conclusive.



Unlike their unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the

study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate their

own competence. The researchers attributed this to the fact that, in

the absence of information about how others were doing, highly

competent subjects assumed that others were performing as well as they

were -- a phenomenon psychologists term the ``false consensus

effect.\'\'



When high-scoring subjects were asked to ``grade\'\' the grammar tests

of their peers, however, they quickly revised their evaluations of

their own performance. In contrast, the self-assessments of those who

scored badly themselves were unaffected by the experience of grading

others; some subjects even further inflated their estimates of their

own abilities.



``Incompetent individuals were less able to recognize competence in

others,\'\' the researchers concluded.



In a final experiment, Dunning and Kruger set out to discover if

training would help modify the exaggerated self-perceptions of

incapable subjects. In fact, a short training session in logical

reasoning did improve the ability of low-scoring subjects to assess

their performance realistically, they found.



The findings, the psychologists said, support Thomas Jefferson\'s

assertion that ``he who knows best knows how little he knows.\'\'



Such studies are not without critics. David C. Funder, a psychology

professor at the University of California-Riverside, for example, said

he suspected that most lay people had only a vague idea of the meaning

of ``average\'\' in statistical terms.



But Dunning said his current research and past studies indicated that

there were many reasons why people would tend to overestimate their

competency and not be aware of it.



Concrete clues



In some cases, Dunning pointed out, an awareness of one\'s own

inability is inevitable: ``In a golf game, when your ball is heading

into the woods, you know you\'re incompetent,\'\' he said.



But in other situations, feedback is absent, or at least more

ambiguous; even a humorless joke, for example, is likely to be met

with polite laughter. And social norms prevent most people, when faced

with incompetence, from blurting out, ``You stink!\'\' -- truthful

though this assessment may be.



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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 16:36
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Parkinson principle Dec 9, 2002

This reminds me of Parkinson, an early researcher of corporate behaviour, who claimed that \"every person is promoted (in an organization) to their highest level of incompetence\" (I am quoting from memory, so the actual words may be different).



In plain English: If you are good, you are promoted. If you are good at your new job, you are promoted... If at a certain level of the organization you are not good enough to be promoted to a higher position, you are stuck in that position for years or decades.



Consequence: all positions (especially those on the top) tend to be filled by incompetent people.



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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A remedy Dec 9, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-12-09 16:12, Ban Csaba wrote:

\"every person is promoted (in an organization) to their highest level of incompetence\"





Thanks, Csaba! About this and other oddities of human behavior: http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebok3a.htm



But, there is always a remedy. Here is what to do to appear more competent (sorry, does not apply to freelancers!):



1. Never walk down the hall without a document in your hands. People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading

for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like

they\'re heading for the cafeteria. People with a newspaper in their hands look

like they\'re heading for the toilet. Above all, make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false

impression that you work longer hours than you do.



2. Use computers to look busy. Any time you use a computer, it looks like \"work\" to the casual observer. You can send and receive

personal email, calculate your finances and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren\'t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they\'re not bad either. When you get caught by your boss -

and you *will* get caught - your best defence is to claim you\'re teaching yourself to use new software, thus saving valuable training dollars.



3. Messy desk. Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us, it looks like you\'re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer, last year\'s work

looks the same as today\'s work; it\'s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury

the document you\'ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.



4. Voice Mail. Never answer your phone if you have voice mail. People don\'t call you just because they want to give you something

for nothing they call because they want YOU to do work for THEM. That\'s no way to live. Screen all your calls through voice mail. If somebody leaves a voice mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know they\'re not there - it looks like you\'re hardworking and conscientious even though you\'re being a devious weasel. If you diligently employ the method of screening incoming calls and

then returning calls when nobody is there, this will greatly increase the odds that the caller will give up or look for a solution that doesn\'t involve you. The sweetest voice mail message you can ever hear is \"Ignore my

last message. I took care of it\". If your voice mailbox has a limit on the number of messages it can hold, make sure you reach that limit frequently. One way to do that is to never erase any incoming messages. If

that takes too long, send yourself a few messges. Your callers will hear a recorded message that says, \"Sorry, this mailbox is full\" - a sure sign that you are a hardworking employee in high demand.



5. Looking Impatient and Annoyed. According to George Costanza of \'Seinfeld\', one should also always try to look impatient and annoyed

to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.



6. Appear to Work Late. Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and

storybooks that you have always wanted to read but have no time until late before

leaving. Make sure you walk past the boss\'s room on your way out. Send important emails at unearthly hours (e.g.9:35pm, 7:05am, etc...) and during public holidays.



7. Creative Sighing for Effect. Sigh loudly when there are many people around, giving the impression that you are very hard pressed.



8. Stacking Strategy. It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc. Can always borrow from library. Thick computer manuals are the best.



9. Build Vocabulary. Read up on some computer magazines and pick out all the jargon and new products. Use it freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember: They don\'t have to understand what you say, but

you sure sound impressive.



MOST IMPORTANTLY: DO NOT FORWARD THIS TO YOUR BOSS BY MISTAKE!!!

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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TOPIC STARTER
A remedy Dec 9, 2002



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-12-09 16:38 ]


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María del Carmen Cerda
Local time: 08:36
English to Spanish
Thank you so much for such interesting and funny material Dec 9, 2002

and enlightening



Unlike their unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the

study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate their

own competence. The researchers attributed this to the fact that, in

the absence of information about how others were doing, highly

competent subjects assumed that others were performing as well as they

were -- a phenomenon psychologists term the ``false consensus

effect.\'\'



False consensus effect translated into Spanish: \"El león cree que todos son de su condición\", concocted way before social psychology existed!!!

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-12-09 21:05 ]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
A spanner and an oily rag Dec 9, 2002

The first of Jacek\'s principles for appearing competent reminds me of my life as an engine fitter in the RAF many years ago.

Anyone obviously not busy was likely to get landed with the most unpleasant job available. The way to avoid this was said to be to go for a walk round the perimeter track carrying a spanner and an oily rag.


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Andrew Karmalyga
English to Russian
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4. Voice Mail. Dec 10, 2002

Jacek, paragraph 4 about Voice Mail is absolutely true!

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Åsa Gudmundsson
Local time: 16:36
English to Swedish
+ ...
my physiology professor... Jan 14, 2003

I remember my professor in physiology. I worked at his lab one summer. He was always running around with papers in his hand, looking really REALLY stressed up and annoyed. His office was a jungle of books and papers, piled on desk, shelves and floor. He never answered his phone. The funny thing is that I never saw him do any real work. I searched MEDLINE and didnt find a single article written by him or anyone in his lab. Its scary that incompetent people can reach as far as to a professors degree.

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Tey Lyn
English to German
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Peter's Principle!! Jan 20, 2003

Quote:


On 2002-12-09 16:12, Ban Csaba wrote:

This reminds me of Parkinson, an early researcher of corporate behaviour, who claimed that \"every person is promoted (in an organization) to their highest level of incompetence\" (I am quoting from memory, so the actual words may be different).





Your memory serves you quite well, but the guy\'s name was Peters, not Parkinson



cheers - Inge

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Leopoldo Gurman
Argentina
Local time: 11:36
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
I believe it was Parkinson Apr 2, 2005

Ingeborg Hawighorst wrote:

Quote:


On 2002-12-09 16:12, Ban Csaba wrote:

This reminds me of Parkinson, an early researcher of corporate behaviour, who claimed that \"every person is promoted (in an organization) to their highest level of incompetence\" (I am quoting from memory, so the actual words may be different).





Your memory serves you quite well, but the guy\'s name was Peters, not Parkinson



cheers - Inge


The book is somewhere in my library, but I couldn´t find it =:)
Parkinson also proposed that 1 equals 2 (you always end up needing an assistant) if I´m not mistaked.
Anyhow, I found this link:
BBC - h2g2 - Parkinson's Law - [ Traduzca esta página ]
... For example, Parkinson's Law of Data which states 'Data expands to fill the space
... every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence'. ...
www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A563843 - 45k - En caché - Páginas similares


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:36
Member (2007)
German to English
Peter Principle or Parkinson's law? Jun 18, 2005

I read "The Peter Principle" years ago. It looks as though "Peter Principle" has found its way into American English at least.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/4/P0220400.html

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

Peter Principle

NOUN: The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.
ETYMOLOGY: After Laurence Johnston Peter (1919–1990).


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


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craigs
Local time: 10:36
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Why do you think the become professors? ;^) Jul 26, 2005

Åsa Gudmundsson wrote:

I remember my professor in physiology. I worked at his lab one summer. He was always running around with papers in his hand, looking really REALLY stressed up and annoyed. His office was a jungle of books and papers, piled on desk, shelves and floor. He never answered his phone. The funny thing is that I never saw him do any real work. I searched MEDLINE and didnt find a single article written by him or anyone in his lab. Its scary that incompetent people can reach as far as to a professors degree.


You know what they say "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

All in jest, all in fun.


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Peter and parkinson Jul 31, 2005

Rich B. wrote:
...snip...
Peter Principle

NOUN: The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.
ETYMOLOGY: After Laurence Johnston Peter (1919–1990).

That is correct. And Parkinson's law says that the time taken to do some work expands to fill the time avaialable to do it.
(In case anybody is reading this thread and would like this clarification - of course it doesn't alter the main point of the original posting).

Oliver


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