Really quite brilliant

So we're getting down to the wire on the big trip. Of course some details still need to be ironed out but I guess thats to be expected trying to match three peoples visions, schedules, and budgets. Things at work really couldn't be busier right now which makes me feel good and just a tad bit guilty about leaving it all. I will say that I am slowly coming around to believing that I "deserve" this vacation and that I should leave without remorse over the work I'm leaving others to do (to be quite fair it isn't really my work to begin I'm kind of just handing it back with a smile). Anyways, along the way I've been inundated with meetings about the grant the group is writing and what I need to do to prepare for that. We have been facing some pretty substantial problems recently and I proposed a solution yesterday that my advisor described as "really quite brilliant." Which is pretty simple but totally made my day. Made my day enough that I'm still talking about it the next day. Just that ever so slightest bit of approval made me feel like a little kid again bringing home a math test with the big red "A" on the top and getting a "good job kiddo." I guess I'm just that kind of person that needs a little affirmation every so often so I can convince myself that I'm as good as the facade I put up. Way down deep, in grad school especially, there is this sinking feeling that everyone knows more than you and that at some point you will be exposed as a fraud. Of course, after only 25 years on the planet, I've kind of started to figure out that everyone feels that way...except for the people that really should feel that way. Which leads me to perhaps one of my favorite research papers of all time. It appeared in 1999 in issue 6 of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and is entitles Unskilled and Unaware of It: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. For those unfamiliar with this seminal work...I will summarize.

There are essentially two kinds of people for every field of knowledge or skill: the incompetent and the competent. In relation to the incompetent among us the authors state that overestimation of ability is a consistent problem.

"The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it." More plainly, idiots tend to think they are not idiots and overestimate their own abilities because they have no ability to realize that they are in fact idiots. Perhaps this is all a truism and while I find the paper entertaining, it also gives me cause for worry that I might be in that sorry group and that I would never know it if I was. The other group, those top performers in society, tend to perform in the reverse...there by assuming that they are less competent than their actual abilities would suggest.

This,I suppose puts me at a bit of a cross-roads...a mix of extraordinary self confidence in some situations that may betray my ineptitude and a constant need of outside affirmation suggesting the opposite. It then follows that I am left somewhere in the middle of mediocrity. Of course, the theory breaks down a bit when for instance I know that I really suck at dancing and that I am not in that top tier that tends to underestimate their abilities...or maybe I am...dancing with the stars anyone??? Patrick OUT!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment