People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities. This is a truism. And since there is a study for everything these days, there’s hard scientific research proving it from Justin Kruger and David Dunning of Cornell University in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The idea is that dull thinking skills lead to overconfidence. In extreme cases, this can cause misguided faith in one’s ill-held ideas. An extreme example from the study: a sad fellow who was shocked to be arrested for the bank robberies he’d committed, having been under the mistaken impression that rubbing lemon juice on one’s face obscured his appearance to the security cameras.
From the abstract:
[P]eople who are unskilled Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ 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. Across four studies, the authors found that participants [whose] Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ test scores put them in the 12th percentile Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.
This calls to mind the old Socratic canard that the only thing worth knowing is how little you really know, or the Robert Burns poem about being able to see ourselves as others see us. It also calls to mind L.A. Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke.
To Plaschke, Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta’s failure to bring back manager Jim Tracy is an unforgivable betrayal of a baseball man by a man blinded by his book-learning.
Potshots between old and new schools are nothing new, and Plaschke grinding his dull butterknife (too dull to call it an axe) isn’t exactly stop-the-presses material either. This, though, is the rich part, and the part that inspires this post:
But love of the Dodgers no longer matters here. It’s all about loving DePodesta, who has polarized the Dodger community like few others.
Plaschke saying DePodesta has polarized the Dodger community is a bit like Mrs. O’Leary’s cow complaining about the heat in the barn. Why, oh why, would this vile man and his nefarious spreadsheet set Dodger fans against each other in this way? It isn’t like there was anything fanning the flames from the very beginning.
Let’s leave aside the merits or demerits of the Tracy firing. Indeed, let’s forget even the substance of this particular beef and think a bit broader.
Reasonable people can disagree about the way baseball teams go about business. To claim that a failure to stand in lockstep with a columnist’s dogma constitutes a lack of “love” isn’t just wrong, it’s a bit pathological.
My knee isn’t going to jerk defending either DePodesta or his methods. The man has come in for much criticism here over the last year. The danger of Plaschke’s pathology, though, is that it eliminates open-mindedness, stifling the ability to acknowledge that we all have a lot to learn, and often from the people we least expect to learn from.
At times, the old ways are the best. A certain criminal might have been better off with the time-honored tradition of pantyhose or a ski mask. We’re all better off, though, when we consider that new thoughts are worth a look.
Otherwise, you end up being — like Plaschke — the one with lemon juice on your face.