Don’t rob banks with lemon juice

April 22nd, 2015

Training and Illusory Superiority

 

Today’s post is by Michael Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing

In 1995, a gentleman by the name of McArthur Wheeler decided to rob a bank. What makes his case more interesting than most bank robberies is that McArther knew that lemon juice contained properties used to manufacture “invisible ink”. Thus, McArther reasoned, lemon juice should render him invisible to surveillance cameras when applied liberally to his face. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement wasn’t fooled for long and McArther’s bank robbing career came to an early end. However, we have this man to thank for inspiring an interesting study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning regarding a form of cognitive bias.

Kruger and Dunning theorized that unskilled (or uneducated) individuals suffer what is called Illusory Superiority, which is where an individual mistakenly assesses their own abilities or intelligence as much higher than is accurate. Interestingly enough, they showed this and the converse to be true: That the higher skilled/well educated tend to underestimate their abilities by assuming that the tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others, and they are therefore no more skilled than anybody else.

In Dunning’s own words: “If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. […] the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”

How do you overcome unknown unknowns? According to Dunning and Kruger, it’s overcome through both formal and informal training.

We can only know what we learn about.  Knowledge, even “common sense”, can only be known when learned. This is not the same as intelligence, or our ability to understand. Most people have the raw processing power within their brains to understand whatever you need them to, some just need more information to apply to the problems we need them to solve. This is why Kruger and Dunning emphasized the importance of training for overcoming Illusory Superiority.

Training unlocks the hidden abilities of others, and allows us to maximize the potential of others… McArther’s story is sad, if for no other reason than that just a little bit better education could have kept him from ruining his life. Training can be complex, or as simple as correcting difficult behavior, but it’s always a worthwhile investment.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.
 
We look forward to your comments.

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