In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.
What this study illustrates is another general way — in addition to our cradle-born errors — in which humans frequently generate misbeliefs: We import knowledge from appropriate settings into ones where it is inappropriate.
Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals.
The way we traditionally conceive of ignorance — as an absence of knowledge — leads us to think of education as its natural antidote. But education can produce illusory confidence.
In the classroom, some of best techniques for disarming misconceptions are essentially variations on the Socratic method. … Then, of course, there is the problem of rampant misinformation in places that, unlike classrooms, are hard to control — like the Internet and news media. In these Wild West settings, it’s best not to repeat common misbeliefs at all.
The most difficult misconceptions to dispel, of course, are those that reflect sacrosanct beliefs. And the truth is that often these notions can’t be changed.
But here is the real challenge: How can we learn to recognize our own ignorance and misbeliefs? … For individuals, the trick is to be your own devil’s advocate: to think through how your favored conclusions might be misguided; to ask yourself how you might be wrong, or how things might turn out differently from what you expect.
Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to you. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all.
The built-in features of our brains, and the life experiences we accumulate, do in fact fill our heads with immense knowledge; what they do not confer is insight into the dimensions of our ignorance. As such, wisdom may not involve facts and formulas so much as the ability to recognize when a limit has been reached. Stumbling through all our cognitive clutter just to recognize a true “I don’t know” may not constitute failure as much as it does an enviable success, a crucial signpost that shows us we are traveling in the right direction toward the truth.
Source: We Are All Confident Idiots