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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dummies don't know that they are dumb...

Over this break, I've done some reading and an excessive amount of blogging. I've also fallen prey to the sales at book stores; one "fun" book that I picked off of the $1.99 rack was Marc Abrams book: The Ig Noble Prizes: Annals of Improbable Research. The Ig Noble Prizes have made the mainstream news.

One of the articles they talked about was the one given in psychology in 2000:

PSYCHOLOGY David Dunning of Cornell University and Justin Kreuger of the University of Illinois, for their modest report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments." [Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 77, no. 6, December 1999, pp. 1121-34.]

Basically, the article demonstrates that the more ignorant one is on something, the less that one recognizes their ignorance. This sure rings true for me in my experiences in the class room, both as a professor and as a student.
For example, some of the hardest people to teach are relatively untalented freshmen who did well (grade wise) in high school. And, as for me, the higher I went in mathematics, the more ignorant I felt. For example, when I waltzed into graduate school for the first time, I took a trip to the university co-op book store. I went to the mathematics section and was astonished that I understood the titles of at most 10% of the books on the shelf! It was to only get worse...I've heard many a graduate student lament "I used to be good at math; now I am a moron!"

And, I feel my dumbest when I am at a mathematics research conference!


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