1954: Impostor Syndrome
Title text: It's actually worst in people who study the Dunning–Kruger effect. We tried to organize a conference on it, but the only people who would agree to give the keynote were random undergrads.
Impostor syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon where successful individuals are unable to internalize their success and fear being exposed as a "fraud" or "impostor." Events and accomplishments that would seem to be evidence of competence, skill, intelligence, and so forth, are instead viewed (by the person) as luck, timing, and the ability to appear more confident/competent than they actually are.
Dr. Adams, a Ponytail, is introduced by Megan as "the world's top expert on impostor syndrome." Dr. Adams then demonstrates that she herself (like a relatively large number of women according to some reports ) is afflicted by this syndrome. She realises this after she reacts to the flattering introduction by starting about "other scholars" whom she deems to be superior to her.
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where people who are less intellectually capable are more likely to inflate their level of expertise in a given subject, while those that actually are highly intelligent (and especially experts on the topic at hand) are likely to downplay their level of expertise. The cognitive bias is caused by the fact that people of low metacognitive ability lack the intellectual tools to validly assess their competence. While this effect primarily refers to cognitive ability, it is also sometimes used to refer to people who are competent in one area (and thus not lacking metacognitive skills) believing that their abilities grant them unusually-high aptitude in another area.
In practice, more expertise still largely correlates to a higher confidence in one's expertise—that is to say that competence remains positively correlated with the perception of competence—but the lack of the appropriate cognitive skills means that perception starts at a higher level and increases at a slower rate. However, in popular usage, the Dunning–Kruger effect is used to claim that a negative correlation exists, and that non-experts will claim expertise and confidence at a higher overall level than actual experts.
In the title text, a conference for the Dunning–Kruger effect was having trouble, presumably because the actual researchers were downplaying their knowledge and expertise to the point where they refused to be the keynote speaker, while the random undergrads, who lack experience in the topic, feel sufficiently confident in their knowledge of it to give the keynote. This more closely matches both the secondary usage (as undergrads are unlikely to lack metacognitive skills, but may inflate their understanding) and the popular usage (as the confidence is inverse to the actual competence) than the primary and in-practice observance made in the original research.
- [Cueball is addressed by Megan, who is pointing to another woman.]
- Megan: This is Dr. Adams. She's a social psychologist and the world's top expert on impostor syndrome.
- Dr. Adams: Haha, don't be silly! There are lots of scholars who have made more significant…
- Dr. Adams: …Oh my God.
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