Is Your Kid REALLY in the Top 5%?

How smart do you think you are?  If you are like most, probably 'way smarter than you really are. says 40% of us think we're in the top 5% (in my city, the gifted child program was dropped because too many parents with kids in the top 25% insisted their kids be part of it). 

The Web site quotes David Dunning, who says that, "not only are we terrible at seeing how stupid we are, but we're also too dumb to recognize genius right in front of us."

Here's another stunning fact he's come across.  Incompetence can mask the awareness of one’s incompetence. The phenomenon is now called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, according to Dunning reportedly based this on a bank robber who squirted lemon juice all over his face and thought he was invisible because in a photo he took with a Polaroid, his image mysteriously disappeared.  But that story's for another day.

The bottom line:  he didn't even know what an idiot he was.  

Dunning discovered through research that we humans "are terrible at self-assessment, often grading ourselves as far more intelligent and capable than we actually are," smartplanet points out.

And as bad as we may be at assessing ourselves, we also don't see genius right in front of us.

I admit it does not come from me, but my son is pretty smart.  Straight A's and grasping mathematical concepts I couldn't even conceive of, in 7th grade.  But, at the same time, I also know that he's probably never going to be one of those kids who comes up with a cure for pancreatic cancer (like the 15-year-old from Maryland who didn't, really, but may have brought survival rates up 100% for this notoriously always quickly fatal cancer). 

At least I'm realistic.  But many aren't.  OK, OK, we all know our kids are the greatest, smartest things yet but a little common sense is in order, Dunning says.

"Whether it be an intellectual task, social task, any task, people’s beliefs about the quality of their work does not bear much relationship with reality, as far as we can measure it," smartplanet quotes Dunning.

Not surprisingly, it breaks down along gender lines.  Men think they're much smarter at scientific stuff than women, for example, who vastly underestimate their own skills at it.

There is some good news about top performers.  Apparently, they keep on performing, while poor performers do not.  (What genius thought of this?!)

It turns out that poor performers don't have the ability to see how poorly they're doing.  And they, and often the rest of us, don't see the mistakes we're making.  But the smart people do.

So what does this mean for humanity?  This surprised me.  Dunning says we need to look to other people to get accurate assessments of our performance.  (I better not look to my mother-in-law!)


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