A Dunning-Kruger World

Coping Strategies

As a person who has lived with ADHD my entire life, I can completely understand how people who have a know-it-all attitude and who aren't afraid to voice their irrelevant opinions can be frustrating and also damaging to one's well being. These opinions of others, whether they be right or wrong, can have an impact on the listener.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect impacts us a lot more than we realize especially in the health field. Personally I sure wish I had a dime for each time someone said to me that my medication was just an excuse for being lazy. Quite honestly, I guess I also wish that there had not been times when I doubted the importance of my medication myself because of the opinions of others. Now that I fully understand just how important proper medication is to me, I can only reflect on my mistakes of listening to the wrong advice in the past and go forward and know that the past is the past and I cannot change it.

Before delving into this article further, I do have a story about a friend's sister. She had stopped taking her medication because a classmate had noticed she was taking medication for mental health issues. I am not going to discuss her personal issues in this article but I am going to say that her friend having the information that this girl had mental health issues was devastating to her. The results of her so-called friend having this information about her were so devastating to my friend's sister that she quit using her medication. As a result of this, her condition went downhill quite rapidly. My friend, who was aware of my past, asked me to speak to her about the importance of taking proper medication. During the discussion, I showed her a meme about how giving advice on physical or mental health conditions with stigma attached to the advice can be harmful. Then we examined how this was related to her particular situation. Thankfully, once she saw the proper tools, she could view her own situation realistically and had some proper coping tools which hopefully she will continue to use when she needs them in experiences such as the one she had with her friend.

Proper coping strategies are vital because even though the topic at hand may not seem serious to many observers, it may actually be very damaging to an individual's life!

"Dunning and Kruger, two American psychologists, conducted a series of experiments exploring the issues of competence and self-awareness which led them to the following conclusions:

"People with low levels of competence in an area tend to overestimate their abilities in that area. This is, at least in part, due to the fact that their lack of competence actually hampers them from making an accurate assessment of their level of ability. Conversely, people with high levels of competence in an area tend to underestimate their abilities. "

The following is a short summary of some of the main points raised by Dunning and Kruger and some of the ideas which tend to make up a Dunning-Kruger world. The Dunning-Kruger world can essentially be looked at as including the people who are quite over-opinionated about an issue when in reality they have little to no real knowledge about the issue. They can on some scale be compared to the individuals with anti-vaccination opinions who have done virtually nothing to educate themselves on the effects of vaccinations. Lots of opinions but no real research to give validity to the opinions they impart.

“Self-Awareness is defined as the accurate appraisal and understanding of your abilities and preferences and their implications for your behaviour and their impact on others.” (Psychology Today November, 27th 2015)

"Self awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it" (Mark Manson The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k)

Having a poor sense of self awareness too frequently leads to an inability to recognize one's own mistakes and take ownership of the things that you as an individual, directly or indirectly cause and that often lead to a lack of true understanding of yourself. When you do not understand these issues, being able to change the negative behaviors which accompany these issues often becomes almost impossible. You need to understand your role in managing and effectively changing your own personal behaviors. An examination of the Dunning-Kruger Effect will enhance your understanding of how a poor sense of self awareness can be destructive to not only your mental health but also your physical health.

When an individual has a poor sense of self-awareness, too often the individual bases things on opinions and stereotypes instead of on researched facts. They tend to have a tendency to ignore things which do not agree with the opinions they hold. Even more serious, especially to other individuals, they tend to condemn and bash what are often valid facts to make what they are saying seem valid. This is too often observed in today's world especially as more and more individuals have access to the internet and have a tendency to believe everything they read on the internet as being 100% factual. One group which comes to having a Dunning-Kruger mindset again is the group of people who are against vaccinations. They tend to base all their knowledge on what they have gathered from using anti-vaccination searches on various Internet search engines and Youtube videos. Because they have watched these videos or read some articles on the web, many feel they are well enough informed to make opinions.

“The anti-vaccine movement is along the same lines and the anti-GMO movement. Why do people distrust science so much? Letting seeds of doubt planted by internet memes, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories get watered and allowed to grow and overshadow scientific evidence.”

These are just some examples of where people need to get valid information before making decisions. Coming from a background in psychology and having worked as a 911 operator, I have seen too many cases of people being misinformed and the disastrous effects this misinformation can have.

When you base your knowledge on stereotypes, various types of cognitive biases or one-sided documentaries or Internet videos, you are not educated. You are running an extremely high risk of basing what you believe on fiction not fact. When these beliefs are coupled with an arrogant attitude, it can be almost impossible for you to communicate information about your issues and for you to make other people understand what it is you are trying to say.

Too many movements in today's society are based on this narrow minded, undereducated mindset. Too many individuals feel the information they hold is the one and only true information.

It's actually a little scary how people can disregard actual scientific fact based on years of research and base what they believe on something with virtually no credibility! It is also scary when we consider the damage that mindsets like these have not only done to themselves but to many individuals around them.

There are numerous examples I could use to illustrate the dangers involved in having a mindset such as the one discussed above. Basically people who have overbearing opinions regarding a topic about which they have absolutely no education or experience dealing with are given way too much credibility in today's society.

On the other side of the coin, people with an education and experience with certain topics are not given enough credibility in today's world. This, too, is a root cause of many issues we have in today's world.

There have been many good articles and much research done on the psychological issue known as Dunning-Kruger Effect. The one thing I can never seem to find is information on seeing it from the other side. What I mean by this is that I have found no articles written from the viewpoint of individuals who do not suffer from this psychological effect. This does not mean that this information does not exist, only that I personally have not been able to find it.

"Coping mechanisms are skills we all have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world. When life gives us lemons, our coping skills help us see this as an opportunity to make lemonade." ( Psychology Today)

Each individual in society is in need of proper coping skills. We will all faces times in our lives when coping skills are a necessity. One does not need to be going through a major psychological issue in order to build coping skills. Regardless of what you do in life, good coping skills will make one's life much easier. Coping strategies, in brief, are essentially the skills used by an individual when dealing with a difficult person or situation or when he/she finds themselves in a threatening situation. How one reacts in any of these situations quite often determines whether the outcome will be positive or negative.

When dealing with people, coping skills can take many forms, some of which are to:

  • Stay positive because regardless of the situation or who is right or wrong, the situation can always be a learning situation to all involved.

  • Stay in control because nothing adds more fuel to the fire than an individual arguing and showing a know-it-all attitude. In other words learn to pick your battles!

  • Accept the fact that not everyone is 100% informed about any particular situation and that this fact may even include yourself. Life is a learning experience! Accept the fact that many individuals think they know it all and that no matter what you say or do , you are not going to change their minds.

  • Never do anything that will escalate an individual.

  • Knowing the difference between fact and fiction is a useful tool in situations. When individuals act like they know it all because they have watched a few videos on ADHD, I do need to admit that it definitely irritates me to no end. Thankfully I have been successful in developing the strategy that I can look at the conversation and think to myself "As annoying as this is, my best option is to just walk away from it!"

  • Understanding that you are going to be able to control what other people think, feel or do regardless of who is right and who is wrong.

A coping strategy is anything positive that effectively allows you to deal productively with an issue and have a beneficial outcome for you. It is vital that you develop conflict resolution skills and internal and external boundaries.

You need to determine what is best for you personally keeping in mind how important this development of skills is and how it will lead to a much happier and positive life for you. It is not an overnight cure but it is one worth working towards and achieving as a goal in life! 

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A Dunning-Kruger World