He was born into privilege, had dumb luck and high friends in low places. Otherwise, he’s pretty much an imbecile in everything, only he doesn’t know he’s an imbecile.
QR Code Link to This Post
From time to time, each of us has the tendency to overestimate our competence, to think we’re better at something than we actually are. This manifests in everyday moments that can often be chalked up to pride. Like, when you struggle to assemble, say, an IKEA bunk bed, but also refuse to look at the instructions for assembly because you’re positive you don’t need them. Or when we can’t objectively discern at work — office politics aside — why someone else got the promotion we just knew we deserved.
When we aren’t overestimating ourselves and our abilities, most of us can also be prone to bouts of uncertainty. The majority of us have no shortage of self-doubt or regrets, and at times, it’s overwhelming how much we can be our own worst critics. The negative self-talk rears its ugly head when we least need it to. Yet somehow, this all balances out in the complex yin and yang of the human psyche.
But what happens when a person isn’t balanced in this way, when a person can’t (or won’t) admit they don’t have all the answers? When they don’t ever humble themselves, correct mistakes, apologize, or confess wrongdoings — even when everyone around them can see it? What happens when a person is both overconfident and incompetent at the same time? Moreover, what happens when that person is also driven by a toxic mix of rage and narcissism, has a fragile ego, and lacks empathy and remorse? This is a very dangerous combination of traits, and it typically yields our society a dangerous psychopath.
Prime examples of narcissistic, unremorseful psychopaths include notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy, Dennis Rader (the BTK murderer), and John Wayne Gacy. Other famous psychopaths include evildoers such as the orchestrators and perpetrators of the Holocaust, like Heinrich Himmler, Josef Mengele, and Adolf Hitler; various tyrants of the world, perpetrators of mass gun violence and school shootings, and miscellaneous cult leaders. And still it’s likely that other psycopaths exist who we might only think of as ‘social misfits.’
In Psychology, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where people with little expertise or ability assume they have superior expertise or ability. Research on this effect highlights how people who perform in many social and intellectual domains seem largely unaware of just how deficient their expertise is. David Dunning and Justin Kruger argue that incompetence not only causes poor performance but also the inability to recognize that one’s performance is poor. Simply put, the Dunning-Kruger effect happens when someone is ignorant of their own ignorance, but furthermore, are overconfident in their knowledge or abilities.
This rings very true of Trump. He overstimates his abilities. All the time. He has absolutely no idea what he’s doing with regard to politics. But he claims “I alone can fix it,” and, “nobody knows more about (insert topic here) than Donald Trump.”
It certainly explains his bewilderment every time he receives negative reactions to his demeanor, behavior, or rhetoric. If he genuinely doesn’t know how stupid he sounds (particularly, when speaking off the cuff) then I suppose he would be confused to learn his remarks didn’t go over so well. That said, there must be some things he absolutely knows are political dog whistles. Like saying, “I’m a nationalist, ok?” but pretending that it means “I love my country and I support American economic interests over those of all other countries.”
What does this say about his supporters?
If Trump is the Dunning-Kruger effect personified, then what does that say about his supporters, especially the ones who are still with him two years into his presidency? Are they more vulnerable to the Dunning-Kruger effect?
It also follows that if Trump supporters are experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect, (meaning they are ignorant of the facts, but are overconfident that they are not ignorant of the facts) they may also be far less likely than other people to take the time and fact-check, from credible or non-biased sources, any of the erroneous claims made by Trump or anyone in his administration.
Donald Trump lives in a fool’s paradise. By default, so do most of his current supporters. As for Trump’s frequent self-congratulatory speeches and his bragging, those things seem to go above and beyond the Dunning-Kruger effect. Those type of Trumpian grandiosities seem to come from a place of utter and complete delusion, an absolute failure to recognize reality in any shape or form.
Aside from his mental delusion though, every aspect of Trump is staged. From his fake tan to his elaborate comb-over that only gets coiffed in private, behind a huge black curtain (an acquaintance of mine bore witness to this in her NYC studio), every detail is honed to Trump’s shellacked vision of perfection. And Trump’s supporters are none the wiser. For them, ignorance is bliss — at least when it comes to self-perception of one’s own knowledge and abilities.