Why Trump Cannot Begin To Understand His Level Of Stupidity

Donald Trump

The secret to Trump’s mind-numbing stupidity is finally revealed.

Trump is great at hurling insults regarding the intelligence of others but seems to lack the ability to look inward as his own well-established pattern of stupidity. Indeed, he constantly boasts about his intellect, his “stable genius.”

So what gives? As it turns out, a psychological principle known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect explains a lot when it comes to understanding Trump’s inability to understand and accept his intellectual shortcomings – his stupidity.

Psychology Today reported the day after Trump’s inauguration in an article titled “The Dunning-Kruger President” that:

Named for Cornell psychologist David Dunning and his then-grad student Justin Kruger, this is the observation that people who are ignorant or unskilled in a given domain tend to believe they are much more competent than they are. Thus bad drivers believe they’re good drivers, the humorless think they know what’s funny, and people who’ve never held public office think they'[d] make a terrific president. How hard can it be?

Writing for the Pacific Standard, Dunning explained the effect as follows:

In many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize  —  scratch that, cannot recognize  —  just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers  —  and we are all poor performers at some things  —  fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack. What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

The Dunning-Kruger President

If you do a Google search for “The Dunning-Kruger President” you will find that several news organizations have published articles applying the principle both before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Salon published an article in September 2016 explaining that “Trump is not merely ignorant. He is also supremely confident and feels superior — the most dangerous kind of idiot,” attributing his behavior to Dunning-Kruger.

Bloomberg published an article in May 2017 explaining that “We’re all ignorant, but Trump takes it to a different level” in an article titled: “Trump’s ‘Dangerous Disability’? It’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect.”

Conservative author and political commentator David Brooks published an article for The New York Times that same month explaining that Trump was the “all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect” due to his infantile lack of mastery of “three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25.”

According to Brooks:

  • “First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers [during] interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.”
  • “Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.”
  • “Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious. But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved.”

Washington Monthly reported earlier this year that Trump “got up this morning, watched Fox And Friends do a segment on his mental health, and used his Twitter thumbs to give the world a textbook example of the Dunning Kruger effect.”

After posting those three tweets, Washington Monthly reported that:

No stable genius has ever bragged about what a stable genius they were. No smart person would try to convince the world of their high IQ by using poor punctuation and 4th grade vocabulary while using “like” as a filler word in text.

No one with an ounce of historical awareness would argue that they retained their mental acuity by comparing himself to the Alzheimers-afflicted Ronald Reagan. No one who understood his legal peril would call out the FBI’s most high-profile investigation in the country as a “hoax.” No one of sound mind would forget that they had run for President at least once before, back in the year 2000.

Most recently, Medium drew the obvious connection between the Dunning-Kruger effect and Trump supporters, concluding:

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.

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