Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Old Things, One

"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision." -Bertrand Russell.

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” -Shakespeare, As You Like It.

“If you’re absolutely no good at something at all, you lack the skills to know that you’re no good at it.” -John Cleese

I overheard (Facebook) some expert Grand Canyon boatmen lamenting how dangerous the inexpert can be down there.  They are so unskilled, one asserted, that they have no idea how bad they are.

Storm from Point Sublime, Grand Canyon

I was captivated by this concept.  A little research showed that this phenomenon is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, after Cornell Researchers who published a paper on the topic in 1999.  The research was apparently inspired by a bank robber who was convinced that smearing his face with lemon juice (an ingredient in invisible ink) would render his face invisible to monitoring cameras.

They learned that inexperience tends to render us unable to accurately assess our skills, and that beginners often over-estimate their ability, sometimes dramatically.  The obvious corollary was true as well; the deeper our capability, the more likely we are to be aware of our knowledge and experience gaps.

Found Objects, Parissawampitts Point. Kaibab Forest

I admit that, looking back on my photographic work 10-12 years ago, I wince a bit at the pieces I was so very proud of at the time.  Yes, I had the basics of exposure and focus fairly well in-hand, but really good compositions and emotional content were hit or miss.  My work was perhaps not as bad as the photographic equivalent of lemon juice, but sometimes cringe-worthy.

I had not yet become my own worst critic.  I’m much better at that now, too.  This all begs the question of what, in another decade, will seem the obvious failings of my current work.  In my rock climbing days, we used to say, “if you’re not falling, you’re not learning.” I don’t expect to ever know it all, thank goodness, and so this artistic pursuit is likely to remain interesting throughout my lifetime.

Sagittarius Ridge and the Inner Canyon

Begging your indulgence, I’ve punctuated this one with a few new images mostly unrelated (I hope) to the content of this post.  My husband bought a toolbox full of photogenic old stuff (which I enjoyed photographing), and I’m just back from the North Rim.  As always, there's more on the website.  Cheers.
Old Things,Two

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