The Dunning Kruger Effect and Emergency Preparedness

dunning kruger effect

What is the Dunning Kruger Effect?  Let me explain via example.

I almost couldn’t believe my ears.  U.S. representative Marsha Blackburn recently stated, when asked her opinion regarding Donald Trump’s assertion that climate change is a hoax, that she does not believe in climate change.  In fact, she said the Earth has actually been in a cooling trend for the past decade.

Well, I don’t know if Trump’s loose interpretation of the facts is contagious amongst the political ranks or what, but Blackburn’s statement is simply not true.  Many of the hottest summers have occurred over the past 20 years.  In fact, 2015 was the hottest year on record, and 2016 is shaping up similarly.  Plus, it’s well known that electric outages have been on the rise in recent years due to an increase in unstable weather patterns which is a symptom of a warming climate.  So, what gives?  Why would a respected politician say such a thing?

Dunning Kruger Effect in a Nutshell

According to an article in Forbes, the reason Blackburn believes she knows more about climate change than the scientists who study and write about it is simple – the Dunning Kruger Effect.  This effect describes the tendency of people to be unaware of their own shortcomings.  Simply put, the Dunning Kruger Effect is a way to describe the tendency for people to think they know more than they actually do.

This idea is important in the context of emergency preparedness.  Since people have a tendency to exhibit the Dunning Kruger Effect, the proper course of action cannot be left to their discretion.  Plans, processes and protocols must be documented in detail, and employees must be trained on these things regularly via exercises and drills.  The bottom line is that the Dunning Kruger Effect has no place in emergency response, so utilities need to take steps to proactively reduce it.

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