Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Neurological Anosognosia 'Morphs to the Psychological Variant

Think of it as tangents, only in perpendicular dimensions.
(Looks like 'Loser' to me... in three dimensions!)

(See Supreme Court Justices, law professor play with words - Washington Post, January 12, 2010)
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Now we're getting somewhere!
While laboring to decipher the labyrinthine psychological underpinnings of my neighbors, the BDGs, I followed a research thread I picked up from Jeff Gasmo (Gasmo - For the Defense blog), that led all the way back to the writings of Charles Darwin in 1871, wherein the evolutionary theorist stated that "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." (If there are people more ignorantly confident in their own abilities than my neighbors, I have not yet met them.)

A major proof of Darwin's hypothesis came in the form of a 1999 study conducted by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, of Cornell University, and published in the Journal of Personality and and Social Psychology. The study was entitled, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments" (pdf). The documented behaviors became known as the "Dunning-Kruger Effect." Here is the authors' conclusion regarding those they term bottom-quartile participants (or, the incompetents):
"In sum, we present this article as an exploration into why people tend to hold overly optimistic and miscalibrated views about themselves. We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it."

In other words, the incompetents grossly overestimated their abilities - because they didn't know what they didn't know - and apparently because they never could learn it on their own because they were unequipped "to spot competence when they saw it." Under a study heading called Incompetence and the Failure of Feedback the researchers noted:
One puzzling aspect of our results is how the incompetent fail, through life experience, to learn that they are unskilled. Sullivan, in 1953, marveled at "the failure of learning which has left their capacity for fantastic, self-centered delusions so utterly unaffected by a life-long history of educative events."
In the course of the studies, the researchers also noted that top-quartile participants (or, the competent ones) underestimated their performance for a different reason: The competent mistakenly assumed that their peers were smarter than they actually were:
"Top-quartile participants did not underestimate themselves because they were wrong about their own performances, but rather because they were wrong about the performances of their peers." 
Errol Morris, of the New York Times, wrote an Opinion piece on June 20, 2010, called The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1). He interviewed David Dunning, particularly about borrowing the term anosognosia from neurology, proposing a "psychological analogue," and conducting studies to explore this one of Darwin's many theories.
"In the neurosciences, practitioners and researchers occasionally come across the curious malady of anosognosia. Caused by certain types of damage to the right side of the brain, anosognosia leaves people paralyzed on the left side of their body. But more than that, when doctors place a cup in front of such patients and ask them to pick it up with their left hand, patients not only fail to comply but also fail to understand why. When asked to explain their failure, such patients might state that they are tired, that they did not hear the doctor's instructions, or that they did not feel like responding - but never that they are suffering from paralysis. In essence, anosognosia not only causes paralysis, but also the inability to realize that one is paralyzed (D'Amasio, 1994)." 

Lynda Allen, Theresa Brassey and Corky Greene (three birds of a feather flocking together) have somehow made it through (at least) the last twenty-three years of their lives with "their capacity for fantastic, self-centered delusions... utterly unaffected by a life-long history of educative events." Their psychological paralysis has locked them into incompetency - and prevented them from learning the basics of where to run a business so as not to shit all over themselves, their property and their neighbors. Their reptilian behaviors of intimidating swaggers, strident voices, and crafty lies has supported their miserable existence here for way too long. What a waste of space and oxygen!

The whole sad history of Allen, Brassey, Greene, TLC Catering and Commissary, and 810 Fishback Street can be summarized in the one line by Alexander Pope:

"For fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
We have tip-toed around these fools - these losers - long enough.
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  • Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Cornell University
  • Errol Morris, New York Times
  • Robert Barnes, Washington Post
  • Improbable Research at improbable.com, website home of the Ig Nobel Awards. Dunning amd Kruger were judged co-winners of the Ig Nobel Award for Psychology in 2000.
  • Jeff Gasmo, Gasmo - For the Defense blog
  • Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

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