The Dunning-Kruger effect has received far more attention than usual since Donald Trump ascended to the White House, and for good reason -- it explains so well what many have noticed about Trump’s supporters as well as the president himself.
The Dunning-Kruger effect essentially says that “people who are incompetent are too incompetent to realise they are incompetent; people who are stupid, are too stupid to be able to work out they’re stupid; you don’t know what you don’t know. Conversely, it takes a degree of intelligence to have the insight to realise you may not know things, and to understand that you may not be as clever as you think.”
All things considered, it seems clear that Trump is the perfect Dunning-Kruger president for our times.
Writing for Medium, Tobias Stone elaborates:
If you were Donald Trump it would be hard not to wake up every morning and think you are a genius.
Look at it from his perspective. He comes from a part of society that measures success in terms of wealth and power. He is rich, he then went on TV and became a star. Then he ran for President, and against all the odds, he won.
He is now the top person in his country, and the most powerful man in the world.
He lacks the insight or intelligence to have any humility, so without that insight he could only reach the conclusion that he’s a genius.
Trump is the living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect…. In a nutshell, Dunning and Kruger got people to do tests, then estimate how well they did. They found that the higher people scored, the lower they expected they had scored, and the lower they scored, the higher they estimated their score to be.
In his own mind, Trump is a genius -- deserving of everything he has obtained and held back only by those with whom he finds fault.
What type of people might a president like this attract?
[H]is base — those who, despite everything, still think he’s great, a genius, and doing a good job — are almost by definition also Dunning-Kruger dunces. To support Trump now, with anything other than embarrassed reluctance, you have to be ignoring or disputing such an avalanche of facts, criticism, and dissent that belief in Trump is more like the blind faith of a religion than a considered opinion.
It’s no longer the ‘Liberal Media,’ ‘fake news,’ and the entrenched establishment that is criticising Trump, but also hardened Republican law makers, Steve Bannon, almost all world leaders, of all political colours. To ignore that takes a lot of denial, wilful ignorance, or just lack of mental engagement. Being too stupid to realise you’re stupid, too ignorant to realise what you don’t know, too incompetent to understand you might be incompetent. You can’t argue with someone like that. They can comfortably be sure they are right, regardless of what you say.
This is partly why Trump can lie with impunity, treat others disrespectfully, contradict his own officials, make off-the-cuff decisions without care for consequence, and generally show himself to be the most incompetent president in recent memory -- and still maintain such staunch supporters.
As Trump once noted in a campaign speech, he could probably shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose supporters.
At this point, there is little reason to doubt he was right.