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Stephen Fry Explains Why People Believe Donald Trump

It’s all to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Say what you like about him, one thing you can’t accuse Donald Trump of lacking is confidence in his own beliefs.

Even when they are demonstrably wrong.

But what’s perhaps more worrying is the sheer number of people who believe him.

From climate change being a hoax to immigrants raising the crime rate, there is barely a topic the President hasn’t eschewed a controversial viewpoint on that hasn’t been lapped up by his supporters.

Luckily Stephen Fry is here to help explain the phenomenon.

Stephen Fry, legend.
Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Stephen Fry, legend.

It’s all to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect, the tendency for the least mentally proficient people to often overestimate their own abilities.

Research into this area was inspired by a story so incredibly ridiculous it’s hard to believe that it’s true.

In 1995 a man by the name of McArthur Wheeler learnt that lemon juice can be used as an invisible ink.

He took his new-found knowledge one (rather large) step further and robbed two Pittsburgh banks, his face covered in lemon juice, convinced it would render his features invisible to CCTV.

When police later showed him video tapes of himself robbing the banks, he muttered: “But I wore the juice.”

Speaking of research into the Dunning-Kruger effect, Fry says: “The skills they lacked were the same skills required to recognise their incompetence.

“The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

In a new clip that Pindex put together, Fry also explains how Salience Bias and the power of repetition help shape views more than facts.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance,” Fry says in the clip. “It is the illusion of knowledge.”

UPDATE: As pointed out by a reader, incompetence can affect everyone in different situations.

Speaking on This American Life, David Dunning, whom the thoery is partly named after, said:

But I think the thing that people in general miss is that we’re not talking about the brain of the incompetent. We’re talking about the brain of all of us because sooner or later, we step into that group. Sooner or later, we become the poor performers.

We all have our specific pockets of incompetence, and we know some of them. But there are a lot of them we simply don’t know. And once we step into our own incompetence, we don’t know we’ve made the step