I’m already plenty good at logic

Charles S. Peirce opens the “Fixation of Belief” with the observation:

Few persons care to study logic, because everybody conceives himself to be proficient enough in the art of reasoning already.

Many of the NS readers are familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect.  In short, it’s that the less you know, the less likely you’ll recognize that you don’t know.  Poor performers regularly overestimate their abilities.  This is borne out in Dunning and Kruger’s case in grammar tests, logic tests, humor-recognition tests and in a variety of other areas (e.g., tests taken by medical students, engineers, and so on).   The trouble is that self-monitoring can’t give reliable feedback when you don’t have the proper criteria for evaluation.

So the question is: how do people perform when, after having done badly and evaluated themselves well, we give them clear criteria for evaluation?  How do they do, and how do they rate their performances? For sure, without this intervention, the D-K Effect becomes the D-K Cycle.  But can intervention as education work?

So after having bombed the last logic test, the subjects are brought back in and given a mini-lecture on how to solve the logic problems they were tested on last time.  They, then, had the criteria for discriminating good from bad performances. The result?  They judged their prior performances quite harshly and came to see that they had a long way to go before they were good at the tasks.  That’s pretty great news to logic teachers.

Ah, but an interesting wrinkle about the need for this intervention.  Dunning and Kreuger gave the same test to two different groups, but told one group it was a logic test and the other group that it was a computer-test.  Here’s the big difference:  people who took the logic test systematically more confident (and thereby overrated themselves in poor performances) than those who took the computer test.  Same test, but different name.  Why is this?  The thought is that it’s because we all think we’re already pretty good at reasoning.  We do it every day, so we must have some skills.  And it’s right there that logic teachers cringe.