November 27, 2013
There’s a Word for What We Feel When…

…watching the Louie Gohmerts or Sarah Palins or Glenn Becks of this world. From Psychology Today:

Fremdscham describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are. Fremdscham occurs when someone who should feel embarrassed for themselves simply is not, and you start feeling embarrassment in their place…

Besides the emotional response, Fremdscham-inducing events and items … also usually cause one to ask this question: “how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?”.

And more than to lecture you about the beauty of the German language, I want to write about a classic psychological theory that laid the groundwork for addressing precisely this question of how people remain ignorant of their ignorance.

Dunning and Kruger often refer to a “double curse” when interpreting their findings: People fail to grasp their own incompetence, precisely because they are so incompetent. And since, overcoming their incompetence would first require the ability to distinguish competence from incompetence people get stuck in a vicious cycle.

“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at November 27, 2013 02:09 PM
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Hi Jerry, I completely agree. But the word is "Fremdschämen".

Posted by: Peter on November 28, 2013 1:24 PM

Like Rick who went to Casablanca for the waters, I was misinformed.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on November 28, 2013 7:46 PM

Thanks for this. It haunted me all over the Thanksgiving break. So much so I had to put up a post of my own about it, duly noting the source here and at PT.

Posted by: Jim H on December 3, 2013 5:13 PM
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