A Dunning-Burger for lunch?

You have learned, on the net, to be wary of fake news. If you are clever, you have ended up leaving the groups that operate in cults around such beliefs. Now pay attention to what fuels the fake news: I named the Dunning-Burgers! I take this pun from the Dunning-Kruger effect and the hamburger. The DK effect is a bias of overconfidence: every layman feels invested with a new confidence by assimilating simplified scientific notions so that she understands them. This assurance is excessive. Simplification is invisible in scientific vocabulary. It is used as if it were common and perfectly understood by all. The reader is thus invested with free, flattering knowledge. The mind warmly welcomes the fanciful content of the speech and derives a feeling of power from it.

The word “quantum”, for example, has a very different richness depending on who uses it. The layman places it at the foundation of things without further detail, the connoisseur knows its overwhelming effect on our vision of reality, and the mathematician knows the indigestible mathematical framework but essential to the intimate understanding of the mechanism. All use ‘quantum’, but the associated knowledge ranges from none to eminent.

The real expert is not very sensitive to the DK effect. Less confident than the layman, she is more aware of the limits of her knowledge, because located at this border, pushing it back.

Websites serve at all times, with the best intentions in the world, a lot of Dunning-Burgers. Fast food of knowledge that gives the impression of having ingested a dish of power when only its ingredients have been swallowed, without recipe to accompany them. Learning to cook takes time. But the time of followers, all influencers snatch it. It is necessary to satisfy quickly, with some shock notions. The use of the DK effect is constant, implicit. The world is full of idiot-scientists.

The Dunning-Burger is close to mathematical intimidation. Mathematics is the language cartoonishly associated with the DK effect, as in our previous example on quantum. Quickly incomprehensible, it pretends to be understood, just as quickly, by our contemporaries who no longer have the right to be uneducated, with so many sources of information at their disposal.

Another famous example: the Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, hoaxed easily sold to laymen using a mathematical formula: J=(W+(D-d))TQ/MNa with W=weather (weather ), (D−d)=debt (difference debts-repayment capacity), T=time (time elapsed since Christmas), M=motivation, N=need to act. Stupid but effective formula: Math laymen swallow Blue Monday without difficulty, without even looking at the wording of the problem, which cannot have a mathematical solution. Intimidation!

How to get out of it? Don’t stack ingredients endlessly in your brain. Instead, look for a way of cooking that is truly universal. You will guess the mistakes of people more expert than you.


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