It’s Good to Be Smart, as Long as You Don’t Know It

By Michael Baker

Here’s a pretty interesting read on why being intelligent might make you more susceptible to basic mental errors.  The brunt of it is that smart people tend to know that they’re smart, and therefore assume that their judgments are correct, which makes them more likely to fall victim to the cognitive biases that we all have.

That basic premise makes sense to me.  But what about the fact that most people think that they’re smarter than the average idiot, no matter how dumb they really are?  The studies cited in the article suggest that smart people overestimate themselves because they know they’re smart.  But if the only difference between knowing that you’re smart and thinking that you’re smart is the fact of whether you’re actually smart, then shouldn’t anyone who believes they’re smart be in the same boat when it comes to cognitive bias, regardless of how smart they actually are?  After all, it’s literally all in your mind.

So I guess the real trick would be to somehow convince yourself that you’re an imbecile while still fully utilizing the mental faculties that give intelligent people an edge.  We’ve all met smart people who don’t seem to know or care that they’re smart; you could argue that they’re wasting their gifts, but maybe they’ve just one-upped your cognitively biased ass.

The older I get, the more I realize that it’s best to assume that you’re never the smartest guy in the room.  Trust me on that, I’m really smart.