Stupidity is a recurrent theme in this blog: The bizarre relationship between intelligence and unintelligent behaviour always strikes me.
In a recent study, Proffesor Balazs Aczel and coworkers show that despite the ambiguous definition of the word stupid, there is a high level of agreement about what deserves to be called stupid and what doesn’t. And this is important:
studying why and when people call certain actions stupid should be the interest of psychological investigations not just because it is a frequent everyday behavior, but also because it is a robust behavioral reflection of the rationalistic expectations to which people adjust their own behavior and expect others to.
They found that people use the label stupid for three separate types of situation:
- violations of maintaining a balance between confidence and abilities.
- failures of attention; and
- lack of control.
The level of observed stupidity is always amplified by a higher responsibility and by the severity of the consequences of the action.
It is also curious how overconfidence is associated with the highest level of stupidity, while on the other hand we seem to be programmed for it. Or maybe that’s the reason why, very often, successful people are on the verge of ridicule. (And also the other way around.)
Striking a proper balance is always so difficult!