How to spot a dumb person

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Everyone knows some dumb people. Some of us try to reason them, some of us get mad at them, some of us laugh at them, but for most of us, it depends on the circumstances.

So many people find humor in dumb people, at least when they’re not the one getting problems because of that person. Entire websites are dedicated to mocking them.

Dumb employee

Obviously, there are sites that are exactly the same idea with the goal of laughing at dumb customers instead.

Everyone, at some point, had to deal with a dumb person. I’m willing to bet that everyone, at some point, has also been a dumb person. The interesting thing is that in a big percentage of the stories in websites like the one above, the dumb person acts like the “smart” person is dumb, while they are the smart one. They are so convinced of this, that they can often go to great lengths to try to convince our storyteller that they are wrong. They also get about as exasperated as the narrator during the conversation. As for the stories that were not eventually resolved by a third-party, both people probably walked away asking themselves how could the other one be so stupid.

both think the other is dumb

Taking into account selective memory, cognitive dissonance, and other biases, I’m pretty sure that, provided we hear about the story from the opposite side’s point of view, we would side with them pretty often.

The point is that I’ve been thinking about it, and I can’t figure out a good way to actually spot a dumb person. If I was an objective bystander, there is always a chance that I’m about as dumb as the “smart” one (in my opinion), so the actual smart one looks dumb to me.

How many times have you walked away from an argument thinking about how stupid the other person was, as opposed to the number of times you walked thinking about how stupid you are compared to them?

Obviously, there are cases when a person feels as if they were stupid. Still, I’m sure everyone is the “smart” one in their mind more than half of the time, which means, mathematically, that most people are pretty often wrong about their own intelligence. Yes, that probably includes me.

There is also the cognitive dissonance part. Whenever I act stupid and realize it later, there always seems to be an excuse. Obviously, there’s no way I really am stupid, so I must have been distracted, tired, unlucky, etc. Since I’m super smart, my stupid words and actions must be due to an external factor. Also, since all of my stupid actions and words are due to an external factor, that means I’m super smart, right? On the other side, if another person acts like a complete moron during our interaction, then they should stop talking. I mean, they’re obviously dumb, why did they get hired in the first place? I also probably lost my faith in humanity during our exchange.

Still, I don’t think it’s possible that there actually are no dumb or smart people. Obviously, someone has to be right every time. Is there really no way to know? Considering that everyone is either smart, dumb, or somewhere in between, nobody can truly be objective. Almost everyone thinks they’re on the smart side. Actually, the smart side could just be the side with more people, while majority rule and bullying allow them to continue pretending to be smart. How can anyone know an IQ test is accurate, if the one who made it didn’t get top score? And if he did, then how do you know the test doesn’t check how close to his level you are, regardless of if it’s below or above? How can anyone be qualified to judge intelligence without first having been objectively judged as “good”?

Most people then use the philosophical reasoning.

  • If you’re asking yourself those questions, that means you’re smarter than most people already.
  • Dumb people are full of confidence, while smart people are crippled with doubt
  • As long as you’re happy with the result, then you were smart enough
  • Using pure logic is definitely smart

But that still doesn’t mean anything. If you’re doubting everything and trying to find the truth, you’re smart. Unless of course if you do it a little too much, then you’re a crazy conspirationist. Socrates doubted everything and was using pure logic. He was killed. Was that smart? He made his point, and is now known around the entire world thousands of years later. He still failed miserably at staying alive and following our evolutionary instincts. He was a victim of natural selection. If everyone had been like him,  things would have been different, but for most of history, thinking about stuff was significantly less useful for the individual and for the group than fighting or running away from stuff.

reasoning a bear

What is so objectively good about doubt anyway? It usually lowers happiness, self-esteem, and wilingess to share anything you discover. Most important discoveries in the beginning of humanity were probably the result of a full-of-confidence-but-dumb-person being lucky, while hundreds of similar people didn’t discover anything great. You need confidence to act, no matter how good or bad the idea is.

So what, does intelligence just not exist? Maybe intelligence does exist, but it isn’t actually a good thing? Most known species are doing pretty well in life without caring about that. I care about it, but I’m not really sure why.