Thursday, June 24, 2010


This five part series of interviews by Errol Morris deals with the fact that we believe we know more than we do, are self-deceptive, confabulate, and generally get things wrong. This set of articles could make a fine book all by themselves. Neuroscientists, biographers, Donald Rumsfeld and Woodrow Wilson make appearances, alongside a very confused bank robber:
Wheeler had walked into two Pittsburgh banks and attempted to rob them in broad daylight. What made the case peculiar is that he made no visible attempt at disguise. The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest. There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money. Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving. “But I wore the juice,” he said. Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.
It's a phenomenon that affects both the fool and the genius. We don't notice when we're screwing up. The best answer I've heard for why this is the case is that if we were realistic about our knowledge and capabilities, we'd never do anything.

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