One of the first traits I ever noticed with non-vegans was the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is a common cognitive bias in which people think they are smarter than they really are. It’s what the philosopher Bertrand Russell was talking about when he said that one of the big problems in the modern world is that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
The simplest way to describe this effect it is that incompetent people tend to overestimate their own skill levels in a particular subject. In addition, they underestimate the knowledge of the true experts. Have you ever tried to learn a complex subject? You might have noticed that the more you learned, the more you realized that there’s so much more to it than you had previously thought. This is very common. The more you unpack a new subject, the more you find there is to know about it.
Studies have shown that the less people know about a subject, the more they overestimate their own knowledge. It’s funny because their incompetence actually blinds them to how incompetent they are. On the other hand, people who are competent, tend to underestimate their competence.
So what causes people to have the Dunning-Kruger effect? One explanation is that it’s due to a lack of self awareness. Also, people with less skill in something have a lower ability to evaluate their skill level. The Dunning-Kruger effect is often seen with non-vegans when they try to talk about nutrition. The less they know about nutrition, the more confident they will be when they tell you that you need meat to be healthy. Take a non-vegan who has never studied nutrition in his life. Put him in a room with an expert who has studied nutrition data for over 20 years. More often than not, the non-vegan will think he knows more than the expert. Not only that, but the non-vegan will display more confidence in his beliefs than the expert. Think back to the example I gave in my previous journal. The health expert patiently watched the non-vegan act like he knew what he was talking about.