The plot twist at the end of The Sixth Sense (directed by M. Night Shamalyan) when it was revealed that Malcolm Crowe (played by Bruce Willis) was a ghost – was perhaps one the best “wow-moments” to be revealed in a movie. It was indeed heart-wrenching and somewhat disbelieving – but it made all the sense in the world.
The Sixth Sense was such a great horror movie because it played on our fears; the unknown.
Perhaps the most memorable scene in the movie, aside from the twist, came when Cole (played by Haley Joel Osment), the protagonist of the movie, finally told his psychologist, Malcolm, that he was ready to tell him his secret.
In a line that would forever be spoofed – and to what I am parodying – “I see dead people” would become one of the most famous lines in all of horror.
What I found so scary about this movie was not that there were ghosts – but that the ghost didn’t even “know” they were dead.
They walked around living their former lives and tragedies over and over again – some of them, not all of them – and weren’t the wiser.
This notion that they weren’t aware of their post-existence stuck with me for some reason and I couldn’t but help to draw a comparison with the ghost of this movie to certain people in reality.
See, like Cole, I too have a secret.
I see a particular type of people who walk around like ordinary people. They go on about their everyday lives. They relive, of their own volition, horrible incidents over and over again.
Sometimes, most often, they come to me with their problems about uninteresting things.
They don’t know that they are uninteresting. They don’t know that what they say and do doesn’t make sense.
See, I have a secret and I’m ready to tell it. I see people who don’t know that they cannot think.
“I see stupid people.”
The Dunning Kruger Effect
Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as more exceptional than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their ineptitude; without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence – Wikipedia
Let me clarify before I continue because I can understand that the statement “I see stupid people” can sound incredibly smug and condescending.
I am by no measurement of standard… a genius; yet.
I highly recommend that everyone read Mindset (written by Carol Dweck). Indeed…a brilliant read. We all have in us the ability to become smarter. Geniuses are NOT born they are MADE through trials and errors.
Why this is salient is because the fool – the man who knows “everything” – can never learn ANYTHING. (Wrap your mind around that for a second.)
I am ignorant in many things in life. I do not dispute that.
But as the “Great” Socrates once said, “I am the wisest man because I am the only one who knows how ignorant he is.”
There is a stark difference between being ignorant and being stupid.
Ignorance is “I don’t know what this is about. However, given some time, effort and dedication I CAN understand it.”
Stupidity is “I know everything. And if I don’t understand it – it’s stupid.” Flawless logic.
The Dunning Kruger effect in layman terms is, “Stupid people do not know that they are stupid.”
They walk around like the ghost in the Sixth Sense; blissfully unaware of their non-existence, or in this case their non-cognition.
The individuals who suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect – and I use the word “suffer” because it can be argued that they have no actual control over the way they think, or in this case don’t think – are so wrapped up in their reality that they cannot see the world for what it is. They see themselves and live in a world that is outside the realm of rationality; just like the ghosts are outside the realm of reason.
What is frightening about people who suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect is that – just like the ghost in the movie, they are doomed to forever roam this planet or a specific area. When they reach out for help, just like the ghost, they are so outside of the realm of reasoning – with them being both hard to believe (what they think) and the other facet, them just not being able to communicate themselves well enough – will most often run a person, who is there to help them, away.
Much like the ghost in the film who could not communicate wholly with Cole – but had to show Cole snippets of their past pain and sorrows, so too are the people of lower cognition. They try to communicate something that is on their mind, but they don’t have the consciousness to verbally, emotionally and cognitively elucidate how they feel.
As a result, much like the ghost in the movie, they appear more hostile than anything else.
“Common sense is not so common.” ― Voltaire
I believe the Sixth Sense is a great metaphor to better illustrate the disconnect that most people in society have been so plagued with. People who suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect are far too common, and those who can think are the minority. Those who can think, question, ponder, cogitate, and use some semblance of common sense are the “Coles” in this world.
They have a skill, a power, that others sadly will never have or be able to acquire; although it (the skill to think) can be acquired.
It can be scary to think. Especially in a world where to question someone will get you in an argument or in other cases killed.
There are so many thoughtless souls out there who, like some of the ghosts in the movie, just want to hurt people.
To question a belief system, to doubt a family elders “words of wisdom“, or to dare to think outside of the box will sadly get you mocked, hurt, beaten, stoned or killed. For simply asking…”why“.
“This is ouwah tradition. How dare you question it.”
There seem to be very little signs that the populace will ever grow in their level of cognition (read my article on the philosophical zombies) to understand their shortcoming; we all have them.
But this is indeed horrifying and on so many levels.
Because people who suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect can lead communities. They can be leaders of businesses. They can be CEO of Global Corporations. And frighteningly – they can even be leaders…of Nations.
They don’t know they cannot think. They don’t know they lack cognition.They don’t know that they may be…stupid.