Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains so much about theatre... and everything else.

But this part especially struck me:
Dunning, Kruger, and coauthors' 2008 paper on this subject comes to qualitatively similar conclusions to their original work, after making some attempt to test alternative explanations. They conclude that the root cause is that, in contrast to high performers, "poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve."
While running NYCPlaywrights, so often bad playwrights would bring in the same script again and again, with the most negligible of changes in spite of all the feedback - usually feedback that they themselves requested.

Eventually what they do is stop asking for feedback from strangers, and just ask for feedback from friends and family. Because all they want is praise - they don't actually want to learn - or perhaps I should say they are constitutionally unable to learn - from the feedback.

This also holds true for theatre groups, where everybody knows each other and nobody would dream of giving actual honest feedback, because the rule of all groups is "go along to get along." That was one way that NYCPlaywrights was different - there was never really an insiders-outsiders situation, which really pissed off a lot of people - it was completely contradictory to their expectation of how a writers group should be run. The fact that I personally gave honest feedback, and didn't insist that other people provide "constructive"  feedback was considered extremely offensive to many people.

But playwrights who are the best schmoozers are likely to get a shock once their work is reviewed by people who are not family or friends or members of their clique.

And the NYCPlaywrights method was quite effective as these testimonials demonstrate. It wasn't just about me being a big ole meanie.

Although I did write this play, inspired by a former member of NYCPlaywrights.