Ignorance Threshold

Posted on May 28, 2009 by


What makes smart kids? I don’t think it’s intelligence. It’s self-consciousness. I think everyone has an “ignorance threshold”.

Your ignorance threshold is the level of knowledge you need to have on a subject in order not to feel stupid when you’re talking to people about that subject. Some people are perfectly comfortable going on and on about things they know nothing about — that’s a high ignorance threshold, because the person is comfortable operating with a high level of ignorance. Other people won’t express an opinion on anything unless they can cite sources — that’s a low ignorance threshold.

The smart kids at school, I’ll bet, are people with low ignorance thresholds. They aren’t as concerned with being dumb as they are with looking dumb. On the other hand, there are some very intelligent people who are comfortable with a lot of ignorance. They don’t do well in school, but they do well in life. (On a related note, here’s an interesting view on the “rewarding success vs. rewarding effort” debate.)

Posted in: School