...in group-work settings, instead of determining whether a given person has genuine expertise we sometimes focus on proxies of expertise — the traits and habits we associate, and often conflate, with expertise. That means qualities such as confidence, extroversion and how much someone talks can outweigh demonstrated knowledge when analyzing whether a person is an expert...In other words, your brain can instinctively trust people simply because they sound as if they know what they’re talking about.And, Gibson reviews the work of Tom Nichols, reflected in his book "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Expertise and Why It Matters." Nichols...
...had begun noticing what he perceived as a new and accelerating—and dangerous—hostility toward established knowledge. People were no longer merely uninformed, Nichols says, but “aggressively wrong” and unwilling to learn. They actively resisted facts that might alter their preexisting beliefs. They insisted that all opinions, however uninformed, be treated as equally serious. And they rejected professional know-how, he says, with such anger. That shook him.
Skepticism toward intellectual authority is bone-deep in the American character, as much a part of the nation’s origin story as the founders’ Enlightenment principles. Overall, that skepticism is a healthy impulse, Nichols believes. But what he was observing was something else, something malignant and deliberate, a collapse of functional citizenship. “Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue...To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.”
Readers regularly approach Nichols with stories of their own disregarded expertise: doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians who’ve gotten used to being second-guessed by customers and clients and patients who know little or nothing about their work. “So many people over the past year have walked up to me and said, ‘You wrote what I was thinking,’” he says.