Why Are Some of Us Impressed By People We Don't Really Understand?

In one of Marilyn Vos Savant's columns in the Parade Magazine (9/28/2003), she was asked a question about two college instructors. One of the instructors had students who did well on exams due to his good explanations. The other instructor's students did poorly because of poor explanations, but the students thought he was brilliant and that the fault was theirs for not understanding. In other words, he was so brilliant, he was over their heads.

The question was: why do the students have that perception?

Marilyn responded that the students did not have enough confidence in themselves to truly determine his capabilities as an instructor. Young people are more susceptible to those types.

She further responded that adults who lack good education can make the same mistake. They can easily be misled into believing that certain people are highly intelligent. "When listeners hear material that they don't grasp, they assume the fault is with them, not the speaker." This leads them to believe the speaker must be brilliant.