Friday Ephemera
Jam At The Intersection

An Explanation Comes To Mind

George Francis on the rise of “imposter syndrome” – and its possible causes:  

This study tracked 818 college students to look for what triggered the syndrome… Their most illuminating results were the simplest (as is usually the case) - the correlation matrix of their variables. Exactly in line with the theory that imposter syndrome is caused by incompetence, they find low course grades, low attendance, low course engagement (lack of curiosity), and classroom competition (the perception of others working harder than you) predict feelings of being an imposter. People have imposter syndrome because they are incompetent people pretending to be something they are not - a good student… Despite the good evidence for imposter syndrome being caused by students actually being imposters, the study never once brings itself to mention why low grades are associated with feelings of being an imposter. 

It’s a topic we’ve touched on before, when marvelling at the woes of Celia Edell, a “feminist philosopher interested in social justice,” including “critical race theory,” and her struggle to be taken seriously. Ms Edell, who signalled her gravitas and intellectual heft via the medium of endlessly changing Day-Glo hair colour, is accustomed to making claims with no obvious evidential support. When not, that is, making claims for which any evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. We’re told by Ms Edell, who is also an “online creative,” that her feelings of being “unable to internalise” her own awesomeness are a result of sexism and “oppression,” not something more humdrum and, dare I say it, plausible.

As noted at the time, it may be worth considering the extent to which Ms Edell’s chosen environment, academia, has been politicised and annexed by the left, such that the ludicrous Nina Power, who boasts of finding rioting and arson “uplifting,” is employed as a senior lecturer, and such that “critical race theory,” so favoured by Ms Edell, is deemed intellectually respectable.

If a person’s career is even partly dependent on signalling their possession of the approved, rather narrow political views – and Ms Edell’s are almost exactly what you’d expect – then problems may arise if that signalling trumps expectations of coherence, probity, and rigour. You may score Career-Advancing Lefty Points by, for instance, invoking “whiteness” or “patriarchy,” or some other intersectional woo, or by claiming that women are paid less than men for doing exactly the same work; but a mismatch with reality seems likely to exacerbate any feelings of fraudulence.

Update, via the comments:

As Mr Francis notes in the piece:

Maybe all this concern about imposter syndrome is just caused by those with a political agenda grasping at straws to claim their favourite groups are oppressed in insidious ways. But with substantial affirmative action for women and ethnic minorities, I wouldn’t really be surprised if many had got into prestigious positions with a sense of being an imposter. Any intelligent black person at an Ivy League must wonder whether their admittance had something to do with their race.

Given the prevalence of racial favouritism in admissions policies - and given the desperation to find even remotely qualified applicants, with all the inadequacy and barrel-scraping that entails - the rise of ‘imposter syndrome’ is hardly surprising. Nor is the correlation with poor grades. Not only will there be doubts as to competence for the reason quoted above, which can be rather unfair to the capable, but there will also be plenty of actual and obvious incompetence - people invited into an environment for which they have neither the temperament nor cognitive wherewithal. Many of whom will drop out of courses beyond their abilities and find consolation, of a sort, in Angry Studies activism.

Heather Mac Donald, among others, has been documenting this phenomenon for quite some time.

As Amy Wax put it not too long ago,

On the one hand, all good people are for affirmative action. That’s a sign of virtue. On the other hand, to talk about the predicate, the reason that affirmative action is needed, which is that there are these gaps in educational achievement and proficiency, is verboten. So, we kind of twisted ourselves in knots that we have to embrace something but deny the factual underpinning of it.

And so, to a very large extent, the feelings of mismatch and fraudulence, of being an imposter, and any consequent alienation and resentment, and crippling debt, are caused by the very people who claim to be fixing things.

Also, open thread. Share ye links and bicker.


Princess Cutekitten

Mercedes Lackey posts on frequently. Let’s say she’s not exactly tolerant of differing viewpoints—like a good, Scientific leftist, she reacts angrily and rudely to any question about the paranormal. She’s a little more tolerant of religious viewpoints, but not much. Which is not to say the science-fiction people should be picking on her, but to say she’s not unfamiliar with harsh language.

I’ve never read any of her books.


No, Daniel, I’m never going to read that.


So, Mercedes is not the extremely nice person that other leftists have been saying she is? Gosh!

Daniel Ream

she reacts angrily and rudely to any question about the paranormal. She’s a little more tolerant of religious viewpoints, but not much

As a life-long literal a-theist, my reaction to such types is "What, exactly, does it matter that this person you've never met and will never interact with believes something you find weird? Who the hell cares?"

You really want to break an antitheist, point out that since obviously there's no God, modern religions are those which are objectively adapted for survival and prosperity of their adherents since they could only have survived for more than a thousand years by evolving to be the fittest belief system.


Mercedes Lackey posts on frequently.

A place I never visit. [ Takes a quick glance. Shrugs shoulders. ]

she reacts angrily and rudely to any question about the paranormal.

From a very brief scan of her Quora posts, she seems to tend towards very brief, curt replies to most questions. And nearly all her posts are about the practical matters of writing or becoming a writer.

Her reply to the first question I saw about the paranormal was not even right: She said people believe in the paranormal "Because people no longer study science and look for supernatural explainations instead of natural ones." That is silly, because it presupposes that there was once a time when everyone Believed in Science. The reality is that people have always believed in magic, the paranormal, etc., and what we see today is simply the persistence of that tendency. I strongly suspect that her answer reveals a testiness which warps her thinking. That irritability could be merely a reaction to being pestered incessantly about such matters, but she displays the same attitude towards political disagreement so maybe not.

On the other hand, I myself do not believe in telepathy, Tarot, voodoo, magic spells, auras, aromatherapy, crystal power, or any of that stuff--and back in the day people who did believe in it would regularly annoy me by telling me that they could "read" my personality from knowing my astrological sign or seeing my aura. None of them ever showed any actual insight, of course.

I sort of assumed that she did believe in magic, probably because she writes fantasy and so many fantasy fans themselves believe in magic.

I did find a couple political posts, revealing that she does indeed despise Trump voters, and that she does not admit that the left ever bans books or supports those who do.

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