The Psychology of Stupidity by Jean-François Marmion

The Psychology of Stupidity by Jean-François Marmion
Stupid is as stupid does.

How apt for this moronic website, eh? Here we are taking a look at The Psychology of Stupidity, a 2018 work by French psychologist and editor Jean-François Marmion.

The work notes there isn’t a huge amount of research into the nature of human stupidity, which this book set out to correct.

By reaching out to some of the world’s leading intellects, Marmion pieced together this intriguing account on dumb people like us and everything that makes us tick.

The Psychology of Stupidity: Why Are Some People So Dumb?

Okay, let’s address the excrement in the room. In most instances, stupid people won’t have the self-awareness to admit they’re thick. Why? As it’s bad for their self-esteem.

You’re not going to get people acknowledging their behaviour is idiotic, they’ll instead ramp up their defence mechanisms and presume they’re more intelligent than everyone around them.

That’s where the Dunning-Kruger effect kicks in.

Although it’s a contested theory, from our experience there’s no denying a lot of people with lower intelligence inflate their ego to absurd highs. Instead of recognising their incompetence at something, they think they’re superb at it.

Problems arise immediately around this topic, as just to discuss “stupid people” makes you sound like a pompous git with a superiority complex.

In reality, we all do stupid things. But as Jean-François Marmion notes:

“The crucial thing is to be aware of it and to feel sorry about it; because to err is human, and admitting your faults is halfway to having them forgiven. There will always be those who take us for fools, but we recognise our own folly far too rarely.”

Self-awareness is certainly one of the biggest steps anyone can take to at least appear intelligent. Being considerate an example of this.

But the problem with stupidity is the total lack of self-reflection and consideration from those labouring under it.

Having studied online comments sections since around 2009, we’ve seen the staggering extent of just how thick some people can be.

In fact, we did a podcast about online comments and deindividuation. As much as we love the internet, it’s also enabled anyone to find an audience and have their ego stoked.

And not to try and politicise this too much, but the vast amount of almost improbable stupidity we’ve come across online has been from right-wingers.

Comments we’ve seen on tabloid comments sections include:

  • Claiming anyone who criticises Winston Churchill should be executed for sedition
  • Believing British society would collapse into a communist state should the monarchy system be abolished (and using China as an example to support the argument)
  • Claiming there was “absolutely nothing right-wing” about the Nazi party
  • Claiming the Nazi party was liberal as it had anti-smoking and pro-animal stances (the woman who stated that on The Daily Mail conveniently cherry-picked those whilst ignoring hundreds of policies that make Nazis far-right)
  • Constantly failing to understand what socialism is
  • Blaming all of England’s many disastrous problems on foreigners and “the woke”, but not the 12 years of Conservative party rule and its well-documented corruption, sleaze, and incompetencies

For decent intelligent people who just want an orderly life, it’s draining to have all of this going on. Exhausting, even. Stupid people often:

  • Vote idiotically, to the detriment of entire nations (and the planet) as they’re so readily susceptible to basic demagogues and propaganda
  • Drain the life out of our souls in working environments
  • Spout bigoted invective, cause hate crimes, and conflict
  • Begin a lot of sentences with, “In the good old days…”

It’s the “back in my day” mentality that dreary thinkers are prone to lapsing into. Marmion notes:

“Studies in the realm of belief always distinguish between the naïve credulity of greenhorns and the entrenched stupidity of old fools. It’s been proven that negative memories fade with time, whereas positive memories endure. This is why the older a person gets, the greater his tendency to regard the past in a positive light, which is why old fools like to complain wistfully, ‘Everything was better in the good old days.'”

All of which leads us to paradox of tolerance.

For liberal, lefty, woke, snowflakes such as ourselves, there’s a limit to the level of tolerance liberal values will allow.

For example, we’re not going to tolerate some homophobic bigot. If society is infinitely tolerant and liberal, that magnanimous approach will inevitability be exploited and destroyed by bigots.

You can actually see this in action across British society, as the gutter press here exploit (to the point of lunacy) any moral loophole to deny all accountability for society’s issues.

It’s a toxic global issue. And one born out of malice, alongside stupidity and ignorance.

Malice leading to stupidity, ignorance, subservience—voting for the very thing making most people’s lives worse.

Whilst The Psychology of Stupidity is humourous in its tone, it does attempt to confront this perplexing problem. Vast as it is. What’s the answer? Well, we don’t think there is one. But we can try to get our heads around it.

Understanding Stupidity

It’s easy to get high and mighty about all of this. Popular culture is decked out with jabs at stupid people, from Dumb and Dumber (1994) to Baldrick in Blackadder.

A lot of humour can come about by pretending to be thick, too, such as the glorious Diane Morgan as Philomena Cunk.

Hell, then there’s our site Professional Moron.

We started this thing, in part, as a tonic to the self-professed expertise act everyone puts on in the business world. We’re still pretty fed up with people claiming their superiority due to wealth and/or perceived intellectual superiority.

We just like to point out it’s fine to take the piss out of yourself, you know? No need to take yourself so seriously!

But, yes, you might be able to tell we enjoyed The Psychology of Stupidity a great deal.

Obviously, it’s the type of book anyone can sit there and read feeling smug about themselves. If you genuinely are stupid, you’ll sit there thinking, “Haha! Those stupid people! By reading this I have proven I am not stupid!”

If you’re smart, what you’ll take from Marmion’s work (with all of its accomplished contributors) is how stupid we all are, in one way or another. The individuals he consults include:

  • Pascal Engel
  • Eva Drozda-Senkowska
  • Yves-Alexandre Thalmann
  • Brigitte Axelrad
  • Pierre de Senarclens

Some mighty smart people, basically, who’ve been well educated. But have something to do with what they’ve learned, rather than lapsing into pomposity.

Marmion thrusts his blunt sense of humour throughout the work, which we think is kind of needed. It’s like Tiffany Watt Smith’s Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune, you kind of have to approach the subject of stupidity with a sense of humour. It feels apt.

Ultimately, we must end by saying you should read this book if the human condition bothers you.

If you view our experience as a species as a collective exercise, then it’s of the utmost intigue to think, “Why are so many people so stupid?”

We can baffle in the moment. Or, if you’re a Daily Mail* reader, revel in it whilst you laugh at those stupid liberals.

But if there’s one thing clear about humanity it’s that if we want to still be around in a 200 years, reading tabloid newspapers won’t achieve it.

*Tune in tomorrow for our hot topic—Jane’s Jugs! She’s 29, smokin’ hot, and doesn’t know what the Oxford comma is!!


  1. Ah yes, the Dunny-Clogger effect (as a friend of mine calls it). I run into it all the time in my field, mostly at the hands of self-appointed ‘experts’ (mostly on social media) who find some miniscule discrepancy between what they regard as ‘fact’ (a data-point accepted at face value without any concept of critical analysis) and my historiographical analysis, therefore everything I do is faulty: indeed, to them, my 35 years in my own profession, international recognition & awards etc, means I’m so stupid I can’t even figure out which way around to sit on a toilet. I regard this as totally unfair. I mean, you’re meant to hug the cistern aren’t you?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Indeed! It was a difficult post to write here, I had to base on the book. But also not try and sound like I think I’m more intelligent than everyone, as I think humility is so important.

      Oh well. It’s a controversial one, as so few are willing to admit they’re stupid. Welcome to Professional Moron, sah!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Generation Z is sure shaping the future! I don’t want to predict how things will go, but with the passing of the older generations it feels like it’ll be a mixture of higher empathy… merged alongside selfies and the need for Likes.

      I dunno. I’m a Millennial! I just want avocado on toast and lie-ins (apparently).

      Checked your blog – very good! Instant follow. Will be very interesting seeing your sporting psychology insights.

      Liked by 1 person

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