Briones: Cognitive bias

WASN’T it just recently that the Philippines found itself on the third spot of “most ignorant” countries due to inaccurate perceptions on key issues?

At least, that’s what the Ipsos Perils of Perception report, which was released last December, said.

And get this, despite giving inaccurate statistics on topics ranging from murder to terrorism, respondents from the Philippines were among the most confident about their answers.

According to Aya Tantiangco of GMA News, the field of psychology has a term for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

She said that it’s “a cognitive bias or a ‘mistake in reasoning’ wherein people misjudge the level of their knowledge or skills.”

I think she was just trying to be nice. The Macmillan Dictionary didn’t mince words, and defines it as “the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own competence.” More competent people, it said, acknowledge their limitations and might play down their expertise.


The reason I’m raking this up is because of the Philippine government’s reaction to the discovery of Joanna Daniela Demafelis’s body inside the freezer of her employers in Kuwait.

Don’t get me wrong. Demafelis’s death was a tragedy, even more so considering that there’s an investigation on seven Filipino household workers who were also killed there.

But I think President Duterte may have overreacted, although the figures he revealed were disturbing.

In 2016, he said, 82 Filipino workers died in that Middle East country with the number jumping to 103 last year.

However, it’s important to note that the President did not specify how they died.

Also, of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were killed in the tiny emirate, he did not say how many were employed by Kuwaitis.

Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people, as of 2016, with expatriates accounting for 70 percent, or 2.9 million (Wikipedia).

Filipinos workers number more than 252,000, of which nearly 11,000 are in the country illegally or not properly authorized. Majority of them, or 80 percent, are domestic workers, according to Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa.

Demafelis’s employers were a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife who fled the country after they were wanted for writing bad checks.

Kuwait reportedly expressed outrage over Demafelis’s death, and vowed to do everything it could to render justice.

Yet despite this, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippine government held Kuwait responsible for “horrendous crimes under state responsibility.”

Last Feb. 12, an administrative order completely banning the deployment of workers to Kuwait was signed.

“In pursuit of national interest, a total ban on deployment of all OFWs to Kuwait pursuant to the directive of the President is hereby enforced. Order takes effect immediately,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told a media briefing.

Even though the Kuwaiti government condemned the ban, calling it “an unnecessary escalation of a diplomatic rift,” it agreed to sign an agreement to regulate working conditions in the Gulf state.

Well, what do you know? Apparently, it takes “cognitive bias” to get an assurance from the Kuwaiti government that it would protect Filipino citizens living in its midst.
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