The BIG idea

Killer jingle ... <em>Dumb Ways to Die</em>.

Killer jingle ... Dumb Ways to Die.

Warning: it has a killer jingle that will stick in your head. Dumb Ways to Die, a message about safety on Melbourne's Metro trains, was the surprise viral video of 2012, with 36 million YouTube hits since mid-November.

The ad agency that created it may have found inspiration in the Darwin Awards, which honour with irony those who do the rest of us a favour by removing themselves from the gene pool with acts of (literally) breathtaking stupidity.

It probably figures that two of four Australian entries in the most recent Darwin Awards happened during January silly seasons. Both involved stormwater drains and both survived.

Talkback radio and internet forums provide ample support for Darwin's assertion that ''ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge'', but two Cornell University researchers, Justin Kruger and David Dunning, set out to prove it anyway.

In a famous 1999 study written as Unskilled and Unaware of It, they tested students against their own self-assessments in logical reasoning, grammatical English use and humour. They found those unskilled in particular domains ''not only … reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realise it''. As a result, cocksure ignorance is now referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect in certain circles.

Watch Dumb Ways to Die
darwinawards.com
The Dunning-Kruger article