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I Wore the Juice – Unskilled and Unaware of it

On one fine morning in Pittsburgh (PA), on April 19, 1995, a man aged 44, known by the name McArthur Wheeler decided to rob a bank.

Since he thought he knew a lot about a particular chemical property of lemon juice, he decided to smear the juice on his face before executing his plan to rob the bank.

Wheeler knew that lemon juice can be used to write invisible letters that become visible only when the letter is held close to a heat source, he thought, the same thing would work on his face too, then, lemon juice would make his face invisible to cameras. He did not just think that he was pretty confident about this. 

He tested this out before the heists, putting juice on his face and snapping a selfie with a Polaroid camera. The camera did give him a blank image, there was no face in the photo! (Police never figured that out.

Most likely Wheeler was no more competent as a photographer than he was as a bank robber.) Wheeler reported one problem with his scheme. The lemon juice stung his eyes so badly that he could barely see.

The blank image made him absolutely sure that this trick would work; or he would not have ever dared to rob a bank with lemon juice on his face.

That day, he went on and robbed not one, but two saving banks in Pittsburgh. A few hours after he had done his job, the police got their hands on the surveillance tape and decided to play it on the 11 O’Clock news.

An hour later, an informant identified McArthur in the news video and contacted the police with the man’s name.

McArthur got arrested on the same day. Ironically, the same surveillance cameras that he was confident would not be able to capture his face, got him behind the bars.

During his interaction with the police, he was incredulous about how his ignorance had failed him.

At every place, it is a common tendency of the least skilled people to have an inflated sense of self-competence.

Those most lacking in knowledge and skills are least able to appreciate that lack. This observation would eventually become known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Spread the knowledge

Dr. Khalid Abulmajd

Healthcare Quality Consultant

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