The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Posted: June 26, 2015 in Reality Check
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One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision

—- Bertrand Russel

Apparently in the year 1999, psychologists Mr. David Dunning and his student Mr. Justin Kruger published a paper donning a theory that came to be known as Dunning-Kruger effect.

This theory speaks about how an incompetent or an ignorant person thinks that he is brilliant but competent or smart person would underestimate himself. It is a kind of deviation in judgement where a skilled person assumes that things they find easy are also easy for others and the unskilled are so incompetent that they can’t recognize their own dumbness. Let’s not be myopic here. This theory applies to everyone as no one is totally perfect or self sufficient and each one of us is incompetent over one thing or the other.

In one of the discussions about the theory, Mr. Dunning explains that incompetent people do not, rather cannot recognize just how incompetent they are. He further explains that, “What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.” This effect is primarily a situation where a competent suffers from illusory inferiority whereas the incompetent suffer from illusory superiority. We have come towards a time where the ones who feel certainty are idiots whereas those with imagination and understanding are filled with doubts and indecision.

This reminds me of what Charles Darwin said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”. This theory can have many arguments but we cannot rubbish it too. When I read about this theory today and narrated it to my dad, he said, that’s so true, the one without any skill would have nothing to worry and boast incessantly whereas the skilled one is marred with a lot of what ifs and options that makes him all confused and indecisive. The only wisdom here is to know that we know nothing as Socrates says and be aware that there is much of knowledge yet to be known.

As Dunning and Kruger concludes, “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”



  1. Hummingwords says:

    interesting! fools have a certain confidence..I have seen it. Thanks for sharing!

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