Categorized | Social biases

The Dunning–Kruger effect

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and arrives at erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the perverse situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, 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.”

The Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. Similar notions have been expressed–albeit less scientifically–for some time. Dunning and Kruger themselves quote Charles Darwin (“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”) and Bertrand Russell (“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.”). The Dunning-Kruger effect is not, however, concerned narrowly with high-order cognitive skills (much less their application in the political realm during a particular era, which is what Russell was talking about.) Nor is it specifically limited to the observation that ignorance of a topic is conducive to overconfident assertions about it, which is what Darwin was saying. Indeed, Dunning et al. cite a study saying that 94% of college professors rank their work as “above average” (relative to their peers), to underscore that the highly intelligent and informed are hardly exempt. Rather, the effect is about paradoxical defects in perception of skill, in oneself and others, regardless of the particular skill and its intellectual demands, whether it is chess, playing golf or driving a car.

4 Responses to “The Dunning–Kruger effect”

  1. Beth says:

    I don’t have a website, I came across this when looking for something else, but-it came up in response to what I was looking for and was extremely interesting and I thought, explained so much especially considering today’s political situation. In my humble opinion, it appears to me that there are more than too many Presidential contenders who fall under the first part of the definition, those who have too much confidence in knowledge they do not possess, or in the conclusions they have been able to come to given the information put to them. No matter that those conclusions are wrong.
    Unfortunately I have a cousin who suffers from this. He delights is sending me the usual ‘radical’ right wing material that has almost always been proven to be false a long time ago and yet these people still pass it along and he gets it and passes it on to me. When I try to show him how wrong it it, show him the website that have debunked the information given, done everything I can to show him how wrong that e-mail is, I get nothing back from him. No, ‘oh, I didn’t realize that’, or anything like that. months will go but then I get another on. I finally had to insist that he stop sending me political e-mails. If he wanted to update me on his family I would love to hear about that, if he wanted to send me a non-political joke I’d love to see it. But it took a while, but finally he stopped. But that meant I no longer hear from him at all. I guess all he wanted to do was to ‘inform’ me of how ignorant I was concerning the abomination that was our President. Of course I disagreed and let him know, but he was so well informed on that fact that I didn’t know what I was talking about (sarcasm)
    I’m so glad that I found this description. I don’t care whether it is an ‘official diagnosis’, or simple a well thought out, logical way to describe some of the cognitive dissonance that appears in out political discourse in this new decade… I hope this might be of some help in your research. Or feel free to delete as unimportant.


  1. […] ^^Misc. website that might be exaggerating, but is interesting anyway […]

  2. […] did in a heartbeat, driving intelligent parents nuts. There is a reason for this. It’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect, based on a detailed study by the authors. (Summary: If smart people know they’re smart, why […]

  3. […] is an actual disorder called The Dunning–Kruger effect "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor […]

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