Dunning-Kruger Effect: Illusory Superiority

I have being increasingly concerned about my lack of knowledge, this nagging sense that I’m behind the eight ball and I don’t know how to catch up.  My fears have being allayed by the discovery of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

According to Wiki “In the field of psychology, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias, wherein persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority when they mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater then it is.”

Dunning and Kruger’s research has indicated that incompetent people will:

  • fail to recognise own lack of skill
  • fail to recognise the extent of their inadequacy
  • fail to accurately gauge skills in others
  • recognise and acknowledge their lack of skill only after being exposed to formal training in that skill

Since commencing studying mental health I have being overwhelmed by this gigantic sense of inadequacy, lack of knowledge, lack of experience and more importantly, lack of time to learn due to my 3 little people. Thankfully the Dunning-Kruger effect vindicates me, I’m on the right track. The fact that I am aware of just how much I don’t know and cannot see any similarities between myself and the attributes of an ‘incompetent’ person, puts me in good stead to not be a complete failure at my chosen field.

I do recall once falling under the spell of this effect and ended up  looking like a massive tool. After drinking all afternoon and feeling pretty confident about myself I declared that I could wakeboard really well, I did line up behind the boat and proceeded to sink. Turns out I couldn’t wakeboard. We can all be forgiven for having these lapse in judgement and they’re good for a laugh once in a while, but one would hope that people in really, really important roles, such as President, would strive for knowledge, to know more then think they know! (Hint Hint)

David Dunning ( one of the founders) wrote that “people with severe gaps in knowledge and expertise fail to recognise how little they know and how badly they behave.” Enough said.



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