The Dunning-Kruger Effect


This explains a lot.

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the phenomenon whereby people who don’t know anything about something think they know more than those who do. The peculiar part is that those who lack the expertise are often far more confident and forceful when they discuss the issue than those who are knowledgeable.

This is because those who are knowledgeable know enough to know what they don’t know, whereas the pseudo-experts do not. The effect ends up being that the idiots with only partial knowledge come off as forceful and confident, while those who are more educated end up hesitating and appearing less versed on the topic.

Here are some main findings:

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.

  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.

  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.

  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

So the question for all of us is simple: how often have we been this guy? How many people do we know who are still this guy? And how do we avoid being this guy in the future? It’s definitely an issue for someone like me since my whole thing is quickly building (and sharing with others) models for understanding complex topics.

It’s also good info to have when observing two people in a debate. Is the “weaker” person really less knowledgeable, or is he simply less confident because he’s careful and humble?


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