The Effect

Knowing how our skills stack up against others is useful in many ways. But research suggests that we’re not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. In fact, we frequently overestimate our own abilities. We judge ourselves as better than others to a degree that violates the laws of math.

We judge ourselves as better than others to a degree that violates the laws of math.

dunning-kruger effect grammar goodkinThe Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that people fail to recognize their own shortcomings because they lack the expertise to see them. To make matters worse, people’s shortcomings can cause them to make many mistakes, and then those exact same shortcomings prevent them from seeing their decisions as mistakes. That means that people’s tendency to overrate themselves and their talents is not necessarily due to their ego.

Poor performers can lack the expertise necessary to notice how badly they’re doing in the first place. People with an intermediate level of skill or experience often have less confidence in their abilities, because they know enough to understand that there is still a lot they don’t know. Experts tend to be aware of how knowledgable they are, but tend to think other people know as much as they do as well.

People with the least ability are often the most likely to overrate their skills to the greatest extent.

dunning-kruger effect programmers goodkin

The Bubble

The Dunning-Kruger effect has had its fair share of coverage in the press. The most historical example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that of tobacco companies obscuring the fact that their product caused lung cancer.

dunning-kruger effect big head goodkinThere is no limit to the reach of the bubble. No industry or social group, intellectual practice or business is exempt from the limbo you could be stuck in if you’re unaware of your deficits and those who are aware don’t tell you.

The most crucial point in overcoming the Dunning-Kruger effect is to communicate with each other. Ask for feedback from others and keep learning. The more you know, the more likely you will be to notice your gaps of skill and expertise.

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