You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know – The Dunning-Kruger Effect

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know – The Dunning-Kruger Effect

We Don't Know

You know those people who are spectacularly incompetent but smugly go about their business thinking they’re the best?

Everyone knows someone like that.

Often it’s the people we work with, or the people we work for.

And 99% of politicians.

In my experience it’s been nearly every boss I’ve had – but maybe that’s just me.

These people are woefully inept but are under the impression they’re better than the average person. In fact, the worse they are, the more they think they’re superior to those around them.

I may be just unlucky but I’ve encountered more than my fair share of these people in my life.

It seems every second person is afflicted with this condition, and it has a name – The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, New York. They wrote the Ig Nobel Prize winning, Unskilled and Unaware of It in 1999. The focus was not so much on intelligence, but on competence.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias that shows below average people overrate their ability, while above average people underrate it.

The truly competent tend to overestimate the skill levels of others, while underestimating their own. Also known as Imposter Syndrome, prevalent in high-achieving women, who think everyone else must be as good as they are, or better.

What does that say about society and the way we raise girls?

Those with Dunning-Kruger Effect overvalue their own skills and abilities and lack the capacity to realise it.

In other words, they are too incompetent to recognise their own incompetence.

Or, those who don’t know are unaware that they don’t know.

I think most of us don’t know what we don’t know, it’s just that some of us know less than others, and don’t know it.


People who lack skill don’t know they lack skill, and fail to recognise skill in others. They think they’re good and everyone else is inferior.

They don’t learn from their mistakes.

Highly skilled people think everyone else is just as adept as they are, if not more, so they are inclined to undervalue their own skills.

They don’t think they’re anything special.

I know which sort of person I’d rather spend time with.

So, if you think you’re really good at something, perhaps you are, but then again …

And if you feel that other people are always better than you and you don’t measure up, well, there’s a good chance you’re a lot better than you think you are.




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