The Dunning-Kruger Effect

This morning while listening to Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, I was brought back to my days as a Sociology Minor in college. Dax was interviewing Chris Hardwick (podcast host, author, all-around awesome guy) and they ended up speaking about the “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” which is a concept/study I’ve always found interesting. 

Here is that podcast, should you be interested in listening (which you definitely should be):

So what is the Dunning-Kruger Effect? To put it as simply as I can (in summary of both all of the sources below and my personal experiences): second-guessing the things you know well vs. loudly proclaiming things you don’t know much about. You’re probably thinking, “Allison, that is so dumb I never do that.” Here we already go with you proclaiming things you don’t know anything about 😜.

Dunning & Kruger used real study methods to talk about this, but let’s start off with one of my favorite examples: people being interviewed about bands at Coachella (the music festival) that don’t actually exist. I’ve seen this referenced many times in my perusing of this topic, rightly so, because it just seems to fit. You just so desperately want to fit in and see that you’re on par with the people around you. We laugh, but I think about the number of times I’ve nodded along while people are talking about a movie I’ve never seen (to not seem like “that girl” who hasn’t seen the movie) or started on a soapbox in front of someone who actually knew what they were talking about (to sound like I too am informed). I don’t even get on a soapbox for things I do know and care about. *Ding!*

When Dunning & Kruger apply this to business applications, you see explanations for how people are so vastly unaware of their strengths and weaknesses (both on the job and not). There seems to be some sort of blind spot that we have that stops us from being able to accurately see many of our weaknesses – only when we are able to see them will we be able to work on them. In the Forbes article, they quote Dunning from their original study saying, “the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task.” Burn.

The quote (also Mentioned on Shepard’s podcast) that really made me decide to do this blog post is as follows:

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” ― Charles Bukowski

Who do you think of that can be described as a person who doesn’t speak a lot but always makes what they do say meaningful? Or what about the person you know who blurts out an answer without a filter? I’d like to say I’m either the former or fall in the middle, but I’m sure it isn’t that clear-cut.

In their study, they saw that the people who scored poorly in their various tests (humor, grammar, logic) guessed that they were at the top. Much like the fact that we can’t all be above average, I rarely hear people judge their successes as “average” unless they’re really trying to be modest. We’d eye roll alongside the valedictorian when they “absolutely failed that test, Allison, there is no way I’ll pass this class,” or cringe when we would see someone try to talk their way out of holes they don’t even have a shovel for. 

While this all seems to be human nature to some degree, I believe that we can all do with the self-awareness to work toward getting a little better at our weaknesses and finding people that can come alongside us and hand us a shovel.

Have you heard of this study?

Here are a few more great places to read about this topic (& are also my citations):

Here are some other cool videos I enjoyed and references:

Do you have something interesting we should talk about next week? Let me know in the comments below!

*Again, please note: I’m not a scientist, psychologist, or am I pretending to be. If there is a concept that I explained incorrectly, or you have another interpretation, please let me know in the comments below! 


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