Why incompetent people think they are wonderful

Have you ever felt that you lacked the confidence to act in a particular situation in which you are an expert?

Well then. Real competence in something can weaken your self-confidence and, in other words, very capable people may suffer from illusory inferiority, understanding that they are not so capable. This is what psychology calls the imposter syndrome.

But today, in this article, I want to talk specifically about another phenomenon called the illusory superiority effect or also called the Dunning Kruger effect.

Shall we understand that?

In 1999, two researchers at Cornell University, named Justin Kruger and David Dunning presented some studies proposing that, in relation to a certain skill, people tend to:

  • Fail to recognize your own lack of skill;
  • Fail to recognize genuine skills in other people;
  • Fail to recognize the extent of your own incompetence;
  • Recognize and admit their own lack of skill after they are trained for that skill.

What does this mean in practice?

It means that, on average, the more a person is ignorant, the more he will think he knows something. And it can affect us at any time!

Otherwise, the more a person knows something, the more he tends to think he lacks some knowledge.

This reminded me of the philosopher Socrates. The story is told that the oracle considered him the most intelligent man for saying that only he knew what he  did not know.

Returning to Dunning and Kruger, they tested their hypotheses in a study at Cornel, where students were asked to self-assess some skills. Soon after, they were asked to examine their notes in relation to the group’s notes.

At this point the most competent group in each skill estimated their level correctly, while the group that was incompetent in the skill overestimated their level.

Do you know anyone who manifests this illusory superiority effect?

See that it is not uncommon to see people like that. For example, we can see those people who only read the headlines of the reports on social networks, websites and on Whatsapp and come out stating their opinions and ideas vehemently.

This made me think of the political polarization in which we live in Brazil. Could it be that one of the reasons for this polarization cannot be precisely the Dunning Kruger effect?

We noticed that people in general are not interested in going deeper into the issues. The reason for this, I suppose, would be:

  • Information overload(  logical memory overload);
  • Lack of time (Or lack of organization of time);
  • Speed ​​of information;

But they are personal assumptions. I think that each of these things can contribute more or less depending on the context in which the person is.

The bottom line is that the Dunning Kruger effect seems to have worse than good results for people.

Worst of all, as this article says,  an ignorant mind is not empty, but full of preconceived ideas, experiences, facts, intuitions, biases and premonitions, as well as concepts that we import from other areas of knowledge. With all this, we build stories and theories that give us the impression of being a reliable knowledge (about this, see this article here).

According to a 2012 study, 23% of North American respondents who had recently declared themselves bankrupt gave themselves the top score in financial literacy.

In terms of education, if we have more and more people with a shallow knowledge about something and more and more reading only the headlines of the reports, videos etc., we will increasingly have potentially more social inequality and more polarization.

It seems that the logical path is quality education to generate an increasingly healthy reflection on people and future generations.

In 2000 Dunning and Kruger were awarded the igNobel Prize   in Psychology, recognizing their scientific merit.

Did you like this text? You can see that the Dunning Kruger effect is present in the context of our daily lives and we can even manifest it at some point. The point is to fight it.