What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

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The Dunning-Kruger effect refers to the phenomena where people of low ability have a higher self-perception of their abilities than those of high ability. This has been reproduced in laboratory sessions time after time. Human self-assessments are highly flawed.

And this effect has massive social implications: confidence matters in all spheres of life, including job interviews, running for office, and dating. Humans tend to naturally follow the most confident among us - to our great detriment.

Why Does the Dunning-Kruger Effect Happen?

Dunning-Kruger: The more you know, the more you realize there is to know.
Dunning-Kruger: The more you know, the more you realize there is to know.

The most interesting aspect about the Dunning-Kruger effect is why it crops up. People with low ability do not know what they do not know.

The more knowledge we gain, the more we understand the uncertainty involved in learning... and lose our sense of confidence.Therefore, the only people who retain a large amount of confidence in the face of uncertainty are those who know the least about the topic.

Dunning-Kruger and its Effects on Self-Assessments

Why do we hold on to our false self assessments?

There are a lot of forces at work to encourage positive esteem in our skills and abilities. Traits such as driving skill (or sense of humor, compassion, etc.) are some great examples. Everybody is an above average driver. Those of us who are bad drivers do not have the ability to discern what makes a bad driver.

The more you learn about a subject or a talent, the more you realize the difficulty of the topic - the rabbit hole gets deeper. Very often, the most knowledgeable people in a subject will be the first to recognize their uncertainty with the data. Skilled practitioners recognize their tenuous grasp on evolving knowledge.

Why bother with caveats when you can state something authoritatively? Why consider nuance when you can cut to the chase?

Signaling Effect and Interviewing

We present many signals when interviewing for a job or date or meeting or trip or... well, any social interaction.

From the way we dress to the words we choose, we constantly send subtle signals that reveal parts of our past and background. Onereason we do this is simply to save time. We make many snap judgements about others on a day to day basis, and they are making similar judgements about us

Think of the interview process. Often, top candidates will lose confidence because they've seen somebody who can sell their own skills in a better way.

The root of the word conman is confidence. When thinking about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, you'll want to really evaluate whether the person you're interacting with is an expert... or just a confident beginner. Confidence isn't neccessarily evidence of skill.

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

Bertrand Russell

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