The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

The less we know, the more we overestimate our ability.

The more we know, the more we underestimate our ability.

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Finding Truth

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Self-Perception

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When we are incompetent at something — either a task or a field of knowledge — we, by definition, lack the skills to assess our own ability properly. This can quickly lead us to overestimate our own competence.

In short, we need expertise to recognize how badly we're doing.

In contrast, if we are are really good at something, we tend to believe that others must find it equally easy to learn, understand or do that thing — and hence underestimate our own level of competence.

Additionally, the more we understand about a particular subject, the more we usually see how much we don't understand yet. This makes the 'known unknown' bigger and thus reinforces our underestimation of our competence.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains why people might self-assess their competence at similar levels although they are vastly different in actual competence and knowledge.

Understanding this helps us, among others, navigate through a landscape of opinion and public discussion with more nuance and caution.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

— Confucius

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

— Charles Darwin

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

— William Shakespeare

"If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent ... The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."

— David Dunning

Explore

➞ Here's a 5-min. highly insightful animated video about this important effect.

➞ For a thorough overview of the origins and a few more aspects about this effect, visit the Wikipedia article.

Resources

If this idea resonates with you, some of these resources might add value to your life.

LinkNAMEFormatAuthor
Predictably Irrational
Book
Dan Ariely
Thinking Fast And Slow
Book
Daniel Kahnemann
Factfulness
Book
Hans Rosling
The Sovereign Individual
Book
James Dale Davidson
The Sovereign Individual
Book
James Dale Davidson & Lord William Rees-Mogg
VSI: Thinking & Reasoning
Book
Jonathan Evans
Everything Is Fucked
Book
Mark Manson
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck
Book
Mark Manson
Antifragility
Book
Nassim Taleb
Skin In The Game
Book
Nassim Taleb
Fooled By Randomness
Book
Nassim Taleb
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
Book
Naval Ravikant
Principles
Book
Ray Dalio
59 Seconds - Think A Little Change A Lot
Book
Richard Wiseman
Influence - The Psychology Of Persuasion
Book
Robert B. Cialdini
The Great Mental Models (vol. 2)
Book
Shane Parrish
The Great Mental Models (vol. 1)
Book
Shane Parrish
Enlightenment Now
Book
Steven Pinker
21 Lessons For The 21st Century
Book
Yuval Noah Harari
Complexity Condensed
Blog
Louis Pereira
Mark Manson
Blog
Mark Manson
Paul Graham
Blog
Paul Graham
philhagspiel
Blog
Philipp Hagspiel
Farnam Street
Blog
Shane Parrish
Marginal Revolution
Blog
Tyler Cowen
Vizi Andrei
Blog
Vizi Andrei
Lesswrong
Blog
Edge.org
Blog
Changing Minds
Blog
Untools.co
Blog
Melting Asphalt
Blog
The Systems Thinker
Blog
Modern Wisdom
Podcast
Christ Williamson
You Are Not So Smart
Podcast
David McRaney
The Portal
Podcast
Eric Weinstein
Jolly Swagman Podcast
Podcast
Joe Walker
Lex Fridman Podcast
Podcast
Lex Fridman
The Knowledge Project
Podcast
Shane Parrish
Philosophize This!
Podcast
Stephen West
Your Undivided Attention
Podcast
Tristan Harris
Conversations With Tyler
Podcast
Tyler Cowen
Philosophy For Our Times
Podcast
Hidden Brain
Podcast
Invisibilia
Podcast
Kurzgesagt
YouTube Channel
TED-ed
YouTube Channel
Crash Course: Statistics
YouTube Channel
3Blue1Brown
YouTube Channel
Quanta Magazine
YouTube Channel
Primer
YouTube Channel
Veritasium
YouTube Channel
Talks at Google
YouTube Channel
Vsauce
YouTube Channel
Brilliant.org
Courses
Joscha Bach
Twitter
Jack Butcher
Twitter
philhagspiel
Twitter
Naval Ravikant
Twitter
Paul Graham
Twitter
Vizi Andrei
Instagram