David Dunning

David Alan Dunning is an American social psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.[1] He is a retired professor of psychology at Cornell University.[2]

David Dunning
EducationMichigan State University (BA)
Stanford University (PhD)
OccupationPsychologist, professor
Known forDunning-Kruger effect
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
ThesisSituational construal and sources of social judgment (1986)
Doctoral advisorLee Ross
Doctoral studentsEmily Balcetis


Dunning received his B.A. from Michigan State University in 1982 and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1986, both in psychology.[1][3]


Dunning has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and commentaries. He is well known for co-authoring a 1999 study[4] with Justin Kruger, now of the Stern School of Business.[5] This study showed that people who performed the lowest at certain tasks, such as judging humor, grammar, and logic, significantly overestimated how good they were at these tasks. This study has since given rise to what is known as the Dunning–Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.[6] The study also found that people who performed slightly above average at identifying how funny a given joke was tended to be the most accurate at assessing how good they were at the assigned tasks, and that those who performed the best tended to think they performed only slightly above average.[7] In 2012, Dunning told Ars Technica that he "thought the paper would never be published" and that he was "struck just with how long and how much this idea has gone viral in so many areas."[6]


Dunning is the executive officer of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. He has also served as an associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.[2]


  1. ^ a b "David Dunning". University of Michigan. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  2. ^ a b "David Dunning". Cornell University Institute for the Social Sciences. Retrieved 25 May 2016.[dead link]
  3. ^ Dunning, David Alan (1986). Situational construal and sources of social judgment (Ph.D. thesis). Stanford University.
  4. ^ Kruger, J; Dunning, D (December 1999). "Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 77 (6): 1121–34. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121. PMID 10626367.
  5. ^ Abrahams, Marc (December 2005). "Those Who Can't, Don't Know It". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b Lee, Chris (25 May 2012). "Revisiting why incompetents think they're awesome". Ars Technica. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  7. ^ Stafford, Tom (25 November 2013). "The more inept you are the smarter you think you are". BBC Future. Retrieved 25 May 2016.