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In field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias, wherein persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority when they mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than they possess. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude, without such self-awareness they cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence.[1]

As described by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the cognitive bias of illusory superiority results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."[1] Hence, the corollary to the Dunning–Kruger effect indicates that persons of high-ability tend to underestimate their relative competence, and erroneously presume that tasks that are easy for them to perform also are easy for other people to perform.[1]

Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was formulated in 1999, the cognitive bias of illusory superiority has been known throughout history and identified by intellectuals, such as the philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC), who said that “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”;[2] by the playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616) who said “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It, V. i.); [3] by the naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882), who said that “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”;[1] and by the mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who said that “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.”[4]

Contents

Original study

The phenomenon of illusory superiority was identified as a form of cognitive bias (false belief) in the study Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (1999).[1] The identification derived from the cognitive bias evident in the criminal case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks with his face disguised with lemon juice, which he believed would thus be invisible to the surveillance cameras, and so prevent the recording of a clear image of him. Wheeler’s incompetence was based on his misunderstanding the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink.[5]

Other investigations of cognitive dissonance, such as Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence (2003), indicate that much incorrect self-assessment of competence derived from the person's ignorance of the standards of performance of a given activity. The pattern of overestimation of competence appeared in studies of reading comprehension, of the practice of medicine, of motor-vehicle operation, and the playing of games such as chess and tennis;[2] moreover, in Revisiting Why Incompetents Think They’re Awesome (2012), Dunning and Kruger’s research indicates that incompetent people will:

  • Fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • Fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • Fail to accurately gauge skill in others, and
  • Recognize and acknowledge their lack of skill only after being exposed to formal training in that skill.[6]

In Self-insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself (2005), Dunning applied the analogy of the self-awareness deficit to “the anosognosia of everyday life” and identified the cognitive bias by which a disabled person either denies or seems unaware of his or her physical incapacity; “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.”[7][8]

Popular recognition

In 2000, the researchers Justin Kruger and David Dunning were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, in satirical recognition of the scientific work recorded in “their modest report, Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments [1999],” about the cognitive bias of competence by way of illusory superiority.[9]

Sequel studies

Dunning and Kruger tested the hypotheses of the cognitive bias of illusory superiority on the undergraduate students of introductory courses in psychology, by examination of the students’ self-assessments of their intellectual skills in logical reasoning (inductive, deductive, abductive), English grammar, and personal sense of humor. After learning their self-assessment scores, the students were asked to estimate their ranks in the psychology class. The group of competent students underestimated their class ranks, whilst the group of incompetent students overestimated their class ranks; yet the incompetent group did not estimate their class ranks as higher than the ranks estimated by the competent group. Across four studies, the research indicated that the study participants who scored in the bottom quartile on tests of their sense of humor, knowledge of grammar, and logical reasoning, overestimated their test performance and their abilities; despite test scores that placed them in the 12th percentile, the participants estimated they ranked in the 62nd percentile.[1][10]

Moreover, competent students tended to underestimate their own competence, because they erroneously presumed that tasks easy for them to perform also were easy for other people to perform. Incompetent students improved their ability to correctly estimate their class-rank after receiving minimal tutoring in the skills they previously lacked, regardless of any objective improvement gained in said skills of perception.[1] In that vein, the study Mind-Reading and Metacognition: Narcissism, not Actual Competence, Predicts Self-estimated Ability (2004) extended the cognitive-bias premise of illusory superiority to test the subjects’ emotional sensitivity towards other people and their perceptions of other people.[11]

The study How Chronic Self-Views Influence (and Potentially Mislead) Estimates of Performance (2003) indicated a shift in the participants’ self-view of themselves when influenced by external cues. The participants’ knowledge of geography was tested; some tests were intended to positively affect the participant’s self-view, and some tests were intended to negatively affect the participant's self-view The participants then were asked to rate their performances; the participants given tests with a positive intent reported better performance than did the participants given tests with a negative intent.[12]

To test Dunning and Kruger’s hypotheses, “that people, at all performance levels, are equally poor at estimating their relative performance”, the study Skilled or Unskilled, but Still Unaware of It: How Perceptions of Difficulty Drive Miscalibration in Relative Comparisons (2006) investigated three studies that manipulated the “perceived difficulty of the tasks, and, hence, [the] participants’ beliefs about their relative standing.” The investigation indicated that when the experimental subjects were presented with moderately difficult tasks, there was little variation among the best performers and the worst performers in their ability to accurately predict their performance. That with more difficult tasks, the best performers were less accurate in predicting their performance than were the worst performers. Therefore, judges at all levels of skill are subject to similar degrees of error in the performance of tasks.[13]

In testing alternative explanations for the cognitive bias of illusory superiority, the study Why the Unskilled are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-insight Among the Incompetent (2008) reached the same conclusions as previous studies of the Dunning–Kruger effect. That, in contrast to high performers, “poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve.”[4]

Cultural difference in self-perception

Studies on the Dunning–Kruger effect tend to focus on American test subjects. A number of studies on East Asian subjects suggest that different social forces are at play in different cultures. For example, East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and to get along with others.[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David (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 10.1.1.64.2655 . doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121. PMID 10626367. 
  2. ^ a b Dunning, David; Johnson, Kerri; Ehrlinger, Joyce; Kruger, Justin (2003). "Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence" (abstract). Current Directions in Psychological Science. 12 (3): 83–87. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.01235. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Fuller, Geraint (2011). "Ignorant of Ignorance?". Practical Neurology. 11 (6): 365. doi:10.1136/practneurol-2011-000117. PMID 22100949. 
  4. ^ a b Ehrlinger, Joyce; Johnson, Kerri; Banner, Matthew; Dunning, David; Kruger, Justin (2008). "Why the Unskilled are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-insight Among the Incompetent". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 105 (1): 98–121. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2007.05.002. PMC 2702783 . PMID 19568317. 
  5. ^ "Why Losers Have Delusions of Grandeur". New York Post. 23 May 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Lee, Chris (25 May 2012). "Revisiting Why Incompetents Think They're Awesome". Arstechnica.com. p. 3. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Morris, Errol (20 June 2010). "The Anosognosic's Dilemma: Something's Wrong but You'll Never Know What It Is (Part 1)". New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  8. ^ Dunning, David (2005). Self-insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. Psychology Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 1-84169-074-0. 
  9. ^ "Ig Nobel Past Winners". Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  10. ^ What the Dunning-Kruger effect Is and Isn’t
  11. ^ Ames, Daniel R.; Kammrath, Lara K. (September 2004). "Mind-Reading and Metacognition: Narcissism, not Actual Competence, Predicts Self-Estimated Ability" (PDF). Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 28 (3): 187–209. doi:10.1023/B:JONB.0000039649.20015.0e. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Ehrlinger, Joyce; Dunning, David (January 2003). "How Chronic Self-Views Influence (and Potentially Mislead) Estimates of Performance". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association. 84 (1): 5–17. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.1.5. PMID 12518967. 
  13. ^ Burson, K.; Larrick, R.; Klayman, J. (2006). "Skilled or Unskilled, but Still Unaware of It: How Perceptions of Difficulty Drive Miscalibration in Relative Comparisons". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 90 (1): 5. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.60. hdl:2027.42/39168. PMID 16448310. 
  14. ^ DeAngelis, Tori (Feb 2003). "Why We Overestimate Our Competence". Monitor on Psychology. American Psychological Association. 34 (2): 60. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 

Further reading

  • Dunning, David (27 October 2014). "We Are All Confident Idiots". Pacific Standard. Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. Retrieved 28 October 2014.