Tag: Dunning-Kruger

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

When someone overestimates their skillset or knowledge in a specific subject, this is a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. People who fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect often lack the self-awareness to be able to see their own errors or be able to fix them.

For example, an amateur chess player with little experience might assume that they’ll beat out the more experienced competition in their chess tournament.

Or, a college student might claim that they’re going to do well on an upcoming math test and don’t need to study even though they’ve been earning D’s and F’s all semester.

These are both examples of how the Dunning-Kruger effect can play out, but here’s a deeper look at the history behind the Dunning-Kruger effect, what causes it, and how you can avoid falling prey to it.

The origins of the Dunning-Kruger effect come from two psychologists from Cornell University, David Dunning and Justin Kruger

The Origins of the Dunning-Kruger Effect

The origins of the Dunning-Kruger effect come from two psychologists from Cornell University, David Dunning and Justin Kruger. In their 1999 research paper, Dunning and Kruger conducted four different studies where they tested participants on logic, sense of humor, and even grammatical skills.

What they found is that people in the bottom percentiles in these areas often rated themselves far higher than they actually were  – and they lacked the self-awareness to see their mistakes or errors. In one of their experiments, Dunning and Kruger asked sixty-five different participants to rate how objectively funny they found certain jokes to be.

Not only were some of the participants poor at rating how humorous these jokes were, but these same participants claimed to have excellent senses of humor. Dunning and Kruger found that people who were incompetent didn’t just perform poorly  – they were also often unable to accurately judge the quality of their work.

From their research, the psychologists dubbed the phenomenon as the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s been a popular theory in the psychology field ever since.

What Causes the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect is all too widespread  – there’s a good chance you’ve encountered it among friends, co-workers, family, or even yourself at some point. However, the cause of the Dunning-Kruger effect isn’t quite so obvious  – Dunning and Kruger believe that it stems from a “dual burden.”

The same incompetence that makes someone perform poorly at a task is the same incompetence that makes it difficult for them to see their errors. Dunning’s theory is that the knowledge someone needs to be good at a task is the same knowledge that someone needs for self-awareness  – which is why so many people are unable to tell how poorly they’re performing.

Here are some other contributing factors that lead to the Dunning-Kruger effect:

  • Too much overconfidence: With many people experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect, they may know a little bit about the subject they’re performing poorly in, which leads to overconfidence. Even though they’re ignorant, the knowledge they do have is enough to make them believe they’re an expert. Think of a medical student who’s completed their first semester, and now believes they’re able to diagnose everyone.
  • Lack of metacognition: Lack of metacognition can play a big role in who experiences the Dunning-Kruger effect. Metacognition is the ability to analyze your own behavior through a more objective perspective. Victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect lack this skill set  – they’re usually lacking the self-awareness to form a realistic perspective about their own abilities.

Whether a little bit of knowledge breeds a lot of confidence or they’re just lacking in self-awareness, the Dunning-Kruger effect can be far too common.

Imposter syndrome is the opposite of Dunning-Kruger effect

What is the Opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

While the Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when people overestimate their abilities, the phenomenon’s opposite would be imposter syndrome. People suffering from imposter syndrome tend to underestimate their abilities or feel that they don’t deserve their success. People with imposter syndrome feel like just that  – imposters.

People dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect may have too much confidence, but anyone with imposter syndrome may be plagued with self-doubt or feel like a fraud.

Who Does the Dunning-Kruger Effect Impact?

Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect can impact anyone, although some people may experience it more often than others. Regardless of how skilled or knowledgeable you are, everyone has subjects that they’re ignorant about. You might be a math whiz, but you could end up experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect with your artistic abilities.

In fact, highly-intelligent people may be susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect because they believe their intelligence in one area is transferable to another. Just because someone makes a brilliant scientist doesn’t mean they’re going to be an amazing writer.

Nobody is immune to the phenomenon, and if you examine the actions of yourself and the people around you, you may find that you’ve experienced the Dunning-Kruger effect with quite a bit of regularity. Maybe you picked up a new hobby and after a couple of tutorial videos, you think you’re an expert.

Interestingly enough, Dunning and Kruger found that people who are genuine experts in a specific field tend to underestimate their abilities. A famous author who’s been published may think their writing has room for improvement, but someone else with no writing background might believe they’re the next Hemingway.

How Do You Know if You Have the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Since the Dunning-Kruger effect is all about self-awareness, it’s no surprise that people tend to have a hard time recognizing when they’re dealing with the phenomenon.

One thing that may indicate that you’re dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect is if you’re experiencing the same criticisms from different people in your life. For instance, maybe you think that you can’t get any better at art, but you continuously get C’s in the subject and all your art teachers have the same criticisms. You could be dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect in that area.

Take a look at the parts of your life or the subjects that you’re 100% confident in  – do you have the background or the practice to back up your expertise, and do other people view you as an expert too? For instance, if you’ve taken one psychology class and think you’re ready to be a therapist, you may be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

However, if you’ve finished all your schooling and you’re a licensed therapist, it’s reasonable to assume you’re an expert since you’ve got the background to back it up.

How to Fix the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Avoid it in the Future

Everyone may be a little susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect, but there are steps you can take to help stop it from happening in the future:

  • Don’t stop learning or practicing: In their studies, Dunning and Kruger found that as practice and knowledge of the subject increased, the participant’s confidence decreased to a reasonable level. The more knowledge you gain from a subject, the more you’re likely to realize that you’ve still got a lot left to learn. Even on subjects where you may have the background to consider yourself an expert, it’s always important to never stop learning or honing your skill set.
  • Don’t stop asking yourself questions: Part of true growth and learning is challenging your beliefs. While it may seem comfortable to only look at sources or information that confirms what you already know during the learning process (also known as confirmation bias), it can also stunt your growth.
  • Get feedback from other people: People suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect often have a hard time taking or believing criticism from other people. Constructive criticism may not feel great to hear, but it’s also a great way to help recognize your weaknesses in a subject too. It can also give you a good idea of how others accurately perceive your abilities.

You may still deal with the Dunning-Kruger effect from time to time, but by practicing, asking questions that challenge what you already know, and getting feedback about your abilities from other people, you’re more likely to avoid it.

Final Thoughts

While the Dunning-Kruger effect has only been around as a psychological phenomena for about two decades, it does hold a lot of weight  – and it’s something that you’re likely to encounter in the people around you (or yourself). Whether it’s a college student that believes they deserved a better score or someone thinking they’re an expert on a new hobby they just picked up, nobody is completely immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Continuously practicing and getting feedback from others can help you recognize your own weaknesses and what you need to grow or improve on.

X Common Biases That Affect How We Make Everyday Decisions

10 Common Biases That Affect How We Make Everyday Decisions

Cognitive biases affect virtually everything in our day-to-day lives. This isn’t necessarily an inherently bad thing, either. Human beings naturally have biases as a way of making decisions that feel safe and right. The non-so-good aspect of this is that sometimes, the biases we hold might lead to bad decisions or at the very least decisions that are not healthy or fair. Luckily, biases are not set in stone. In fact, when one understands a bias that they might have, one can learn to combat that bias and think more critically.

We make thousands of decisions each and every day. Factors like our environment, lived experiences, upbringing, and emotions heavily influence our ability to make decisions. Some of those decisions are very benign, while others are very important. In order to make the healthiest and most informed decisions, it helps to recognize the kinds of biases that one might have. In this guide, we’ll break down ten common biases that affect how everyone makes their everyday decisions, so you can learn and improve your mental health.

10 Common Biases That Affect How We Make Everyday Decisions

Most people will be able to identify with these very common biases, but some of these biases might just surprise you!

The Bandwagon Effect Bias

This bias involves believing or even performing an action based on the fact that the people around you are also doing or believing the same thing. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and the behavior of the heard is determined by our perception of majority thought. When we look at positive or affirming indications from online reviews, it might seem like purchasing an item is a good idea because everyone else is doing this. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the wisest decision to make. Try to think critically and avoid relying heavily on the opinions of your peers. Rather, look at the facts and measure all the factors involved. The herd isn’t always right.

The Anchoring Effect

The Anchoring Effect involves focusing a little too much on the first bit of information you are given when making a decision. For example: You’re negotiating the cost of a product and are happy when you are able to purchase that product for the negotiated discount of $5. However, the product may not be worth what you paid for it and may not even be something you really wanted. This can be quite an issue when purchasing small or very large things. You can tackle this bias by taking a step back to think is the price is actually a good price, or if you are perceiving the value of the product incorrectly.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is one that we’ve all seen before– and sometimes even have fallen victim to. This bias involves the overestimation and underestimation of one’s abilities. For example: A dad with absolutely no plumbing skills is confident he can fix an extremely complex leak. A skilled biologist makes a discovery but wonders if they were wrong due to a lack of perception of their own skills.

You should not make decisions based on your assessment of your own skills, as it can be easy to overestimate and underestimate your abilities. A person with limited abilities may tap into their ego and think they are more qualified than they are. Likewise, a person with significant competence should avoid the urge to overprocess and overthink their skill-based decisions.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy Bias

We invest our energy into a lot of things, even things that do not reward us. The Sunk Cost Fallacy involves the refusal to abandon a thought or investment that is not rewarding or possibly even damaging simply because we have invested a lot of time, thought, energy, effort, or even money into it. If you’ve ever sat through a bad movie simply because you’ve already put an hour into it, you’ve fallen victim to this fallacy. To battle this bias, remind yourself to remove your emotional investment from the choice you are making. This way, you’ll be able to more effectively rationalize your lost time or money in order to sever your ties.

Optimism and Pessimism Bias

Human beings have the annoying tendency to overestimate how likely a positive outcome will occur, especially if we’re in a good mood. We also have the tendency to overestimate the negative outcome of an event if we are not happy or in a bad mood. Optimism and pessimism inform a lot of our decisions in the moment. If you are making a particularly important decision, this tried-and-true phrase is great advice: “Sleep on it!” Wait until you are in a different mood or have had time to think the decision through, so your predictions are not overly positive or negative.

The Framing Effect Bias

The Framing Effect is a common bias that involves drawing a number of different conclusions about something, based on the different ways the exact same data is presented. For example, a friend might tell you that George isn’t a nice person because he isn’t very nice to his mother. That information, presented in that way, may not be enough to sway you on George’s character. However, another friend might present that same information but with more convincing language and details, thus swaying you. This is a tactic used in politics and media quite a bit. In other ways, the framing effect can be an excellent way to make more informed decisions based on an approach that is easier for one to understand. Regardless, listen to all of the data offered to you and really try to pick apart its true meaning.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias involves the (usually unconscious) act of looking for information that confirms your deeply-held beliefs and making that information a priority over different information that can prove you wrong. Think of it as approaching a challenging view as automatically wrong because you already have information (whether true or not) that confirms what you want to hear. You can deal with this bias by looking at your deeply held beliefs and doing the kind of research that one would do to prove YOU wrong. Is there actually a lot of information out there that doesn’t align with your beliefs? By overcoming confirmation bias, you will be able to make decisions that are significantly more informed and open yourself up to new perspectives.


Reactance is the need to do the opposite of what someone requests. This is deeply rooted in the idea that we view certain things as a violation of our freedom of choice and thus reject it entirely. Many people have this bias towards corporate marketing and advertising, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, reactance can be rooted in other psychological roadblocks that can keep one from making an informed decision. If you are offered information that does not align with your existing understanding of the subject, ask yourself this: Are you resistant to this new information because you know it to be wrong, or because your ego does not want to admit that you were wrong or incorrectly informed?

Self-Serving Bias

We’ve all been there. “My professor hates me, that’s why he failed me out of the class.” “This person is only mad at me because they’re jealous.” The tendency to be self-serving in our opinions is rooted in our egos. Nobody wants to be wrong or admit they were not right. Just as well, we tend to assign our successes to our own ability and shine in the light of our “goodness.” When something objectively bad or good happens and your knee-jerk reaction is to award yourself or blame others, revisit the timeline of your actions and the actions of the person or situation you are blaming it on.

Hindsight Bias

After something occurs, especially something negative, it is common to think that you could have predicted the occurrence after it happened. For particularly ridiculous situations, you might kick yourself for not noticing how obvious the outcome will be. You might even convince yourself that you have incorrectly remembered a prediction made before the occurrence in order to confirm your hindsight bias. Fight this bias by reminding yourself of the odds: Could you REALLY be sure that a person you deeply trusted would run away with the money you lent them? Sometimes hindsight bias can be accurate. But more often than not, it is the result of us kicking ourselves for making a choice that turned sour.

How was our guide to ten of the most common biases human beings make on an everyday basis? Tell us which bias surprised you personally in the comments section below!

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