Confident in themselves and their abilities no matter what – that’s how you can briefly describe those who are subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Such people can read a couple of books on a certain topic and call themselves “experts” with a clear conscience. Why this is happening explains candidate of psychological sciences, psychologist Elena Milto.

Dunning-Kruger effect

In psychology, there is such a thing as the Dunning-Kruger effect (formulated in 1999), when people with a low level of intelligence or a narrow outlook believe that they are right in everything and understand better than others how life works.

Talking about this effect, I quite often recall the story of how in the 2nd year of the “Psychological Faculty” we, students, excited by the interesting knowledge we were getting, made “diagnoses” for everyone in a row, argued a little, but on the whole we were sure that we know exactly what and how. There are a lot of such examples of distorted perception of one’s own abilities, knowledge and skills in life. It is enough for a conditional Ivan Ivanovich to be subscribed to some telegram channel about politics, in order to then start pouring out “authoritative” news, forecasts and opinions, entering into disputes with everyone in the network and reality. And for someone it is enough to read a couple of books on psychology to start leading their own course of a happy life and giving advice to others.

In this case, we are dealing with the so-called “couch experts”. They cannot realize that the decisions they make are wrong and the talents they give themselves are false. Their world is black and white. Where are they, of course, in white!

The worst thing is that such a limited person fiercely defends his vision of the situation only because he subconsciously feels that if he admits the thought that he is wrong, his world will collapse, others will force him out. Also, such “experts” have no idea about the limits of their knowledge, they do not understand that they are wrong, it is simply impossible for them to recognize the competence of others, so they choose to ridicule, despise, bully.

At risk

Of course, not everyone is subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect, usually these are people of certain categories, including:

  • low IQ as a result of natural data, heredity, genes;
  • mistakes in upbringing, when parents, teachers and other people from the environment undeservedly, inadequately extol the child’s abilities, giving him false confidence in his talents;
  • gaps in knowledge, education: purchased diploma, lack of motivation, irresponsibility;
  • personality traits – self-confidence, high self-esteem, egocentrism, vanity, superficiality, inadequate ambition;
  • lack of experience and unwillingness to develop it.

A simple but effective self-test for the Dunning-Kruger effect involves three steps. First: choose the area you are ready to test. For example, I want to evaluate my competence as an Excel user. Second: take a piece of paper and a pencil, draw a big square. Third: ask yourself the question of how you yourself assess the level of your knowledge in the chosen area and, without hesitation, paint over the square with a pencil exactly as much as you assess your competence. The style of filling, the direction of hatching and its density are unimportant. Consider yourself a guru in this matter – 100% painting. If you think that you do not have 100% knowledge, paint over as much as you feel.

If you’ve filled in the entire square, you’re most likely affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect. More than 75% – you have a tendency. About 50% is fine. Less than 50% – a low assessment of competence, perhaps it’s time to pump it up.

Imposter Syndrome

Along with those who clearly overestimate their capabilities, there are really talented people, with a broad outlook, well-read, seen, developing. And they are often subject to another distorting effect, the impostor syndrome. As you understand, this is the other side of feeling and evaluating one’s own competence. Only a real expert, thinking and feeling, can suffer from the “Imposter”. This effect was discovered relatively recently, in 1978, by psychologists Pauline Rose Clans and Susan Imes. The impostor syndrome describes a condition where a person does not believe that they deserve their own success, considering any of their achievements to be an accident. “I was at the right time in the right place” – this is how people with this syndrome argue. Although the paradox lies in the fact that others consider them high-level professionals.

If a person is drawn to knowledge, studies all the time, the illusion of “omniscience” decreases. However, incompetent people do not consider it necessary to learn anything, they are comfortable “resting on their laurels” of an imaginary high-level “guru”.

Don’t fall into the trap

So, people subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect are not always able to reflect and adequately analyze their own thoughts, and therefore bear a “double burden”: ignorance and ignorance of their ignorance. They are dangerous in that they can offend, insult, humiliate. Competent people do not have a craving to belittle another, violate other people’s boundaries, do not offend. They manage themselves, their condition and negotiate with the environment. The incompetent are like a “monkey with a grenade”, you don’t know where it will bang and whom it will hook. And this, of course, is not about efficiency.

What to do in order not to fall into the trap of such a psychological distortion?

  1. Learn, read, expand cognitive horizons. Pump up your interests, surround yourself with people who inspire you.
  2. Realize that a self-centered point of view is not the only possible one. To honestly and regularly question your knowledge and conclusions, instead of blindly accepting them and wallowing in the bliss of false omniscience.
  3. Explore yourself, immerse yourself in an honest relationship with yourself, negotiate, understand and hear yourself, and not your fears, that is, rationalize what is happening.
  4. The most effective antidote is to ask for feedback. We are not accustomed to this. We think a lot about ourselves, but outside, looking into a person’s eyes, we say nothing. This is terribly inefficient for both parties. Someone covers it up with tact, diplomacy or respect for others, and even “I was raised that way”, but the end result is the same: we usually avoid telling people that they made a mistake somewhere, thereby depriving a person of the opportunity to correct his behavior, his thoughts. Feedback is definitely not a guide to action, but it is an important guideline. And the key to success here is to actually hear what experts say, whose professional opinion you trust. Plus, you need to learn to resist the generally natural tendency to defend yourself, pushing away someone else’s opinion, allow yourself to be imperfect and edit your life position.