Dunning & Kruger?! Who?! What?! And why?!

25 August 2020

Who is Dunning & Kruger?

In 1999 two researchers, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, tested participants in their research project on logic, grammar and sense of humour.

They found that the participants who performed the worst rated their own skills as far above average where in actual fact this was anything but true.

These two researchers attributed this trend to metacognition, or rather to a problem with metacognition.

So, what does metacognition mean?

  • METACOGNITION is the ability to analyse your own thoughts or performance.

Dunning and Kruger found that many people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This happens because these people cannot accurately assess their own skills. Often they don’t even realise that they are guilty of doing this!

  • What triggered the research of Dunning & Kruger?

Dunning & Kruger hit on the idea when they heard about a guy called McArthur Wheeler who robbed two banks in Pittsburgh, America without wearing a mask or balaclava on the 19th of April 1995. He performed this robbery in full view of everyone; he even smiled at the tellers and security cameras! This poor sod read somewhere that lemon juice could be used as invisible ink. This made him believe that if he rubbed lemon juice on his skin it would render him invisible!

When he was caught by the police he exclaimed: “I wore the juice!”

  • So – what is the Dunning & Kruger Effect?

The definition is as follows: The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills.

  • Who falls prey to the Dunning & Kruger Effect?

Anyone and everyone can fall prey to the Dunning & Kruger Effect at some point in their life – or in their studies. The researchers found that this effect can have an impact on different areas in your life – emotional intelligence, financial knowledge, geography and firearm safety!

Everyone has a weak point where cognitive bias (the way we think at times that leads to errors in decisions and judgements) can take hold.

  • Do you regularly fall prey to the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Ask yourself the following question:

Do you often hear different people criticising you in the same way for things you say or do?

If your answer to this question is yes, it is likely that your answer to the first question is also yes.

  • It’s all about CONFIDENCE!

Everyone wants to feel confident and act confident. But no-one should be overly confident or not believe in themselves at all.

Take a good, hard and honest look at yourself. Determine in which areas in your life – and your studies – you feel 100% confident. Question what you know, or think you know. Acknowledge where you might need to acquire more knowledge or practice more.

One of your most important priorities should be to continue learning and growing.

Ask fellow learners and teachers to help you to find your “blind spots” in your subjects. Focus on studying these “blind spots” until are confident that you have mastered the content.

Remember: Socrates, the Greek philosopher said:

“The only true wisdom is knowing when you know nothing.”

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