The Dunning Kruger Effect: Why Overconfidence Can Be Dangerous

Reading time 6 minutes
The Dunning Kruger Effect: Why Overconfidence Can Be Dangerous

Those who know the least often shout the loudest: you've probably already noticed this phenomenon. But did you know that there is actually a scientific name for it? We're talking about the Dunning Kruger effect. In the following article, you'll find out what it's all about and how you can tell if you're affected.

What is the Dunning Kruger effect?

In the Dunning Kruger effect, ignorance and hubris play key roles. Affected individuals are rock-solidly convinced of their own opinion and completely unreceptive to factual arguments that prove the opposite. For these individuals, their own competence is untouchable. They consider themselves almost infallible.

The Dunning Kruger effect was named after the US psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who conducted an interesting experiment at the end of the 1990s. They had students assess their mental abilities.

The result was that the more incompetent the student, the better they rated themselves, while high-performing students often underestimated their ability. This was confirmed in another Study from California State University in 2017 provides further evidence.

Examples of the Dunning Kruger effect

The Dunning Kruger effect can be observed quite often in everyday life. Below we have summarized a few typical situations:

  • A large proportion of German drivers believe they can drive better than average.
  • Numerous soccer fans believe they have more tactical understanding than the professional coaches of the respective team.
  • A flesh-and-blood example of the Dunning Kruger effect in its pure form is former U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • During the corona pandemic, numerous people mutated into amateur virologists who questioned modern science.
  • The most famous representative of the Dunning Kruger effect is Arthur McWheeler, who robbed a bank unmasked. He was firmly convinced that lemon juice would make him invisible.

How do you know if you are affected by the Dunning Kruger effect?

Do you suspect that you yourself are affected by the Dunning Kruger effect? This can be found out with the help of an uncomplicated self-test. Answer the five questions below honest:

  1. Do your self-perception and others' perception of your skills match? Ask your friends and colleagues about your greatest strengths and weaknesses and match their statements with your self-assessment.
  2. Do you often get asked for advice by other people?
  3. Do you inform yourself about topics that interest you and do you attach great importance to furthering your professional education?
  4. Have you seen in the Past can already help other people solve their problems?
  5. When something goes wrong, do you look for the fault in yourself first?

If you answered at least three questions with a yes, it is highly unlikely that you suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect. If you answered yes twice or less, it is possible that your self-assessment is flawed.

dunning kruger effect example

Why do so many people fall victim to the Dunning Kruger effect?

The insidious thing about the Dunning Kruger effect is that sufferers consistently ignore all facts that refute their own views or even prove their incompetence. According to the well-known Social psychologist Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Erb from Helmut Schmidt University, however, this behavior is by no means illogical: Basically, everyone wants to maintain a positive self-image.

The affected persons create their own reality in which they play the role of experts. In addition, the following also plays a role Dissatisfaction People who disagree with what is happening at work, in their private lives or in politics often believe they can do better than those responsible. Unfortunately, there is a lack of willingness to acquire the relevant knowledge.

Sometimes, however, people experience confirmation, which reinforces the Dunning Kruger effect. Overconfidence can lead to tasks being tackled that other people would not have tackled if they were realistic. If the project then runs successfulthe person sees himself confirmed in his supposed expert status.

3 steps to overcome the Dunning Kruger effect

Thinking oneself to be great is self-explanatorily far more pleasant for the mental state than plaguing oneself with self-doubt. For this reason, it is difficult to detach yourself from it. Nevertheless, with these steps you can succeed in regaining a realistic self-assessment:

Step 1: Practice humility

The most effective way to overcome the Dunning Kruger effect is humility. Be aware of the limits of your own knowledge. No one is infallible, not even you. Also, try to realize that the latter is perfectly normal. Another plus: modesty makes you more popular with your peers. Nevertheless, the right measure is decisive here, too.

Step 2: Engage in self-reflection

Question your skills and actions regularly. There are almost always aspects that can be improved. This in no way means that you have to Successes you should badmouth. It is more important to optimize yourself and your knowledge. Also, ask your peers for their opinion. In this way, you can determine whether your self-assessment and the assessment of others are in conformity.

Step 3: Discipline

To overcome the Dunning Kruger effect, discipline is required. Don't rest on your laurels, but keep educating yourself. Even performing the regular Self-reflection does not succeed without discipline.

How the Dunning Kruger effect can impact your career

The Dunning Kruger effect can have a negative impact on your professional career. Once you have fallen into the vicious circle of incompetence and overestimation, it is difficult to find a way out. In addition, in this case you often lack the willingness to continue your education because you supposedly already know everything better. However, this is a hindrance to your professional advancement.

As already mentioned, it can also have positive effects. People who overestimate themselves appear more confident in job interviews, for example. However, the positive effect is usually short-lived, because sooner or later the incompetence becomes apparent in the form of poor work performance. To put it bluntly: big mouth and nothing behind it.

dunning kruger effect meaning

The 4 psychological factors behind the Dunning Kruger effect

The Dunning Kruger Effect is based on four psychological factors that build on each other and thus form a vicious circle. In professional circles, there is talk of a four-stage model:

  1. Overconfidence of professionally incompetent people.
  2. Inability to recognize one's own incompetence.
  3. By ignoring one's own (knowledge) deficits, these cannot be remedied.
  4. The opinion and competence of other people is underestimated or considered nonsense.

What you should know about the Dunning Kruger effect to improve your life

The Dunning Kruger effect is a common phenomenon that you can fall victim to all too quickly. Being aware of this can, conversely, protect you from falling into the trap of overconfidence. Decisive for your professional success and your private happiness is the ability to question your own convictions and - if necessary - to correct them.

Likewise, you should know that with half-knowledge and overestimation of oneself, one can sometimes achieve success, but it will not last long. Having success is no proof of your infallibility. In the Dunning Kruger effect, however, the latter is evaluated accordingly by those affected.

Dealing with people who are affected by this is often quite exhausting, as they are resistant to advice in every respect. Nevertheless, you will encounter such personalities again and again in everyday life. You should save yourself the trouble of confronting those with their incompetence. Instead, concentrate on improving your own competencies.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: How to be more realistic about your abilities and be successful

Admittedly, admitting one's own weaknesses is not easy. Nevertheless, this is the only way to escape this effect and to be successful with true competence. In the first step, you should be clear about your personality traits: Where are your individual strengths and weaknesses and how can you use this knowledge for yourself?

In this context we would like to present you our scientifically based, free personality test to the heart. This is based on the DISG model, which differentiates between four character types and highlights their communication with each other.

By determining your character type, you can simultaneously prevent your susceptibility to the Dunning Kruger effect. Instead, you'll learn to realistically assess your abilities and improve them in a sustainable way.

Take the Personality Test from Greator

Only 3 minutes
Scientifically proven
Take the free test now
Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

Like this article? Don't forget to share!

Recommended by Greator

Greator SloganGreator Awards
Data privacy
Cookie settings
© copyright by Greator 2024