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“The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” is a saying commonly associated with famous philosopher Socrates as he was represented in Plato’s dialogues. The origin and the meaning of the quote are subject to many debates, but one way to interpret it is that no matter how much you know, you can always learn more, you can learn from others and be humble in the process. This attitude is a quality a lot of experts and intelligent people have.
What Dunning-Kruger effect describes is quite different than that. It is a tendency of people with subpar intelligence capabilities, where they think they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Not only are they oblivious to their own competencies, but they also underestimate those of others. It’s something both Socrates and Plato would undoubtedly frown upon.
The History Of The Dunning-Krueger Effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect is named after social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger who performed several test studies on a variety of participants, centering around humor, logic, and grammar. What they found out was that people who performed poorly in those experiments were also the ones who were bad at establishing the quality of their own and other people's performances. Because such people cannot precisely determine the skills and intelligence of other people on a realistic level, they come to think of themselves as more intelligent than they are, becoming blind to their own deficiencies.
You might have experienced this in your life numerous times. Maybe it was someone from your family, perhaps it was someone from your school or your job. Think about when you encountered that particular individual who was desperate to dismiss everyone else’s opinion except his own, insisting that he or she is right, despite being misinformed or factually wrong. Think about how many people think they are good drivers and good at logical reasoning, and how many of them actually are?
Do You Suffer From The Dunning- Kruger Effect?
The reality is, we are all victims of the Dunning Krueger effect to a certain extent. We all have something we are bad at, and many of us thought we were experts at something, when in reality; it was far from the truth. Knowing how we stand against each other in various aspects of life doesn’t always need to be a confidence problem, but a set of tools that will tell us when we need to learn more, or that we need to ask for help or advice.
According to the Dunning-Kruger effect, all of us tend to overestimate our own abilities compared to other people, and, unfortunately, those who have it worst are often those who have the hardest time seeing it. We always need to question our knowledge and learn to challenge our expertise. It is only then that we truly see how much we still need to learn about ourselves and the world around us and inside of us.
About the Author
Antonia is a sociologist and an anglicist by education, but a writer and a behavior enthusiast by inclination. If she's not writing, editing or reading, you can usually find her snuggling with her huge dog or being obsessed with a new true-crime podcast. She also has a (questionably) healthy appreciation for avocados and Seinfeld.
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