The Dunning–Kruger effect

I have repeatedly complained about incompetence, and I think it's about time to point my readers' attention for a short while at the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others".

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

(1) tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
(2) fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
(3) fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
(4) recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

It's no wonder we get things wrong so often; people still trust more those who are confident and have a firm opinion than those who admit that their knowledge has limits and a problem is tricky.

Keep the Dunning-Kruger effect in mind when you listen to politicians, experts, analysts and the likes. You're of course also free to keep it in mind when someone disagrees with you, for it opens up the possibility that he simply cannot see your genius. ;-)

- - - - -

(As usual, I am unable to exclude the possibility that I am under influence of this phenomenon at times. It's in the nature of the beast that I couldn't tell.)

S Ortmann


  1. Its certainly true for every redneck and pub-philosopher. Observe their reaction to the response "its a complex issue", when discussing just about any policy matter. Even before they respond, you can see the reflex in their eyes, ie "Ah, he doesnt know, he is evading the question, he is misleading" bla bla bla. a firm answer, no matter how ludicrous, illogical or plain stupid on the other hand... No wonder, politics are in kind of a downward spiral, from the looks of it.

  2. I've been accused of suffering from dunning-krueger syndrome at times. Some people just can't stand confident individuals who sound non-crazy, and yet make crazy-seeming claims. Pissants.

    On another note, I can't believe that its the 11th anniversary already. I did a small tribute post, taking into consideration the varying ways that people interpret the attacks. If I had to guess, I would suspect that you emphasise the blowback account (so do alot of libertarians in the U.S). I am a definite minority in this equation!

  3. Thanks for pointing this out.
    I didnt know the scientific term until now, but i have witnessed the effect numerous times while working for the media.
    Journalists are prone to falling victim of this effect because they often have to report about topics they have zero to none previous experience with.

  4. Before I even got to it at the bottom I thought what if we (you, me, and those who read your blog) suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect?

    I do think about that somethings. I wish we could all go to staff college and things like it to learn some of the things that we have gaps in.

    I would like to see indirect fire have a larger role in the land forces and did some thinking on that, then one day I got a book and I came across an idea in Chapter 12 from "On Armor" by Gudmundsson about an indirect fire unit*. I never thought about one passed a company in size, but I liked were he was going with it, but I have to ask myself am I just looking for things that agree with me or would it really work out as well as I hope? I would like to be able to test it and see if it would work and if not does it just need R&D or would it take much more than it is worth? I assume you have the book, it was in your "My book recommendations about military (land warfare) theory" post, but I got it awhile before that post from my own searching for military books to read and learn from.

    When I saw someone else had an idea like mine (though he had much more detail than I had gotten to) it raised my confidence, but maybe I'm bias.

    * I think he had a brigade sized unit in mind.

  5. Tim;
    historically army artillery formations were useful as siege artillery or as reinforcements for breakthrough battles (neither is of much relevance today). Some present-time artillery regiments exist as well, AFAIK usually as divisional asset supporting multiple manoeuvre brigades or as an army's arty competence centre.

    There was a German artillery division in WW2;
    Its horrible fate was that at the time the German army had holes in its front-lines everywhere, and mis-used anything available to plug 'em, including ad hoc units and, well, this division. It lacked the infantry strength to hold a line and was badly mauled.

    Morale of the story; such an artillery formation is a luxury only for when you've got resources left. Don't bother about it until you have enough manoeuvre units and want to spice them up for when they face strong local resistance in one area (Grozny, for example).

  6. The British & Canadian forces in WW2 had a brigade sized artillery formation called an "AGRA" (Army Group Royal Artillery). Most had 6 medium artillery regiments, one of the Canadian units had 10.


  7. At company sized I wanted to use it to support units in the attack. I'm more of an manoeuvrist than a attritionist, I'd have lots of manoeuvre units. I'm not big on attack helicopter units* so I think I would need the extra firepower.

    * I just think they are too vulnerable and cost too much, I'd have them, but not many of them.

  8. Tim, look at this
    it may serve the same end without any specialised stand-alone unit.

  9. Thanks for the info. That should work fine. I had 9 G6 howitzer's in a brigade for SPH. I don't count on air support as much and I like the range the G6 has.

  10. Seriously, Tim, a brigade has much more arty nowadays.

    Today's manoeuvre formations have more raw arty firepower (shell weight x rate of fire) than a WW2 division.
    The Russians were especially insane about arty and had some huge arty establishments in their formations of the 80's and 90's that made the linked armoured brigade look weak.

  11. Should be battlegroup.

  12. I now have a name for something I recognized a long time ago. Thank you.

    Add this to sociopath and you have described the majority of people in the world. Especially in politics and people who are in high places throughout the world's corporations.

    Add that to Psychopath and you now have the majority of people in jail and leaders of many countries, groups and movements.

  13. The diagnosis for sociopaths is smaller than 50% even fro prison inmates:

    1. I know a lot of people who went to jail. I know a lot of people who should have went to jail.

      Being a layman I just read the list of the behavior traits of sociopaths and it fits the majority of our population. A large part would be single mothers in the USA.

      Just saying from personal experience. I don't care about what an agency says. I learned a long time ago they make up figures to suit them and are told to do so if they want a job.

      That went on a lot during the Bush administration. Like telling scientists what to find in the conclusions to their experiments.