Today, I want to reflect on false confidence. This is something I see often in my climate work, and it has reared it’s ugly little head in the current COVID-19 crisis. Psychologists call it the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Just like many of you, I find myself cooped up at home with time on my hands. So, I took some time to do a bit of research on Dunning-Kruger. I stumbled onto a concept that explains the unending stream of misinformation about climate change. It also helps me understand the eruption of instant-experts on viral disease, economics, and exponential math that we’ve seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dunning and Kruger Observations about Self-Confidence
As We Learn More – Self Confidence Decreases
But when people learn more, take a course or get experience, self-confidence decreases. Basically, they learn enough to know that they don’t know a lot. Finally, experts often see how special they are. They believe they don’t know enough, and also everyone else knows a lot about the topic too. Unfortunately, folks who know the least often have the most self confidence. Experts typically never reach that level.
Some Thoughts about Dunning-Kruger
I didn’t plan this to be a tutorial on Dunning-Kruger. There is a ton of great information about this out there. For those who are interested, here are some links to good descriptions of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
- The Dunning-Kruger Effect – Cognitive Bias – Why Incompetent People Think They Are Competent
- Psych To Go – The Dunning-Kruger Effect
- Why Incompetent People Think They’re Amazing
- “I Wore the Juice”- The Dunning-Kruger Effect
However, I would like to share my thoughts and in the process not fall prey to the syndrome myself.
First, Dunning and Kruger identified that this syndrome is normal. We can all do it. This is not a disorder to which only a few foolish folks fall prey. We are hard wired to feel great when we learn something new and want to share.
Folks Who Know the Least Have the Most Self Confidence
Experts Aren’t So Sure
Finally, experts seem to be unsure of themselves. They qualify everything. They share all the nuances and often send the message they have no faith in the information they share. Their honesty can confuse us, and we dismiss their message.