Ironically, I thought I understood Dunning-Kruger

I like to say that I am someone who tests his own thinking and constantly learns.

My assumption though is that as I do so I learn more and that the things I learn make me understand the world better.

As an example, I learned that the Dunning-Kruger effect is where:

  • Inexperienced/incompetent people overestimate their ability; and
  • Experienced/highly competent people underestimate their ability.

I have often found that the more you learn, the more you realise you have yet to learn. You are wiser partly because you know more and also because you see the limits of what you know. So the comment made good sense to me – I was even happy that someone had tested this idea (which Dunning and Kruger did) to establish it as a secret piece of knowledge that makes me smarter than other humble primates.

So imagine my surprise when I found out someone had doubted Dunning-Kruger and decided to create their own experiments to validate or refute it.

Here is what happened when they did:


It turns out that the more I learned about Dunning-Kruger, the more I thought I knew. Unfortunately for me though, I was learning more about something false.

In other words, as I built my knowledge I actually baked in more ignorance rather than creating more wisdom.

Now I wonder how often I do that – learn the wrong thing, become “wiser” and continue to build more on my (incorrect) base of knowledge.

So now I guess my aim is to make sure I am open to questioning things when someone throws up something that does not fit.

I like to think I do this already, but maybe I can get better at unlearning things rather than just accumulating knowledge.

Ironic really – my understanding of Dunning-Kruger might have led me thinking I understood more than I did, even though I was increasing my experience in some useful seeming theories.


One thought on “Ironically, I thought I understood Dunning-Kruger

  1. I think you do this – I think. you lean in naturally to curiosity! I’ve actually been giving this a bit of thought myself recently – about the depths of knowledge and observing others that say ‘I know that’ to find that actually, they know a very thin slice. It has also caused me to explore what I think I know a lot about but I always accept, you can never be a true expert – only in the eyes of someone who thinks they know less.


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