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Dunning-Kruger Effect (The Idiot) June 11, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Richard's Musings.

In an interesting blog piece by Martin Widlake regarding his annoyance at just how unhelpful some people can unfortunately be in forums, Jonathan Lewis has a really interesting comment regarding the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s really all quite fascinating. In short, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is when someone keeps making mistakes or coming to wrong conclusions but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realise it. Some of the hypotheses of this effect include:

  • Incompetent people tend to overestimate their own level of skill
  • Incompetent people tend to fail to recognise skills in others
  • Incompetent people tend to fail to recognise the extent of their own inadequacies

David Dunning and Justin Kruger who came up with this theory won an Ig Nobel Prize for their report “Unskilled and Unaware Of It: How Difficulties In Recognising Ones Own Incompetence Lead To Inflated Self-Assessments“. The Ig Nobel Prize is given each year for 10 achievements that first make people laugh and then makes them think.


Boy, did I had a chuckle when some people instantly sprang to mind as I read about it all 😉


1. chet - June 12, 2009

This seems to be popping up more and more lately. Niall Litchfield left the link to the paper in the comments section of this post. I’ve also seen it referenced 2 times since then!



2. Richard Foote - June 12, 2009

Hi Chet

Possibly because it fits some well known, self appointed so-called Oracle “experts” just so perfectly 😉


3. Stew Ashton - June 12, 2009

To give credit where credit is due, Plato first wrote about this effect in the Apology : Socrates says “I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom ….. When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself.”

Socrates added : “I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me.”

Dunning and Kruger should have written another paper about how their subjects reacted when told of their inflated view of themselves.

Again, some people spring to mind 🙂


Richard Foote - June 13, 2009

Hi Stew

Interesting. I know how Socrates feels 🙂


4. mwidlake - June 12, 2009

After Jonathan had told me about the DK effect (sounds especially good as initials) I followed a couple of the links and I liked the “lake wobegone” effect, where more than 50% of people think they are above average. How many people (especially men) do not think they are better drivers than the average? Maybe we all have a touch of the DK about us.
I think I might give up and IT and take up psychology as I think there is a link between alcohol and both the DK and the Lake Wobegon effect. After 3 pints I am a brilliant dancer, a demon pool player and irresistable to women…But nobody else can see it.
BTW from the Lake Wobegon page – did you realise most people have an above average number of legs? Makes you realise why “average” can be a tricky term…


Richard Foote - June 13, 2009

Hi Martin

After 3 or more pints, I begin to question exactly what number of legs I really have !!

I think to be good at IT, it helps to be good at psychology as well 😉


5. PdV - June 15, 2009

Excellent off-topic subject (and not really off topic either!)

The worst moments in my learning curve were when I discovered I had fallen victim to some of these effects myself (pdv looks over shoulder to see if anyone noticed…).


Richard Foote - June 15, 2009

Hi Piet

Indeed, it’s most relevant in the Oracle world that’s for sure 😉

The DK effect has touched many, but unfortunately it has really thumped a few as well !!


6. Ben Buchanan - July 17, 2009

i think that the dunning-kruger effect is great, it protects us against hating ourselves, as we don’t notice all the mistakes we make. here is a neat video about how people over estimate thier ability:


7. Richard Foote - July 20, 2009

Hi Ben

Neat video.

I like the Darwin quote ” Ignorance more commonly begets confidence than does knowledge”.

Oh how true !!


8. Friday Philosophy – Who Comes Looking? « Martin Widlake’s Yet Another Oracle Blog - September 19, 2009

[…] facet is the impact on my hits if an Oracle Name mentions me. My busiest day occurred when Richard Foote mentioned a posting I did on “Unhelpful Helpful People” and a couple of other […]


9. Friday Philosophy – I Am An Exadata Expert « Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog - August 10, 2012

[…] use of the technology, teach {or, more usually, preach} others and so proclaim on it. {See Dunning Kruger effect, the certainty of idiots}. I’m certainly not arguing against going to presentations, reading blogs and books and […]


10. The Sneaky WHAT Strategy!? | Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog - February 14, 2015

[…] been a bit of a thread between my and Richard Foote’s blog about the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is his post on it. The Dunning Kruger effect (Jonathan Lewis told us what it was called) is where people have an […]


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