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Business Concepts - You do not know what you do not know

Overconfidence may be due to the Dunning-Kruger effect

Overconfidence can affect anyone—even you.

Maybe you have scoffed at a politician who gave a silly answer or yelled at the TV when an athlete fumbles the ball. Part of our brain thinks, "How could they make such an obvious mistake?" We think that if it had been us, we wouldn't have been so careless. 

However, if we were in that situation, we almost certainly would have done far worse. The effect that we don't know what we don't know is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The effect was defined in detail by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999. However the phenomenon has been described by both Confucius and Socrates about 2,500 years ago.

At first, it was limited to the idea that fools don't know they are foolish. This is worrying enough—if you don't think you are foolish, then there is no guarantee you actually aren't foolish.

Nevertheless, modern psychologists have noted that people who are skilled in one area may mistakenly assume they are skilled in other areas, too. An expert in the information technology field may be asked about a different topic, like renewable energy. Their expertise in one field may give them false confidence in an unrelated field.

Even highly skilled people need to be humble enough to admit they are not skilled in some areas.

This principle is useful in interview tests like the G.B.C. assessment. If you have to talk about a subject you know little about, make sure you mention the Dunning-Kruger effect: 

I think being a professional soccer player looks like a fun job! But in fact, it's probably more work than I imagine. I guess that's the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. You don't know what you don't know. 

Next time you have to talk about an abstract topic—especially if you are not an expert in the field—try mentioning the Dunning-Kruger effect


overconfidence [n]—being too confident and unable to see problems around you.
scoff [v]—say negative things about something and think it is unimportant.
the Dunning-Kruger effect /DU - ning - KROO - ger/ [n]—the meaning should be clear from this article. For more information, you can check out the this TED Ed video
nevertheless /never - the - LESS/—however; in spite of that.