Blissfully Incompetent – The Dunning Kruger Effect

Dunning-Kruger EffectWhile at work today we had a short network outage which gave the Web and Software Development team a little time to talk about our favorite subject. How stupid everyone else is.

One of our younger coders mentioned something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I immediately headed out to Wiki and read the article. There is nothing earth-shattering in the article. Even Dunning and Kruger mention in their original study that philosophers from the earliest times have noted stupid people are blissfully unaware of their idiocy while the intelligent are filled with doubt.

What was interesting was the scientific method was used to prove this effect, at least among those raised in Western cultures. A few studies on those from Eastern backgrounds did not show the same thing.

The studies also showed that competent and intelligent people tended to underestimate their own ability much as the less competent overestimate theirs. The idea being that competent people find particular tasks easy and assume that such jobs are, in fact, easy. That anyone should be able to do them without much of a problem.

The studies are interesting to be certain why the blog?

This study, this Dunning-Kruger effect is a tremendous impediment to the Libertarian Ideal. If the incompetent don’t know they are miserable at their jobs and the competent can’t recognize how well they do their job; we are left in a bad place.

What do we do about it? The study itself shows the way. Those people who are incompetent at their jobs recognize their previous inability after they are trained to do the job better! That’s really good news. It means when we see someone doing their job badly, our course is to spend the time and effort teaching them to do it better. It’s a good idea to pat the high-performers on the back as well.

Now that I’ve read the article on the Dunning-Kruger effect it makes much more sense to me. Those who find a task difficult assume it is difficult and everyone has a hard time doing it. Likewise those who find it easy figure that everyone can do it. Now that I at least partially understand the psychology of the effect I’m better prepared to deal with it.

I can’t wait to start roaming the office and telling everyone how to do their jobs … or maybe not!

Still, it’s an interesting piece of psychology and while I don’t suggest telling everyone how to do their job. I do think if you are a supervisor it’s a great idea to spend time with the low-performers and give them a hand. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of why they struggle to improve.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Coming Soon: The Broken Throne

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