Disclaimer: Originally published in December 2017. It is being republished since it still remains an interesting topic till today. 

Yes it’s a proven theory; stupid people often over estimate themselves and have a deceptive superiority about their work.

This is called ‘The Dunning Kruger effect’, named after psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger who proposed its existence in a 1999 paper (“Unskilled and unaware of it”).

the dunning kruger effect

They conducted tests which revealed that participants who did not do well considered to have done brilliantly as opposed to their fellow mates.

The Dunning Kruger effect basically highlights the ignorance of people. Deficit or incomplete knowledge prevents them from realizing their own mistakes. Like this:

the dunning kruger effect


It is a cognitive bias wherein amateurish individuals suffer from illusory superiority, overestimating their capabilities owing to “a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude” and, by the same slip, of competent individuals to underestimate their relative aptitude, mistakenly assuming that what might be easy for them is easy for all.

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“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”~ Charles Darwin

How many times have we met people who are over-confident about their opinion, the ones who never put their foot down because their word shall be the final?

Indeed, a lot many times.

We come across situations that seem a little too tough to handle because no one wants to reach a conclusion. Don’t get frustrated if they won’t understand your point, they are just too ignorant to admit that they might be wrong.

In fact, some sources mention that as much as 93 % of population considers they are above average at one time or the other, statistically speaking which is impossible.

Then? Are we all stupid?

No, most of us are just ignorant that ‘we are not that smart’. Most of us believe that we are better than the average. This is what the Dunning-Kruger effect talks about, of illusory superiority. That many-a-time, most of us overestimate our abilities.

And perhaps that is why once a fool, always a fool!

the dunning kruger effect

Is it a threat?

Time and again philosophers and scientists have pointed out that ignorance, illusory- superiority, idiocy and doctrinaire certainty are big threats to science and society.

This is perhaps one of the major reasons why they wanted to study the effect of illusory superiority in the first place

While conducting the experiment the psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger not only found that the ones scoring low in reality assessed themselves higher than the ones who actually scored well, they also found that when confronted with reality the competent participants increased their assessment and got closer to reality while the incompetent ones did not change at all.

Rather they tried to question the validity of the test.

Also verified in other studies it was again proved here that ‘feedback helps the competent more than it does the incompetent’.

This is what the threat is, when you are inept, but you cannot know you are.

the dunning kruger effect

How to get rid of it?

Once a fool, always a fool is true to some sense. And certainly as proved earlier, even if you try to make the person realize he isn’t ready to listen because of his ignorance, then how do you get rid of it?

We cannot omit constructive feedback here, even if it proves to be unnecessary to incompetent.

The need to fight this arises from the fact that no matter how unskilled they may be they are confident of the little they know. There remain chances of them getting to top positions.

And we can’t let the world run by people who are stern, obstinate and ignorant.

The problem also lies with the fact that the competent and apt mostly underestimate themselves. Of course, being always right is a sign of foolishness itself but to question one on each capability of his is no good either.

No better way to end it on this note:

 “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.”~ Bertrand Russell

Image credits: Google Images

Sources: Wikipedia, Forbes

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  1. It works both ways. Most article writers or reporters are absolutely clueless about certain ground realities and imagine their tiny experience encapsulates everything there is to be known, while in reality over half of what they ‘know’ are mere assumptions.


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