Dunning-Kruger Effect: Overview, Signs & How To Overcome


What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Here is the overview of the Dunning-Kruger effect, its signs that most people probably do not know, and ways to overcome it.

dunning-kruger effect
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The term Dunning-Kruger Effect was coined by Cornell University social psychologist David Dunning, PhD, and graduate student Justin Kruger in 1999. According to the article from Reader’s Digest, this is defined as the “interesting psychological principle that explains that incompetent people rarely recognize that they’re incompetent.” People having this condition tend to overestimate their capabilities to the point of being narcissistic.

According to their study, having miscalculations of your own ability is linked to the “deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error.” In for them to recognize the limitations of their abilities, they need to improve their skills, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence.


“People who display traits of the Dunning-Kruger Effect have what we in the mental health field call poor insight. They typically have a fragile ego and feel the need to engage in the world with great bravado and hubris to feel safe,” Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist said.

Here are some of the example of people having this condition:

  • Bad drivers think they’re good drivers
  • Awful cooks think they can host Thanksgiving dinner
  • A bad manager thinks he’s a leader, oblivious to his poor managerial skills
  • A tone-deaf singer thinks she’s as talented as a Grammy winner

Based on the article, Dr. Kruger said that there is a greater possibility that we see the signs of this condition than identifying them in ourselves. People should take note that they may be expert in one field but they do not know something in another field. No one is an expert in everything, the article stated.

Skill and knowledge are needed to determine just how skilled and knowledgeable you are. The incompetence of someone can result in overestimating his or her own abilities while not recognizing the abilities of other people. On the other hand, those who are experts in a certain field should also know that not everyone knows what they know.

Overcoming Dunning-Kruger Effect

Become self-aware – “Life opens up when we view ourselves as imperfect human beings who move incrementally towards better versions of ourselves,” Dr. Hokemeyer said. People should be aware of what field they are not good in order to be good at something.

Dig deep – When you acquire a certain skill or knowledge at something increases, you must even dig deeper. Meaning, know more things about that certain field because people tend to assume they already know everything.

Ask for feedback – Don’t be disheartened if you hear constructive criticisms, instead ask for it. This will offer you an insight into how other people perceive your skills. “The real trick is to always be learning. You’re not subject to the effect if you’re gaining skills,” Dunning said. Listening could also help in order for you to learn about yourself.

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