I literally stumbled upon the Dunning–Kruger effect on Wikipedia today, and it gave me an ah-hah moment. I’ll describe my moment of insight shortly, but first let’s look at the Dunning–Kruger effect:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others. – From the “Dunning-Kruger Effect” on Wikipedia
So, let me get this straight (to the tune of the Hokey Pokey)…
You put a lack of skill in + a resulting bad decision + an erroneous conclusion = inflated self-assessment
Presence of skill + inflated assessment of others’ skill = inaccurately low self-assessment
In other words, the very people who should be seeing themselves as more skilled, actually have less confidence in their own skills and over-estimate the capabilities of others.
What could this mean for training design and development? That’s where my Ah-hah moment comes in. But, you’ll have to wait, because I’m not confident enough in my thought process to actually tell you about it. So, does that mean I’m encountering the Dunning-Kruger effect?
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering whether (a) these guys know what they are talking about, or (b) instead they suffer from their own posited effect, Dunning and Kruger were awarded the Ig Nobel Prizes in Psychology in 2000 for their report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”