Why incompetent people tend to think they are great? We all met those people who just think they are great at something but in the end, they might look completely incompetent. Why?
The most important thing to say here from the start is that incompetent people who think they are the best are not necessarily bad. They might be great friends, parents, great managers, co-workers but they are just not that great guitar players for example but they think they are as talented as Jimmy Hendrix. It’s an uncomfortable situation if that’s your friend or loved one. What do you do?
Have you ever heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect? If you haven’t then you probably have seen it in action. It’s a famous actor who has a strong opinion on an anti-science cause or someone who has a strong opinion on Syria without having knowledge about it, or a self-proclaimed entrepreneur who became a stock expert overnight.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a phenomenon where an uneducated or unskilled person overestimates their abilities.
David Dunning, a psychologist who studied humans’ self-awareness about the thinking process which is the area of psychology known as metacognition. Twenty years ago, in 1999, David and his graduate student, Justin Kruger published their finding in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The paper called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” explained what we all witnessed at a certain point of our lives. Researchers performed experiments asking students to rate their jokes where results were compared with the ratings from professional comedians. Also, students were asked to identify grammar errors and to answer questions related to their logical reasoning.
Interestingly, those who did the worst on the tests thought that they had the best results. From the other side, those who did the best were more prone to underestimate their abilities. In the released paper, researchers said that sometimes incompetent people are not often able to know that they are incompetent because incompetence is the main thing that stops them from realizing that they are not educated enough or skilled enough for one particular thing where they believe that they are the best.
David Dunning wrote in Pacific Standard:
“What’s curious. Is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”
Here, it’s so easy to judge other people but it’s not just someone else who tends to overestimate their abilities. We all do it at some point in our lives and we are completely unaware of it. You might think that you are knowledgeable in many areas but there are always some areas where you are not as skilled as you might think.
This might not be a pleasant thought but it’s true.
“Over the years, I’ve become convinced of one key, overarching fact about the ignorant mind. One should not think of it as uninformed. Rather, one should think of it as misinformed.”
Someone who might look ignorant is not always without any information but he is full of wrong information, the only information he has and the only thing he can rely on when forming an opinion is wrong information.
How to overcome this? How to avoid it on your own? Be your own devil’s advocate. Stay humble and always ask yourself is it possible that you might be wrong. Is it possible that your expectations might turn to be wrong? Be a critic not only for others but for yourself as well. Don’t assume you are all mighty and well-informed. Don’t assume that others are always wrong. Always question the information you have to stay on the right path.