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You Should Know That You Don’t Know Enough To Know That You Don’t Know, You Know?

Submitted by on June 21, 2007 – 9:36 pm 107 views No Comment

I’m sometimes amazed at the sites that make the del.icio.us popular list. I enjoyed the following entry on Wikipedia: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon whereby people who have little knowledge systematically think that they know more than others who have much more knowledge.

The phenomenon was rigorously demonstrated in a series of experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, then both of Cornell University. Their results were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in December, 1999.[1]

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, playing chess or tennis or operating a motor vehicle, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (as Charles Darwin put it). Specifically, they hypothesized that with regard to a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

1. incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill,
2. incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others,
3. incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy,
4. if they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

This, of course, is directly related to the commonly recognized 4 stages of competence.

In psychology, the four stages of competence relate to the psychological states involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill:

1. Unconscious incompetence
The individual neither understands or knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit or has a desire to address it.
See also : Dunning-Kruger effect

2. Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.

3. Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.

4. Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she can also teach it to others.

I’d also recommend a great article I came across last year:


Why smart people defend bad ideas

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