What is an example of Dunning-Kruger?

What is an example of Dunning-Kruger? : Psychological biases include the Dunning-Kruger effect . One type of psychological bias is the Dunning-Kruger effect. A well-known illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect is when a novice chess player overestimates their chances of winning the upcoming tournament when compared to their professionals.
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Charles Darwin once noted , Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge We all know the modern man to whom Darwin refers: the unemployed musician who must inform all new acquaintences that he is, in fact, a musician (multiple times) The XHTML and jQuery expert, who uses XHTML as a selling point

It’s referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusorysuperiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

You don’t even know enough to realize just how little you know.

On Twitter, I recently said that, in my experience, people who identify themselves as experts are typically not. This isn’t surprising because, to put it politely, those who have the goods don’t flaunt them. On the other hand, if someone’s expertise is repeatedly made clear to you by said expert, perhaps something is a few clicks off!

A guitar teacher of mine in college, once rightly so informed me: You dont even know enough to realize just how little you know

Little did my teacher know that this comment would stick with me for a long time The irony, of course, is, despite the fact that years and years have passed since my conversation withhim, his note still applies

Whether the craft be music or web development, I’m not even close to an expert. Or, as Willy Brown might say, I’m not even the beginnings of a pimple on the late great Robert Johnson’s ass.

“Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “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.”

Table of Contents

How to Detect a Self-Proclaimed Expert

According to Wikipedia, for a given skill, self-proclaimed experts will:

  • tend to overestimate their own level of skill
  • fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  • fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy
  • recognizeand acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.

Those who genuinely know their stuff are considerably modest, when compared to those who have a fraction of their experience and knowledge.

The word “expert” itself may be the simplest method of identifying a true specialist. There’s that idea again: the more you know, the more you realize how little you know. Is it inaccurate for me to argue that true experts rarely, if ever, refer to themselves as such?

Everything is relative, of course, but I’ve discovered that those who are truly knowledgeable about their fields tend to be much more modest than those who possess only a small portion of their experience and knowledge. Maybe it’s just part of what people are like. Many times, blissful ignorance and dreams are preferable to doing actual work. Making your next web application worth a million dollars is easier than actually doing it. When you really mean “freebie website for my sister,” it sounds more impressive to use the terms “gig” and “contract.”

So the question remains: why do some represent expertise, while others seemingly avoid the term? I suppose I can’t speak to the former, though I can provide some personal notes on the latter.

  • First and foremost, I know in my heart that I have a long way to go before I can even fathom embracing that label – if ever.
  • The term, “expert” is a vague one, and is entirely relative. Sure, to a high schoolstudent, maybe we are experts. To my personal web development heroes, I feel like a hack. I’m sure the chain continues indefinitely. This is precisely why it’s important to refrain from using these sorts of labels in most cases.
  • Particularly in our field, no one is an expert. The industry is too young, and advances at an alarming rate. There’s always new skills to acquire. I’d argue that those who understand this truth also understand that terms like “expert” are inappropriate.
  • Ona more casual and social level, you come across as a jerk when you self-diagnose yourself this way. This is similar to continuously retweeting compliments. Let your work/code do the talking, and, if you genuinely deserve the label, others will be more than happy to assign it to you. This is the correct way to achieve “expert” status. It is given…not proclaimed.

Is It Ever Okay to Call Yourself an Expert?

Is it bad taste to refer to yourself as an expert? In the end, it’s just a word; use it however you see fit. I realize that I’m being a bit picky here.

Christian Heilmann argues:

“Sometimes, you need to call yourself an expert to reach people who are badly in need of information.”

That’s certainly a valid case, and is particularly applicable when considering events like conferences and workshops. When you host a workshop, regardless of whether you labelyourself as an expert, you assume that role. When it comes to spreading education, Christian is right: sometimes you must use these terms to attract those in need. And in these teacher-student relationships, you are the expert. No harm done.

We must also take SEO or basic marketing into account. It’s critical to emphasize to John Doe that we are the experts if he needs a website for his new company that he needs. They should be made aware that others have devoted their lives to learning this craft as more and more tools are released that enable average people to create websites. Don’t put your company’s future at risk just to make X dollars in website savings. As the expert, you are. That must be known to John Doe. Sure, misuse the term for the layperson.

However, among your peers, you might think twice before labeling yourself in this way.

Arrogance is not inspiring.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be confident in yourworth and abilities. Never devalue your worth to an employer or client. That said, though, unless you are one of the few truly exceptional veterans in our industry, stop patting yourself on the head, and get back to doing what we all must do in our free-time: learning. Whether you’re an industry veteran or a college student, we all share one commonality: we spend as much free time as possible desperately trying to remain relevant in this ever-expanding industry.


Asa reader of Nettuts+, I think it’s safe to assume that, like me, you’re considerably aware of the skills you don’t yet have. Hopefully, Nettuts+ can help with that! Until next time, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” – Bertrand Russell

Did you find this post useful?

I used to oversee the web development courses at Tuts and serve as the editor of Nettuts.


What is an example of Dunning-Kruger?

What is the Dunning-Kruger theory? : The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in psychology whereby individuals with limited knowledge or competence in a particular intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain in comparison to objective criteria, to peers’ or the performance of individuals in general.
How do I know if I suffer from Dunning-Kruger effect? : How to Detect a Self-Proclaimed Experttend to overestimate their own level of skill fail to recognize genuine skill in others fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve
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The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe they are smarter and more capable than they are. Essentially, low-ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence. The combination of poorself-awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their capabilities.

The term lends a scientific name and explanation to a problem that manypeople immediately recognize—that fools are blind to their own foolishness. As Charles Darwin wrote in his book The Descent of Man, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

This article explores how the Dunning-Kruger effects works, the history of research on this phenomenon, and why people may overestimate their skills. It also covers some of the ways you can avoid overestimating your knowledge.

What Is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

It’s possible that you’ve actually witnessed this phenomenon. One scenario that many people may have encountered at a holiday family gathering around the dinner table serves as an illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

During the meal, a member of your extended family speaks at length about a subject, adamantly asserting that they are right and that everyone else’s opinion is foolish, ignorant, and simply incorrect. Even though it may be clear that they have no idea what they are talking about, they continue to blather on, blissfully unaware of their ignorance.

The effect is named after researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the twosocial psychologists who first described it. They performed a series of four investigations in their original study on this psychological phenomenon.

People who scored in thelowest percentiles on grammar, humor, and logic tests also tended to dramatically overestimate how well they had performed (their actual test scores placed them in the 12th percentile, but they estimated that their performance placed them in the 62nd percentile).

The Research

In one experiment, for example, Dunning and Kruger asked their 65 participants to rate how funny different jokes were. Someparticipants were exceptionally poor at determining what other people would find funny—yet these subjects described themselves as excellent judges of humor.

The researchers hypothesized that incompetent people were not only ineffective performers but also unable to accurately judge and recognize the quality of their work. This may explain why some students who receive failing grades on exams feel that they should have received a much higher grade. They are unable to evaluate their performance objectively because they overestimate their knowledge and skills.

Low performers frequently believe themselves to be better, more capable, and more knowledgeable than others because they are unable to recognize the skill and competence levels of others, which is one of the reasons for this.

“In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious,” wrote David Dunning in an article for Pacific Standard. “Instead,the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

Effects on Behavior and Decisions

People’s beliefs, choices, and actions can all be significantly influenced by this effect.

In one study, Dunning and Ehrlinger found that women performed equally to men on a science quiz, andyet women underestimated their performance because they believed they had less scientific reasoning ability than men. The researchers also found that these women were more likely to refuse to enter a science competition due to this belief.

Dunning and his colleagues have also performed experiments in which they ask respondents if they are familiar with various terms related to subjects including politics, biology, physics, andgeography. Along with genuine subject-relevant concepts, they interjected completely made-up terms.

In one such study, approximately 90% of respondents claimed they had at least some knowledge of the made-up terms. Consistent with other findings related to the Dunning-Kruger effect, the more familiar participants claimed that they were with a topic, the more likely they were to also claim they were familiar with the meaningless terms.

Why It Happens

So what explains this psychological effect? Are some people simply too dense to recognize it? Dunning and Kruger suggest that this phenomenon stems from what they refer to as a “dual burden.” People are not only incompetent; their incompetence robs them of the mental ability to realize just how inept they are.

Incompetent people tend to:

  • Overestimate their skill levels
  • Fail to recognize the genuine skill and expertise of other people
  • Fail to recognize their own mistakes and lack of skill

The very knowledge and skills necessary to be good at a task are the same qualities that a person needs to recognize that they are not good at that task. So if a person lacks thoseabilities, they remain not only bad at that task but ignorant of their inability.

This effect has been attributed to a number of different explanations, including:

An Inability to Recognize Lack of Skill and Mistakes

Dunning suggests that deficits in skill and expertise create a two-pronged problem. First, these deficits cause people to performpoorly in the domain in which they are incompetent. Secondly, their erroneous and deficient knowledge makes them unable to recognize their mistakes.

A Lack of Metacognition

Problems with metacognition are also related to the Dunning-Kruger effect. The capacity to step back and examine one’s actions and skills from a distance is referred to as metacognition.

People can often only evaluate themselves from their own limited and highly subjective point of view. From this limited perspective, they seem highly skilled, knowledgeable, and superior to others. Because of this, people sometimes struggle to have a more realistic view of their abilities.

A Little Knowledge Can Lead to Overconfidence

Another contributingfactor is that sometimes a tiny bit of knowledge on a subject can lead people to mistakenly believe that they know all there is to know about it As the old saying goes, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing

The Dunning-Kruger effect causes people to believe they are experts in a field even though they have the barest knowledge of it.

Other factors that can contribute to the effect include:

  • The use of heuristics, or mental shortcuts that allow people to make decisions quickly
  • A tendency to seek out patterns even where none exist

Our minds areprimed to try to make sense of the disparate array of information we deal with daily. As we try to cut through the confusion and interpret our abilities and performance within our worlds, it is perhaps not surprising that we sometimes fail so completely to judge how well we do accurately.

Are You Less Competent Than You Think?

Who is susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect, then? According to the researchers, everyone. This is due to the fact that everyone has knowledge gaps and areas of weakness, regardless of how knowledgeable or skilled they are. No one is an expert in everything, despite your intelligence and skill in a variety of areas.

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The truth is that everyone can experience this phenomenon, and for the majority of us, it happens surprisingly frequently. Genuine experts in one field may mistakenly think that their knowledge and intelligence extend to other fields with which they are less familiar.

A brilliant scientist, for example, might be a very poor writer. For the scientist to recognize their lack of skill, they need to possess a good working knowledge of grammar, composition, and other elements of writing. Because those are lacking, the scientist in this example also lacks the ability to recognize their own poor performance.


The Dunning-Kruger effect is not synonymous with low IQ. As awareness of the term has increased, its misapplication as a synonym for “stupid” has also grown.It is, after all, easy to judge others and believe that such things simply do not apply to you.

Is the Dunning-Kruger Effect Real?

Not everyone agrees that the Dunning-Kruger effect actually exists, however. Instead, some critics have suggested that the effect is instead a data artifact. In mathematical studies, researchers were able to replicate the effect using computer-generated random data. Suchstudies found that experts and amateurs overestimate or underestimate their abilities at about the same rate. 

The research did find, however, that experts tend to be better at assessing their own abilities and that women generally make more accurate self-assessments than men.

Dunning-Kruger Effect vs. Imposter Syndrome

So if the incompetent tend to think they are experts, what do genuine experts think of their own abilities? Dunning and Kruger found that those at the high end of the competence spectrum did hold more realistic views of their own knowledge and capabilities. However, these experts actually tended to underestimate their own abilities relative to how others did.

Top scorers are aware that they perform above average, but they are not convinced of how far ahead of the pack they are. The issue here is not that experts are unaware of their own level of knowledge; rather, they have a propensity to assume that everyone else is equally informed.

This can sometimes lead to the opposite of the Dunning-Krugereffect—imposter syndrome. Since the Dunning-Kruger effect involves overconfidence in one’s abilities, the opposing tendency would involve underconfidence in one’s abilities. In imposter syndrome, competent people doubt their own abilities and fear that others will discover them to be frauds.

How to Overcome the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Is there a point at which the incompetent actually recognize their own incompetence?, so is there anything that can be done to lessen this phenomenon.

“We are all engines of misbelief,” Dunning has suggested. While we are all prone to experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect, learning more about how the mind works and the mistakes we are all susceptible tomight be one step toward correcting such patterns.

People start to acknowledge their lack of knowledge and skill as they learn more about the topic of interest. People’s confidence levels then start to rise once more as they learn more and gain expertise in a subject.

So what can you do to gain a more realistic assessment of yourabilities in a particular area if you are not sure you can trust your self-assessment?

  • Keep learning and practicing. Instead of assuming you know all there is to know about a subject, keep digging deeper. Once you gain greater knowledge of a topic, you will likely recognize how much there is still to learn. This can combat the tendency to assume you’re an expert, even if you’re not.
  • Ask other people how you’redoing. Another effective strategy involves asking others for constructive criticism. While it can sometimes be difficult to hear, such feedback can provide valuable insights into how others perceive your abilities.
  • Question what you know. Even as you learn more and get feedback, it can be easy to only pay attention to things that confirm what you think you already know. This is an example of another type of psychological bias known as theconfirmation bias. In order to minimize this tendency, keep challenging your beliefs and expectations. Seek out information that challenges your ideas.

A Word From Verywell

The Dunning-Kruger effect is one of many cognitive biases that can influence your actions and choices, from the routine to the profound. The phenomenon may be easier to spot in some people than others, but it’s important to keep in mind that it affects everyone. You might be better able to recognize these tendencies in yourself and come up with solutions if you comprehend the underlying factors that contribute to this psychological bias.

[/lightweight-accordion]What is the opposite of Dunning-Kruger? : Imposter Syndrome is the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect; it occurs when intelligent, competent people underestimate their own abilities. People suffer because of this. They believe that their current position is unworthy of them.
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In the field of social psychology, illusory superiority is a condition of cognitive bias wherein a person overestimates their own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other people. Illusory superiorityis one of many positive illusions, relating to the self, that are evident in the study of intelligence, the effective performance of tasks and tests, and the possession of desirable personal characteristics and personalitytraits. Overestimation of abilities compared to an objective measure is known as the overconfidence effect.

The term illusory superiority was first used by the researchers Van Yperen and Buunk, in 1991. The phenomenon is also known as the above-average effect, the superiority bias, the leniency error, the sense of relative superiority, theprimus inter pares effect,[1] and the Lake Wobegon effect, named after the fictional town where all the children are aboveaverage.[2] The Dunning-Kruger effect is a form of illusory superiority shown by people on a task where their level of skill is low.

A vast majority of the literature on illusory superiority originates from studies on participants in the UnitedStates. However, research that only investigates the effects in one specific population is severely limited as this may not be a true representation of human psychology. More recent research investigating self-esteem in other countries suggests that illusory superiority depends onculture.[3] Some studies indicate that East Asians tend to underestimate their own abilities in order to improve themselves and get along withothers.[4][5]


Better-than-average heuristic[edit]

Alicke and Govorun proposed the idea that, rather than individuals consciously reviewing and thinking about their own abilities, behaviors and characteristics and comparing them to those ofothers, it is likely that people instead have what they describe as an “automatic tendency to assimilate positively-evaluated social objects toward ideal trait conceptions”.[6] For example, if an individual evaluated themselves as honest, they would be likely to then exaggerate their characteristic towards their perceived ideal position on ascale of honesty. Importantly, Alicke noted that this ideal position is not always the top of the scale; for example, with honesty, someone who is always brutally honest may be regarded as rude—the ideal is a balance, perceived differently by different individuals.


Another explanation for how the better-than-average effect works is egocentrism. This is the idea that an individual places greater importance and significance on their own abilities, characteristics, and behaviors than those of others. Egocentrism is thereforea less overtly self-serving bias. According to egocentrism, individuals will overestimate themselves in relation to others because they believe that they have an advantage that others do not have, as an individual considering their own performance and another’s performance will consider their performance to be better, even when they are in fact equal. Kruger (1999) found support for the egocentrism explanation in his research involving participant ratings of their ability on easy and difficulttasks. It was found that individuals were consistent in their ratings of themselves as above the median in the tasks classified as “easy” and below the median in the tasks classified as “difficult”, regardless of their actual ability. In this experiment the better-than-average effect was observed when it was suggested to participants that they would be successful, but also aworse-than-average effect was found when it was suggested that participants would be unsuccessful.[7]


Yet another explanation for the better-than-average effect is “focalism”, the idea that greater significance is placed on the object that is the focus of attention. Most studies of the better-than-average effect place greater focus on the self when asking participants tomake comparisons (the question will often be phrased with the self being presented before the comparison target—”compare yourself to the average person”). According to focalism this means that the individual will place greater significance on their own ability or characteristic than that of the comparison target. This also means that in theory if, in an experiment on the better-than-average effect, the questions were phrased so that the self and other were switched (e.g., “compare the averagepeer to yourself”) the better-than-average effect should be lessened.[8]

Instead of the better-than-average effect, optimistic bias has been the primary focus of research on focalism. When participants were asked to compare an average peer to themselves rather than themselves to an average peer, the effect of optimistic bias was found to be less pronounced in two studies. [9][10].

Windschitl, Kruger & Simms (2003) have conducted research into focalism, focusing specifically on the better-than-average effect, and found that asking participants to estimate their ability and likelihood of success in atask produced results of decreased estimations when they were asked about others’ chances of success rather than their own.[11]

Noisy mental information processing[edit]

According to a 2012 article in the Psychological Bulletin, illusory superiority and other biases can be accounted for by an information-theoretic generative mechanism that relies on observation (a noisy conversion of objective evidence into subjective estimates, or judgment). [12] The study hypothesizes that the underlying cognitive mechanism is comparable to the noisy memory mixing that results in the conservatism bias or overconfidence: readjusting our estimates of our own performance after those estimates are adjusted differently from those regarding estimates of others’ performances. The estimates of other people’s test results are even more pessimistic (more influenced by the prior expectation) than our own test results (more influenced by the fresh information we have since taking the test). The difference in the conservative bias of the two estimates—the conservative estimate of our own performance and the even more conservative estimate of the performance of others—is sufficient to give the impression that we are superior.

Since mental noise is a sufficient explanation that is much simpler and more straightforward than any other explanation involving heuristics, behavior, or socialinteraction,[6] the Occam’s razor principle argues in its favor as the underlying generative mechanism (it is the hypothesis which makes the fewest assumptions).


When making peer comparisons, a person may choose their own strengths and the weaknesses of others in order to make themselves appear stronger overall. This is known as selective recruitment. Weinstein (1980) tested this theory for the first time, but his experiment focused on optimistic bias rather than the better-than-average effect. Participants in the study had to rate how likely different actions were to make a number of life events more or less likely to happen to them. When given access to other people’s responses, it was discovered that people displayed less optimistic bias. [13].

Perloff and Fetzer (1986) suggested that when making peer comparisons on a specific characteristic, an individual chooses a comparison target—the peer to whom he is being compared—with lower abilities. To test this theory, Perloff and Fetzer asked participants to compare themselves to specific comparison targets like a close friend, and found that illusorysuperiority decreased when they were told to envision a specific person rather than vague constructs like “the average peer”. However, these results are not completely reliable and could be affected by the fact that individuals like their close friends more than an “average peer” and may as a result rate their friend as being higher than average, therefore the friend would not be an objective comparisontarget.[14]

“Self versus aggregate”comparisons[edit]

This idea, put forward by Giladi and Klar, suggests that when making comparisons any single member of a group will tend to evaluate themselves to rank above that group’s statistical mean performance level or the median performance level of itsmembers. For example, if an individual is asked to assess their own skill at driving compared to the rest of the group, they are likely to rate themself as an above-average driver. Furthermore, the majority of the group is likely to rate themselves as above average. Research has found this effect in many different areas of human performance and has even generalized it beyond individuals’ attempts to draw comparisons involvingthemselves.[15] Findings of this research therefore suggest that rather than individuals evaluating themselves as above average in a self-serving manner, the better-than-average effect is actually due to a general tendency to evaluate any single person or object as better than average.


The better-than-average effect may not have wholly social origins—judgments about inanimate objects suffer similar distortions.[15]


The degree to which people view themselves as more desirable than the average person links to reduced activation in their orbitofrontal cortex anddorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This is suggested to link to the role of these areas in processing “cognitive control”.[16]

Effects in differentsituations[edit]

Illusory superiority has been discovered in people’s comparisons of themselves to others in a variety of areas of life, such as performance in academic situations (such as class performance, exams, and overall intelligence), in working environments (for example, job performance), in social settings (for example, in estimating one’s popularity, or the extent to which one possesses desirable personality traits, such as honesty or confidence), and in everyday abilities. [1].

For illusory superiority to be demonstrated by social comparison, two logical hurdles have to be overcome. One is the ambiguity of the word “average”. It is logically possible for nearlyall of the set to be above the mean if the distribution of abilities is highly skewed. For example, the mean number of legs per human being is slightly lower than two because some people have fewer than two and almost none have more. Hence experiments usually compare subjects to themedian of the peer group, since by definition it is impossible for a majority to exceed the median.

A further problem in inferring inconsistency is that subjects might interpret the question in different ways, so it is logically possible that a majority of them are, for example, more generous than the rest of the group each on “their own understanding” ofgenerosity.[17] This interpretation is confirmed by experiments which varied the amount of interpretive freedom. As subjects evaluated themselves on a specific, well-defined attribute, illusory superiorityremains.[18]

Academic ability, job performance, lawsuits going to trial, and stocktrading[edit]

e ]

In%20a%20similar%20survey,%2087%%20of%20Master%20of%20Business%20Administration%20students%20atStanford%20University%20rated%20their%20academic%20performance%20as%20above%20the%20median. [20].

Illusory superiority has also explained phenomena such as the large amount of stock markettrading (as each trader thinks they are the best, and most likely to succeed),[21] and the number of lawsuits that go to trial (because, due to illusory superiority, many lawyers have an inflated belief that they will win acase).[22]

Cognitive tasks[edit]

In Kruger and Dunning’s experiments, participants were given specific tasks (like solving logic puzzles, analyzing grammar questions, and deciding whether jokes were funny), and were asked to rate their performance on these tasks relative to the rest of the group. This allowed a direct comparison of their actual and perceived performance. [23].

Results were divided into four groups depending on actual performance and it was found that all four groups evaluated their performance as above average, meaning that the lowest-scoring group (the bottom 25%) showed a very large illusory superiority bias. The researchers attributed this to the fact that the individuals whowere worst at performing the tasks were also worst at recognizing skill in those tasks. This was supported by the fact that, given training, the worst subjects improved their estimate of their rank as well as getting better at the tasks.[23] The paper, titled “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own IncompetenceLead to Inflated Self-Assessments”, won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000.[24]

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In 2003 Dunning and Joyce Ehrlinger, also of Cornell University, published a study that detaileda shift in people’s views of themselves influenced by external cues Cornell undergraduates were given tests of their knowledge of geography, some intended to positively affect their self-views, others intended to affect them negatively They were then asked to rate their performance, and those given the positive tests reported significantly better performance than those given thenegative [25]

This research was expanded upon by Daniel Ames and Lara Kammrath to include interpersonal sensitivity and subjects’ perceptions of their own interpersonal sensitivity. The effect may be due to noise and bias levels, according to research by Burson, Larrick, and Klayman, which contends that it is not as obvious as it first appears. [27].

Dunning, Kruger, and coauthors’ latestpaper[when?] on this subject comes to qualitatively similarconclusions[clarification needed] after making some attempt to test alternative explanations.[28]


Svenson (1981) surveyed 161 students in Sweden and the United States, asking them to compare theirdriving skills and safety to other people’s For driving skills, 93% of the U S sample and 69% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%; for safety, 88% of the U S and 77% of the Swedish put themselves in the top50% [29]

McCormick, Walkey and Green (1986) found similar results in their study, asking 178 participants to evaluate their position on eight different dimensions of driving skills (examples include the “dangerous–safe” dimension and the “considerate–inconsiderate” dimension). Only a small minority rated themselves as below the median, and when all eight dimensions wereconsidered together it was found that almost 80% of participants had evaluated themselves as being an above-average driver.[30]

One commercial survey showed that 36% of drivers believed they were an above-average driver while texting orsending emails compared to other drivers; 44% considered themselves average, and 18% below average.[31]


Illusory superiority was found in aself-report study of health behaviors (Hoorens & Harris, 1998) that asked participants to estimate how often they and their peers carried out healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Participants reported that they carried out healthy behaviors more often than the average peer, and unhealthy behaviors less often. Thefindings held even for expected future behavior.[32]

Immunity to bias[edit]

Subjects describe themselves in positive terms compared toother people, and this includes describing themselves as less susceptible to bias than other people. This effect is called the “bias blind spot” and has been demonstrated independently[citationneeded].


One of the main effects of illusory superiority in IQ is the “Downing effect”. This describes the tendency of people with abelow-average IQ to overestimate their IQ, and of people with an above-average IQ to underestimate their IQ (similar trend than the Dunning-Kruger effect). This tendency was first observed by C. L. Downing, who conducted the first cross-cultural studies on perceivedintelligence. His studies also showed that the ability to accurately estimate other people’s IQs was proportional to one’s own IQ (i.e., the lower the IQ, the less capable of accurately appraising other people’s IQs). People with high IQs are better overall at appraising other people’s IQs, but when asked about the IQs of people with similar IQs as themselves, they are likely to rate them as having higher IQs.

The disparity between actual IQ and perceived IQ has also been noted betweengenders by British psychologist Adrian Furnham, in whose work there was a suggestion that, on average, men are more likely to overestimate their intelligence by 5 points, while women are more likely to underestimate their IQ by a similarmargin.[33][34]


Illusorysuperiority has been found in studies comparing memory self-reports, such as Schmidt, Berg & Deelman’s research in older adults. This study involved participants aged between 46 and 89 years of age comparing their own memory to that of peers of the same age group, 25-year-olds and their own memory at age 25. This research showed that participants exhibited illusory superiority when comparing themselves to bothpeers and younger adults, however the researchers asserted that these judgments were only slightly related to age.[35]


InZuckerman and Jost’s study, participants were given detailed questionnaires about their friendships and asked to assess their own popularity Using social network analysis, they were able to show thatparticipants generally had exaggerated perceptions of their own popularity, especially in comparison to their own friends [36]

Despite the fact that most people in the study believed that they had more friends than their friends, a 1991 study by sociologist Scott L. Feld on the friendship paradox shows that on average, due to sampling bias, most people have fewer friends than their friends have.[37]


Researchers have also found illusory superiority in relationship satisfaction. For example, one study found that participants perceived their own relationships as better than others’ relationships on average, but thought that the majority of people were happy withtheir relationships. It also found evidence that the higher the participants rated their own relationship happiness, the more superior they believed their relationship was—illusory superiority also increased their own relationship satisfaction. This effect was pronounced in men, whose satisfaction was especially related to the perception that one’s own relationship was superior as well as to the assumption that few others were unhappy in their relationships. On the other hand, women’ssatisfaction was particularly related to the assumption that most people were happy with their relationship.[38] One study[citation needed] found thatparticipants became defensive when their spouse or partner were perceived by others to be more successful in any aspect of their life, and had the tendency to exaggerate their success and understate their spouse or partner’s success.

Self, friends, andpeers[edit]

One of the first studies that found illusory superiority was carried out in the United States by theCollege Board in 1976 [6] A survey was attached to the SAT exams (taken by one million students annually), asking the students to rate themselves relative to the median of thesample (rather than the average peer) on a number of vague positive characteristics In ratings of leadership, 70% of the students put themselves above the median In ability to get on well with others, 85% put themselves above the median; 25% rated themselves in the top 1%

Participants in a 2002 study on illusory superiority in social situations compared their own traits to those of their friends and peers on both positive and negative dimensions, such as punctuality and sensitivity, as well as naivety and consistency. In this study, it was discovered that participants rated their friends more favorably than other peers, but that they rated themselves more favorably than their friends (although there were some moderating factors). [39]

Research by Perloff and Fetzer,[14]Brown,[40] and Henri Tajfel and John C.Turner[41] also found friends being rated higher than other peers. Tajfel and Turner attributed this to an “ingroup bias” and suggested that this was motivated by the individual’s desire for a”positive social identity”.

Moderating factors[edit]

While illusory superiority has been found to be somewhat self-serving, this does notmean that it will predictably occur—it is not constant. The strength of the effect is moderated by many factors, the main examples of which have been summarized by Alicke and Govorun (2005).[6]

Interpretability/ambiguity oftrait[edit]

This is a phenomenon that Alicke and Govorun have described as “the nature of the judgement dimension” and refers to how subjective (abstract) or objective (concrete) the ability or characteristic being evaluatedis.[6] Research by Sedikides & Strube (1997) has found that people are more self-serving (the effect of illusory superiority is stronger) when the event in question is more open to interpretation,[42] for example socialconstructs such as popularity and attractiveness are more interpretable than characteristics such as intelligence and physical ability.[43] This has been partly attributedalso to the need for a believable self-view.[44]

An experiment with two conditions—one in which participants were given criteria for categorizing a trait as ambiguous or unambiguous, and the other in which participants were free to use their own criteria—provides empirical support for the hypothesis that ambiguity moderates illusory superiority. It was discovered that the effect of illusory superiority was stronger in the situation where participants were free to evaluate the traits. [18].

The effects of illusory superiority have also been found to be strongest when people rate themselves on abilities at which they are totally incompetent. These subjects have the greatest disparity betweentheir actual performance (at the low end of the distribution) and their self-rating (placing themselves above average). This Dunning–Kruger effect is interpreted as a lack of metacognitive ability to recognize their ownincompetence.[23]

Method of comparison[edit]

The method used in research into illusorysuperiority has been found to have an implication on the strength of the effect found. Most studies into illusory superiority involve a comparison between an individual and an average peer, of which there are two methods: direct comparison and indirect comparison. A direct comparison—which is more commonly used—involves the participant rating themselves and the average peer on the same scale, from “below average” to “aboveaverage”[45] and results in participants being far more self-serving.[9] Researchers have suggested that this occurs due to the closer comparison between the individual and the average peer, however use of thismethod means that it is impossible to know whether a participant has overestimated themselves, underestimated the average peer, or both.

The indirect method of comparison involves participants rating themselves and the average peer on separate scales and the illusory superiority effect is found by taking the average peer score away from the individual’s score (with a higher score indicating a greater effect). While the indirect comparison method is used less often it is more informativein terms of whether participants have overestimated themselves or underestimated the average peer, and can therefore provide more information about the nature of illusory superiority.[45]


One of the most important moderating factors of the effect of illusory superiority is the nature of the comparison target. There are two main concerns with the comparison target that need to be taken into account.

Because a person compares themselves to a hypothetical average peer rather than a real person, research on illusory superiority differs from other types of research in terms of the comparison target. Alicke and colleagues (1995) discovered that when participants compared themselves with actual people (who were also participating in the experiment and seated in the same room), as opposed to when participants compared themselves with an average peer, the effect of illusory superiority was still present but significantly diminished. This raises the possibility that studies into illusorysuperiority may be themselves biased, discovering a stronger effect than would actually happen in practice. [45].

Additional studies examining the variations between comparison targets involved four scenarios in which participants were in varying degrees of proximity to the comparison target: watching live in the same room, watching on tape, reading a written transcript, or making self-other comparisons with an average peer. In the tape observation and transcript conditions, it was discovered that the effect of illusory superiority was stronger because the participant was further removed from the interview situation. These findings, according to researchers, point to two key elements—individuation of the target and live contact with the target—that can mitigate the effect of illusory superiority.

Second, Alicke et al.’s(1995) studies investigated whether the negative connotations to the word “average” may have an effect on the extent to which individuals exhibit illusory superiority, namely whether the use of the word “average” increases illusory superiority. Participants were asked to evaluate themselves, the average peer and a person whom they had sat next to in the previous experiment, on various dimensions. It was found that they placed themselves highest, followed by the real person, followed by theaverage peer, however the average peer was consistently placed above the mean point on the scale, suggesting that the word “average” did not have a negative effect on the participant’s view of the average peer.[45]


An important moderating factor of the effect of illusory superiority is the extent to which an individual believes they are able to control and change their position on the dimension concerned. According to Alicke & Govorun positivecharacteristics that an individual believes are within their control are more self-serving, and negative characteristics that are seen as uncontrollable are less detrimental to self-enhancement.[6] This theory was supported by Alicke’s (1985) research, which found that individuals rated themselves as higher than an average peer on positivecontrollable traits and lower than an average peer on negative uncontrollable traits. The idea, suggested by these findings, that individuals believe that they are responsible for their success and some other factor is responsible for their failure is known as the self-serving bias.

Individual differences of judge[edit]

Personality characteristics vary widely between people and have been found to moderate the effects of illusory superiority, one of the main examples of this is self-esteem. Brown (1986) found that in self-evaluations of positive characteristics participants with higher self-esteem showed greaterillusory superiority bias than participants with lower self-esteem.[40] Additionally, another study found that participants pre-classified as having high self-esteem tended to interpret ambiguous traits in a self-serving way, whereas participants pre-classified as having low self-esteem did not dothis.[39]

Relation to mental health[edit]

Psychology has traditionally assumed that generally accurate self-perceptions are essential to good mental health This was challenged by a 1988 paper by Taylor and Brown, who argued that mentally healthy individuals typically manifest three cognitive illusionsillusory superiority,illusion of control, and optimism bias [17] This idea rapidly became very influential, with some authorities concluding that it would be therapeutic todeliberately induce these biases [46] Since then, further research has both undermined that conclusion and offered new evidence associating illusory superiority with negative effects on the individual [17]

One lineof argument was that in the Taylor and Brown paper, the classification of people as mentally healthy or unhealthy was based on self-reports rather than objective criteria.[46] People prone to self-enhancement would exaggerate how well-adjusted they are. Onestudy claimed that “mentally normal” groups were contaminated by “defensive deniers”, who are the most subject to positive illusions.[46] A longitudinal study found that self-enhancement biases were associated with poorsocial skills and psychological maladjustment.[17] In a separate experiment where videotaped conversations between men and women were rated by independent observers, self-enhancing individuals were more likely to show socially problematic behaviors such as hostilityor irritability.[17] A 2007 study found that self-enhancement biases were associated with psychological benefits (such as subjective well-being) but also inter- and intra-personal costs (such as anti-socialbehavior).[47]

Worse-than-average effect[edit]

In contrast to what is commonly believed, research has found thatbetter-than-average effects are not universal. In fact, much recent research has found the opposite effect in many tasks, especially if they were more difficult.[48]


Illusory superiority’s relationship with self-esteem is uncertain The theory that those with high self-esteem maintain this high level by rating themselves highly is not without meritstudies involvingnon-depressed college students found that they thought they had more control over positive outcomes compared to their peers, even when controlling for performance [49] Non-depressed students also actively rate peers below themselves as opposed to rating themselves higher Students were able to recall a great deal more negative personality traits about others than about themselves [50]

In these studies there was no distinction made between people with legitimate and illegitimate high self-esteem, as other studies have found that absence ofpositive illusions mainly coexist with high self-esteem[51] and that determined individuals bent on growth and learning are less prone to theseillusions.[52] Thus it may be that while illusory superiority is associated with undeserved high self-esteem, people with legitimate high self-esteem do not necessarily exhibit it.

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The cognitive bias of illusory superiority has been known throughout history and identified byintellectuals. A sampling of their comments includes:

  • Confucius (551–479 BC), who said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”.[53]
  • Thephilosopher Socrates (470–399 BC), who interpreted a prophecy from the Delphic oracle, said that he was wise despite feeling that he did not fully understand anything, as the wisdom of being aware that he knewnothing.
  • Playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616), who said, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It, V. i.)[54]
  • The poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744), who wrote in An Essay on Criticism (1709): “A little learning is a dangerous thing”
  • Henry Fielding (1707–1754), who in the novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling wrote: “For men of true learning, and almost universal knowledge, always compassionate [pity] the ignorance of others; but fellows who excel in some little, low,contemptible art, are always certain to despise those who are unacquainted with that art.”
  • The naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882), who said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than doesknowledge”[23]
  • Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), who wrote in Human, All Too Human (aphorism 483), “TheEnemies of Truth. — Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”[55]
  • W. B. Yeats (1865–1939), who in the poem The Second Coming said: “Thebest lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”[28]
  • The philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who said, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feelcertainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”[28]
  • A quip attributed to Mark Twain (1835–1910), though possibly apocryphal: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was soignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”[56]


  • Anosognosia
  • Dunning-Kruger effect
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Grandiose delusions
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Introspection illusion
  • List of cognitive biases
  • Looking glass self
  • Narcissism
  • Pollyanna principle
  • Put on airs
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-help
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-serving bias
  • Superiority complex


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  • Further reading[edit]

    • Alicke, Mark D.; Dunning, David A.; Kruger, Joachim I. (2005).The Self in Social Judgment. Psychology Press. pp. 85–106. ISBN 978-1-84169-418-4.especially chapters 5 and 4
    • Kruger, Justin (1999). “Lake Wobegon Be Gone! The ‘Below-Average Effect’ and the Egocentric Nature of Comparative Ability Judgments”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 77 (2): 221–232. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.2.221.PMID 10474208.
    • Matlin, Margaret W. (2004). “Pollyanna Principle”. In Pohl, Rüdiger F. (ed.). Cognitive Illusions: AHandbook on Fallacies and Biases in Thinking, Judgement and Memory. East Sussex: Psychology Press. ISBN 978-1-84169-351-4.
    • Myers, David G. (1980). The Inflated Self: Human Illusions and the Biblical Call to Hope. New York, NY: Seabury Press.ISBN 978-0816404599.
    • Sedikides, Constantine; Gregg, Aiden P. (2007). “Portraits of the Self”. In Hogg, Michael A.; Cooper, Joel (eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Social Psychology (Concise Student ed.). London: SAGE Publications. pp. 93–122.ISBN 978-1412945356.
    • Dunning, David; Johnson, Kerri; Ehrlinger, Joyce; Kruger, Justin (June 2003). “Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence”. Current Directions inPsychological Science. 12 (3): 83–87. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.01235. S2CID 2720400.
    • Phelps, Richard P. (2009). “Appendix C: The Rocky Score-line of Lake Wobegon” (PDF). In Phelps, Richard P. (ed.). Correcting Fallacies about Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC: The American Psychological Association.ISBN 978-1433803925.
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    Additional Question — What is an example of Dunning-Kruger?

    Do narcissists have the Dunning-Kruger effect?

    Psychological reactions Some narcissistic people live in their bubble where they are all-knowing and experts at everything, even though they have never really studied human behavior nor, in many cases, have the capacity to accurately understand it (false superiority, Dunning-Kruger effect)

    When someone thinks they are smarter than they are?

    According to a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, people who are less skilled, knowledgeable, or experienced in a particular field of work or body of knowledge tend to overestimate their skill or knowledge.

    What is a imposter syndrome?

    Imposter syndrome is a general term for having self-doubt and feeling like a fraud. High achievers are disproportionately affected because they have a hard time accepting their success. Many people ponder whether they merit praise.

    What causes the imposter syndrome?

    Causes of Imposter Syndrome Many people who experience imposter syndrome came from families that valued success and achievement. You might be more prone to experience feelings of being a fraud later in life if your parents alternated between overpraise and criticism. The demands of society to succeed may also play a role.

    Why is the Dunning-Kruger effect important?

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is crucial because it helps us become aware of our own blind spots and gives us the chance to change how we see ourselves. It takes taking a step back to realize that your own self-assessments are largely biased and probably incorrect because it is most invisible to those experiencing it.

    What is it called when you think you know everything?

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias that leads people to overestimate their knowledge or ability, particularly in areas with which they have little to no experience. It is named after psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

    What is the Dunning-Kruger times?

    The Dunning-Kruger effect, coined by the psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999, is a cognitive bias in which poor performers greatly overestimate their abilities.

    Is the Dunning-Kruger effect gender neutral?

    However, it’s crucial to stress that the Dunning-Kruger effect is gender-neutral. It applies to each and every one of us. However, Dunning and Kruge discovered that those at the top don’t overestimate themselves—quite the opposite, in fact.

    What does meta ignorance mean?

    This meta-ignorance (or ignorance of ignorance) arises because lack of expertise and knowledge often hides in the realm of the unknown unknowns or is disguised by erroneous beliefs and background knowledge that only appear to be sufficient to conclude a right answer

    What is an intuitive error?

    The CRT yields two types of errors: Intuitive errors, which are attributed to Type 1 processes; and non-intuitive errors, which result from poor numeracy skills or deficient reasoning

    How do you use Dunning-Kruger effect in a sentence?

    Examples of Dunning Kruger effect Jordan is that very loud guy at the end of every bar with Dunning Kruger syndrome.

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