The Weekend Wonk: Dunning Kruger Effect

May 19, 2012

Ever been frustrated trying to make a reasoned, sensible, logical argument to a denier?

There’s a reason why it is so difficult. Let’s take a look at the Dunning/Kruger effect. Have you ever noticed that often times the most incompetent people have the highest opinions of themselves, especially when debating? This video explains why.

72 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Dunning Kruger Effect”


  1. Before “free market” think tanks successfully exploited the D-K effect, people whose inflexible beliefs contradicted the best understanding of reality were simply referred to as cranks.


  2. Hey, wildweatherdan, thanks for the post. I remember experiencing Fremdschamen reading the name omnologos. Dunning Kruger is built right into it.


  3. @Mike, you nailed it with the Idol example. Now I know how to explain D-K in a minute and have people remember it. Thanks!
    And don’t underestimate the power of your idea. Making people understand this concept is a high priority task on the road towards climate solutions.

  4. Nick Carter Says:

    “He who knows not….and knows not he knows not…..he is a fool”. Confucius.

    “Those are NOT American tanks behind me”……”Baghdad Bob”.

  5. Martin Lack Says:

    I am grateful for the explanation of what the D-K effect is. I have heard it mentioned often; but have never bothered to investigate it because I felt that those who refer to it were just trying to make me feel intellectually inferior to them. However, I am generally very self-critical and tend to think very poorly of myself, which would appear to indicate that I am amongst the most intelligent and self-aware. This is excellent news.

    As for people being insufficiently aware of their inability to be self-critical; I have always put this down to:
    –1. the cynical rejection of all authority figures and the fallacious assumption that all opinions are equally valid (i.e. the marketplace of ideas) and/or
    –2. a preference for believing in a conspiracy theory that absolves us all as individuals of any responsibility for the consequences of our collective failure to admit that, as Herman E Daly put it so well, we are all treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.

    • omnologos Says:

      Martin – Michael Mann believes in such a conspiracy, in his case to absolve himself of any responsibility for the consequences of his and his colleagues’ collective failure to bring about any meaningful action regarding policymaking.

      Another D-K victim, then!

      • otter17 Says:

        Oh, the irony.

        • omnologos Says:

          Would be interesting to find out how many visitors of this site really think that, if there were no “skeptics”, the world would have agreed a mitigation plan years ago already.

          If anybody does, I would like to know what that plan’s details would have been.

          • otter17 Says:

            At least in the USA, the cap and trade law a few years ago would have likely passed. Before that, though, who knows what form of legislation would have passed in an alternative universe. Also, businesses and people would likely be contributing more in certain ways.

            That’s all I got, but the past is the past.

          • omnologos Says:

            otter17 – I said, “the world” 😎

          • otter17 Says:

            Yeah, I know you made mention of the world. As far as the world goes, who knows? I can only guess there. I would presume each country would have tailored their own method to meet international treaty. USA being a hindrance to international treaty hasn’t helped for sure.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            As Peter has already pointed out last month, Cap and Trade was espoused by Republicans long before the party morphed into the current fringe-controlled collective of misanthropic hypocrites.

            I know Martin Lack sees real problems with Cap and Trade and prefers the Fee and Dividend plan that Hansen proposes but there were significant reductions made in sulfur dioxide emissions with Cap and Trade ( then called Emissions Trading )

      • Martin Lack Says:

        Another nice inversion of reality. Blaming our predicament on the people who have done the most to illustrate the scale of the problem we face. I was going to say you couldn’t make this stuff up; but you just did.

        • omnologos Says:

          Are you denying that Michael Mann is convinced about a “well-oiled denialist” conspiracy?

          • Martin Lack Says:

            As I have said to you many times, Maurizio, the conspiracy Mann cites is a well-documented fact; whereas the scientific conspiracy to foist climate change alarmism on a credulous world is a complete fantasy.

          • otter17 Says:

            And, it isn’t a conspiracy. Many are acting independently of one another.

      • Alteredstory Says:

        When did he absolve himself of any responsibility?

  6. Alteredstory Says:

    The lemon juice thing reminds me of the Chemtrail “vinegar people”.


  7. this rather sums up the adam smith instiitute very well, who formulated a policy of privatising the pavements..using profit zones..


  8. The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias [misinterpretation] in which unskilled individuals [idiots] suffer from illusory [imaginary] superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average [bloated egos]. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive [that part of your brain that isn’t really you, but helps you decide things] inability of the unskilled [nice word for idiot again] to recognize their mistakes.
    Actual competence [knowing what the hell they are talking about] may weaken self-confidence [if they actually knew more about something they might realize they were stupid], as competent individuals [smart people] may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding [smart people assume other people are not complete morons, until they have proof otherwise]. 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”

    http://www.witwgara.tk/2012/05/they-have-name-for-that-dunningkruger.html


  9. […] (1) distrusting all external authority and (2) invoking the fallacious marketplace of ideas (i.e. the Dunning-Kruger effect), large numbers of people continue to prefer to believe that the majority of relevantly-qualified, […]


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