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Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

Susan Notes:

Provocative study. The paradox is that improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities. But certain humility is a good thing--when it does equal obsequiousness.

by Justin Kruger and David Dunning
Cornell University


People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The
authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these
domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make
unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4
studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and
logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the
12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration
to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically,
improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them
recognize the limitations of their abilities.

NOTE: Access this paper here [pdf file].

— Justin Kruger and David Dunning
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
--
http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf


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