Tag Archives: Stav Atir

Confident Cluelessness = The Dunning-Kruger Effect + Ignorant Bliss

Stav Atir

Stav Atir

Most people overestimate their own expertise, and do not recognize their own incompetence.
previous blog post highlighted this metacognition phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This effect has been demonstrated for people’s overestimates of their skills in grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, and financial acumen.

Emily Rosenzweig

Emily Rosenzweig

More recently, the effect was demonstrated by Cornell’s Stav Atir and  Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane,  who asked volunteers if they were familiar with concepts like centripetal force and photon as well as fictitious terms including plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine.

About 90% of participants claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fake concepts, and people who thought they were most knowledgeable also said they recognized more of the meaningless terms.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Atir and Rosenzweig concluded that poor performers lack insight about their lack of skill because they ”don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another verification of the Dunning-Kruger effect was replicated among volunteers who completed a logical reasoning task, an intuitive physics problem, a financial acumen challenge, and others presented by University of California San Diego’s Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger of NYU, and Cornell’s David Dunning.

Elanor Williams

Elanor Williams

Some people achieved perfect scores, and expressed confidence in their answers, yet those who achieved no correct answers expressed the same degree of confidence as the most able performers.

Both high and low achievers made judgments based on intuitive “rules,” so they felt confident based on having a clear, if inaccurate, rationale.
Williams’ team concluded, “Rule-based confidence is no guarantee of self-insight into performance.”

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Another “cringe-worthy” example is financial illiteracy accompanied by high confidence in financial acumen among people who filed for bankruptcy.

More than 25,000 people rated their financial knowledge, then tested actual financial literacy in the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority with the U.S. Treasury.
Of these, 800 respondents said they filed bankruptcy within the previous two years.

Not surprisingly, bankruptcy filers achieved financial knowledge scores in the lowest third of respondents, but they rated their knowledge more positively than financially-solvent respondents.
Nearly a quarter of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible rating whereas only 13 percent of other respondents were equally confident.

Deborah Keleman

Deborah Keleman

Even 80 physical scientists at top universities provided a number of inaccurate purpose-driven (“teleological”) explanations about “why things happen” in the natural world, including:

  • “Moss forms around rocks in order to stop soil erosion,”
  • “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light.”
Joshua Rottman

Joshua Rottman

Participants provided these explanations at their own speed or with ambitious time constraints.
When these professional scientists provided rushed explanations, they were twice as likely to endorse inaccurate purpose-driven rationales, reported Boston University’s Deborah Kelemen, Joshua Rottman, and Rebecca Seston.

Rebecca Seston

Rebecca Seston

In addition, scientists were equally likely as humanities scholars to endorse teleological arguments despite most physical scientists’ rejection of purpose-driven explanations for natural phenomena.

However, these results suggest that teleological propositions are a default explanatory preference among humans, and could explain their presence in myth and religion across cultures.

These results suggest that most people hold a positive view of their capabilities even when faced with contrary evidence.
However, some groups, such as women, may hold an unrealistically modest view of capabilities despite affirming feedback.
These biases in self assessment point to the importance of realistic recalibration of confidence, aligned with consensual feedback.

-*How do you minimize the risks of “Clueless Confidence”?
-*How can systematic underestimates of competence be reduced to increase “Realistic Confidence”?

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©Kathryn Welds