The Dunning–Kruger Effect 


I’m starting to feel like the Dunning-Kruger Effect should be mentioned in every piece of media.

What is it?

“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities.”


I see examples of this all the time and it drives me crazy.

Uneducated People

We have the stereotypes of drunk and lazy students, but the process of deep-diving a subject teaches you a lot more than just that subject. If education is done well it teaches you how to learn. I must admit my undergraduate degree didn’t really teach me to learn. That all happened during my PhD.

I think higher education also gives you a different perspective. At each level of education I realized how simple the previous level was. If I had never experienced the next level, I would never have had this realization. It also made me question what more I might be missing.

Aristotle wrote, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” The converse of this seems to be true also.

You don’t have to go to university of have this perspective, but it’s rare I see it from people who haven’t.

Educated Idiots

Even educated people can fall prey to the Dunning–Kruger effect. Being educated in one subject doesn’t qualify you as an expert in every other subject. You may have the tools to research a new subject area better than someone with limited education, but have you really done the research, or have you just read the headlines?

In the UK an undergraduate degree is 3 years, and a PhD is a minimum of 3 years. Did you really commit 3-6 years to this new subject you are claiming expertise at? I’m not saying every topic of conversation needs that amount of time and rigor, but you should have enough self awareness to know you have not done the time, so you don’t know what you don’t know.

Despite this some educated people seem to think their PhD qualifies them to speak on any subject as an expert. You see these people doing the rounds on popular podcasts talking like they are a world leading expert on something they have no background in. It drives me nuts.

Critical Thinking

Unfortunately it all comes back to critical thinking, which seems to be sadly lacking in many people. I wrote about this here.


Please just engage your brain. If the people speaking are not self-aware enough to realize they are talking crap, at least you can be self-aware enough to fact check their rubbish.



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

4 thoughts on “The Dunning–Kruger Effect ”

  1. The Dunning-Kruger effect is hard at work in the left.
    My most hilarious clip was on YouTube where one guy was arguing with a doctor and saying that non-binary male people menstruate. The doctor tried to explain a) they don’t have the right chromosome b) they don’t have an uterus and c) you sir are depriving a village of an idiot.

  2. Ray: It is equally hard at work on the right. I could list many examples of politicians, popular podcast hosts and their guests who are the embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Unfortunately we all tend to suffer from confirmation bias, such that we see more value in things that agree with our opinion, that those that counter it.

  3. One of the best reads!
    I have learnt something new today apart from your regular column of awesome Oracle stuff 🙂

    Cheers Tim!

  4. Regarding all sides of the media and the Dunning-Kruger effect: Often it is difficult to ascertain whether what we are seeing and hearing (and what is popular enough to be profitable) is an expression of the Dunning-Kruger effect or capitalizing on the P. T. Barnum speculation that a sucker is born every minute. (I have come to think that P. T. Barnum’s speculation is on the low side of reality.) It is difficult to believe in many cases that casters actually believe what they are spewing and I wonder whether the simple truth is just too boring to be profitable. I have no deep dive on the matter and I sincerely hope my thoughts on this matter are not an expression of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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