A weblog of popular science

Too Dumb to Know it

Posted by ChevScience on May 4, 2012

Are dumb people too dumb to know that they’re dumb? Apparently so, according to research.

With more than a decade’s worth of research, David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, has demonstrated that humans find it intrinsically difficult to get a sense of what we don’t know. Whether an individual lacks competence in logical reasoning, emotional intelligence, humor or even chess abilities, the person still tends to rate his or her skills in that area as being above average.

The results are uniform across all the knowledge domains: People who actually do well on tests tend to feel more confident about their performance than people who don’t do well, but only slightly. Almost everyone thinks they perform better than average. For people at the bottom who are really doing badly — those in the bottom 10th or 15th percentile — they think their work falls in the 60th or 55th percentile, so, above average.

It is called the Dunning–Kruger effect. Learn more here.


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