May 10, 2010

The Dunning–Kruger effect

I have frequently noticed something apparently strange when training solution-focused coaches: while they became more skillful, at the same time they seemed to become a bit more uncertain about their own skills. When I noticed this effect first it made me feel a bit uncertain, wondering whether I was doing something wrong. Today, on one of my favorite websites, Mindhacks, I came across the Dunning–Kruger effect. This paradoxical effect means that while people improve their skills, their self-assessment is reduced because they also learn to judge their ability level more accurately. It seems rather unfair, the least skillful may be more confident about themselves, than the most skillful...

Anyway, it is useful to know this. When you teach someone something and see them become more competent and at the same time more uncertain about themselves, you can normalize this uncertainty and explain to them it is a normal sign of them actually becoming more skillful. 

Hmm... maybe, the Dunning-Kruger effect isn't all bad. Maybe it helps highly skilled people to remain modest and eager to learn.

Update: here is a critical post on the Dunning-Kruger effect: All Are Skill Unaware.


  1. I read that tonight on MIndHacks too and I thought it was very interesting.
    It does explain a lot.
    Sometimes in training I watch with horror as people who are given a few pointers about one topic (e.g. coaching) think of themselves as accomplished practitioners! :)
    Maybe I'll post something about it too...

  2. This effect might also explain why some people think they can complete a complex performance such as writing a novel but when they get down to it they find they are unable to. It's not that they don't have or can't develop the ability, but that after they start they may find that it's a bit harder than they thought and the shock of finding you are a 2 or 3 as compared to the 10 author you thought you'd be may be too disappointing for many.

  3. Hi Rodney, I think that is true. Nice example, thanks


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