The Confident Incompetent

  • Thread starter zoobyshoe
  • Start date
6,171
1,275

Main Question or Discussion Point

Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

``I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn't know it,'' Dunning said.

One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.

The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

``Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,'' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and Dunning.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/01/18/MN73840.DTL
 

Answers and Replies

310
2
What are they talking about?
 
russ_watters
Mentor
19,017
5,168
We've discussed this study before...
 
George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,231
785
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."

Bertrand Russell

Janus uses this as his signature.
 
mathwonk
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
10,743
919
I found it interesting, and it meshes with the common phenomenon, no doubt discussed before, of the student who thinks he/she did well on a test they failed miserably. I just received such an inquiry yesterday. W also comes to mind rather quickly.

I think that overconfidence also leads to incompetence, since I know otherwise intelligent people who have so much faith in their own ideas that they either do not seek, or readily discount the contrary advice of others. They seem to reason somewhat like: "I am a smart guy, why shouldn't I be right? Maybe others just do not have the courage to try this bold new idea."

It may be a form of insecurity that makes it hard to accept sage advice. I notice also that here on the forum when I am most tempted to tell someone he is just flat wrong, that I have usually made a mistake myself.
 
Last edited:
matthyaouw
Gold Member
1,137
4
I sometimes envy the sure and arrogant fool. It must be an easy life not having to think, to reason or to doubt. Curse my rational inquiring mind. :wink:
 
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,349
51
So, when you see someone doing something completely stupid and are certain you know the right way to do it, which of you is really incompetent? :biggrin:

And, yes, we've discussed this before if someone is inclined to search for the original discussion.
 
310
2
So, when you see someone doing something completely stupid and are certain you know the right way to do it, which of you is really incompetent? :biggrin:
Who's to say you're not both incompetent?
 
188
0
the right one is the one who gets the job done.
 
SpaceTiger
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,931
2
I especially notice this with the socially incompetent, probably because confidence often produces positive feedback.
 
-Job-
Science Advisor
1,124
1
We're all fairly incompetent at one point.
 
6,171
1,275
188
0
lol, tossed a coin.
 
6,171
1,275
I especially notice this with the socially incompetent, probably because confidence often produces positive feedback.
Unquestioned overconfidence aside, being competent would mean realizing that sometimes an attitude of complete confidence is the most effective means to an end.
 
SpaceTiger
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,931
2
Unquestioned overconfidence aside, being competent would mean realizing that sometimes an attitude of complete confidence is the most effective means to an end.
And what is the end of a social interaction? We instinctively respond well to confident people, particularly in the short term, but I wouldn't say that such a response is the end all of social life. I've known many confident people that could be quite engaging face-to-face, but who ended up being resented or disrespected by their peers because of their other social mistakes. A face of confidence is important, but it does not itself constitute social competence.
 
6,171
1,275
I sometimes envy the sure and arrogant fool. It must be an easy life not having to think, to reason or to doubt. Curse my rational inquiring mind. :wink:
Actually, upon rereading the article, I find it is not saying "confidence = incompetence" at all.

Unlike unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate their competence. The researchers attributed this to the fact that, in the absence of information about how others were doing, highly competent subjects assumed that others were performing as well as they were -- a phenomenon psychologists term the ``false consensus effect.''

When high-scoring subjects were asked to ``grade'' the grammar tests of their peers, however, they quickly revised their evaluations of their own performance. In contrast, the self-assessments of those who scored badly themselves were unaffected by the experience of grading others; some subjects even further inflated their estimates of their own abilities.

``Incompetent individuals were less able to recognize competence in others,'' the researchers concluded.
The competent are not excluded from awareness of their competence relative to others and in the light of evidence. In other words, the hallmark of competence seems to be the ability to adjust to the facts. The incompetent, according to the article, maintain a high self assessment despite being faced with evidence to the contrary.
 
6,171
1,275
A face of confidence is important, but it does not itself constitute social competence.
My statement was limited to the discrete insight that sometimes adoption of an attitude of confidence is the best means to an end. I wasn't intending to suggest that was a recipe for complete "social competence."
 
188
0
i'd say i was hooked on phonics yet somehow aced mnemonics :rofl:, i guess it just comes down to how your brain is wired and how your taught. i knew this guy who was idiot savant, but when i played him in pool it's like he was made for it.
 
Last edited:
SpaceTiger
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,931
2
My statement was limited to the discrete insight that sometimes adoption of an attitude of confidence is the best means to an end.
But this goes without saying, I should think. The interesting question is to what extent social confidence correlates positively with social competence, and I was saying that, in my experience, it does not. Would you agree?
 
188
0
i'd just like to say this one thing, know your audience, if you want to swagger then you have to pay a price for the cockyness (haters), humble confidence is best in pretty much any situation.
 
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
The old myth that bumblebee flight is impossible seeks to make the point that as long as the bumblebee doesn't know he can't fly, he flies.

Take Bush for example... :biggrin:

Also reminds me of one of my favorites: Keep the company of those who seek the truth and run from those who have found it.
 
Last edited:
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,133
253
But this goes without saying, I should think. The interesting question is to what extent social confidence correlates positively with social competence, and I was saying that, in my experience, it does not. Would you agree?
It depends on how you define confidence and whether or not some of the underlying psychology theories are true or not.

I don't know much about either sociology or psychology, but I remember hearing that sometimes, people that have low self-esteem will replace that missing confidence with a bs confidence, or ego, or whatever the modern term is.

In that's true, I would disagree with you, since real confidence would have meaning behind it (i.e. you have real confidence in a task, because you've actually completed that task competently more than once before, not because you're trying to convince yourself that you can)
 
6,171
1,275
But this goes without saying, I should think. The interesting question is to what extent social confidence correlates positively with social competence, and I was saying that, in my experience, it does not. Would you agree?
Hmmm...in my experience there are, in fact, people who are both confident and competent, socially.
 
SpaceTiger
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,931
2
Hmmm...in my experience there are, in fact, people who are both confident and competent, socially.
Certainly, I'm thinking more of the overall trend. I've noticed that people who are genuinely competent in social situations will show a certain level of humility, understanding that they need to show care in what they say, even if people like them.
 

Related Threads for: The Confident Incompetent

  • Last Post
Replies
12
Views
6K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
30
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
26
Views
5K
Replies
1
Views
439
  • Last Post
2
Replies
31
Views
5K
  • Poll
  • Last Post
Replies
23
Views
4K
Top