We Are All Confident Idiots

27 October 2014. 

An article by David Dunning in the Pacific Standard magazine website.

Apparently we all are.  David Dunning is a professor of psychology at Cornell University and his article argues convincingly that we all fail to recognise how ignorant we are – even as subject matter experts. He further shows that poor performers often have an ‘inappropriate confidence’ because they lack self-insight.

As an interesting illustration, Dunning discusses the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (part of the U.S. Treasury), that asked 25,000 respondents to rate their own financial knowledge, and then went on to measure their actual financial literacy.

The “800 respondents who said they had filed bankruptcy within the previous two years performed fairly dismally on the test—in the 37th percentile, on average. But they rated their overall financial knowledge more, not less, positively than other respondents did.”

Another article following a similar train of thought is in the MIT Sloan Management Review – ‘Embrace Your Ignorance‘ (subscription required).

Top Findings

  • “In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”
  • “The built-in

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