Research Paper on Incompetence and Inflated Self-Assessments

Every now and then someone sends me a link to an academic paper that explains a large chunk of life. Last week one of my friends at work sent me a link to an interesting article on how poor people are at recognizing their own limitations. I’m including a link to the article as well as a summary abstract:
Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (Kruger & Dunning, 1999)

“People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.”

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  • David Sachs

    This is depressing. Now every time I decide that I might actually be good at something (washing lettuce, parallel parking, managing my life) I have to consider the strong possibility that I’m not only an idiot but that I’m too much of an idiot to fully comprehend how much of an idiot I am. If my ability to understand this article is truly as as I believe it to be, of course.