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What Know-It-Alls Don’t Know, or the Illusion of Competence | Aeon

We’re always trying to figure out why people support Trump, why Republicans vote against their own interests, and why such folks loudly orate their views at the drop of a hat. Maybe Ph.D. neuroscience candidate Kate Fehlhaber can give us a clue. She cites a study that shows incompetent people are too incompetent to evaluate their own incompetence.

“…[The] ‘illusion of confidence’ is now called the ‘Dunning-Kruger Effect’, and describes the cognitive bias to inflate self-assessment.

To investigate this phenomenon in the lab, Dunning and Kruger designed some clever experiments. In one study, they asked undergraduate students a series of questions about grammar, logic and jokes, and then asked each student to estimate his or her score overall, as well as their relative rank compared to the other students. Interestingly, students who scored the lowest in these cognitive tasks always overestimated how well they did – by a lot. Students who scored in the bottom quartile estimated that they had performed better than two-thirds of the other students!…”

Kate Fehlhaber

READ MORE: What Know-It-Alls Don’t Know, or the Illusion of Competence | Aeon

Hmm… individuals who perform at the bottom think they’re outperforming everyone else. Remind you of anybody?

Competent or Incompetent?



About The Author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about an alpha Bichon named Chester, and his friends–with a dash of humor and a dab of poli-sci. JoAnn worked professionally in the Psychology and Information Science fields. Retired now, she enjoys the creative life.


  1. Robert A. Vella

    >>> “… incompetent people are too incompetent to evaluate their own incompetence.”

    It’s so true, but I can’t stop laughing!


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