Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recognizing one's errors

Justin Kruger and David Dunning of Cornell University published Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.

My first reaction is that no one here is subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect; we're brighter than the bank robber described in their first example. My subsequent thought is that I may be letting us off the hook too easily; perhaps we're all subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect in the right domain. None (well, perhaps darn few) of us are highly competent in everything, but we still may be tempted to make pronouncements in knowledge domains where our expertise lags that of our peers. That conclusion is scarier. Knowing oneself is apparently not easy.

Read their article to get some ideas how to test our thinking, and compare that to my earlier postings on scepticism. This sounds related to the idea of confirmation bias, or maybe it's similar to the Lake Wobegon effect.

How do we get around this problem? As best as I can see, life-long learning plays a key role, for it fits with their prediction 4. I suspect careful observation and reflection can help, too, for that might help us recognize our abilities.

Your thoughts?

Thanks to RealClimate for pointing out the article via the Wikipedia article.

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