This Cognitive Bias Means Stupid People Don't realise They're Stupid

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Photo: Flickr / Zack Sheppard

Simply put: stupid people are too stupid to realise they’re stupid:Successful negotiation of everyday life would seem to require people to possess insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills.

However, people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence. This lack of awareness arises because poor performers are doubly cursed: Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to produce correct responses, but also of the expertise necessary to surmise that they are not producing them.

People base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Because these notions often do not correlate with objective performance, they can lead people to make judgments about their performance that have little to do with actual accomplishment.

Source: “Why People Fail to recognise Their Own Incompetence” from Current Directions in Psychological Science

It has since been dubbed the Dunning–Kruger effect:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognise their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. 

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