How to be mindful about overestimating our Ablilities

Why do incompetent people tend to believe they are experts?

You're Not the Expert You Think You Are - Dunning Kruger Effect

Have you ever met someone who thought extremely highly of themselves, as opposed to how much they actually knew? Maybe that friend who thought she was a fabulous photographer, but her pictures were cringe-worthy? Or that coworker who thinks he is an expert at making presentations, but you always end up fixing them.

Known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, this overestimation of one’s abilities is actually a lot more common than you might expect.

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias named aptly after David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the two social psychologists who first researched this effect. In this psychological phenomenon, people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are.

What causes the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Why do incompetent people tend to believe they are experts? Dunning describes people with this cognitive bias to come with a ‘dual burden’.

The first burden is having a low cognitive ability.

The second burden is that because of this incompetence, one is unable to realize his or her own lack of skill.

Essentially, the skills that are needed to be good at something are the same as what a person needs to understand that they are not good at the task. So if someone lacks that ability, they are bad at the task and are also unaware that they are bad at the task.

The lack of metacognition, or the ability to observe one’s own thought patterns and behavior, amplifies this misjudgment of one’s level of expertise. Another contributing factor to this effect is that sometimes a tiny bit of skill, expertise, or knowledge can result in the person believing he or she is an expert in this subject.

In general, incompetent people tend to overestimate their own skills and fail to recognize the expertise of others.

3 tips on how to not do it and be mindful

Now you might be wondering: What if I am also prey to the Dunning-Kruger Effect? What if I am not good at the talents I thought I had?

Worry not, here are 3 ways to gain a more realistic assessment of your skills.

Keep Learning

No matter how good you think you are at something, there is always more you can learn or practice. Keep studying and improving. This will not only deepen your expertise in the area but will also help you stay grounded and realize how much more there is always to learn.

Ask Others

A great way to get an objective assessment of your skill is to ask others for feedback. It might not always be easy to hear, but it can offer you valuable insight into your strengths and weakness, which you may not otherwise be able to perceive.

Question everything

Lastly, always question what you know and what you believe. Try to get new opinions, read about the same subject from a different perspective, or play devil’s advocate with yourself. Actively seek out information that challenges your ideas.

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." — Stephen Hawking

Bonus Tip: Practice Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is another skill you can practice - and one that combats the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Practice noticing your thoughts in daily life. It can be as simple as observing “Right now, I am reading an article” or “When Anna didn’t say hi, I thought she didn't like me”. You can take it a step further by carving out 5 minutes a day to do mindfulness meditation.

As you get better at observing your thoughts and behavior, you can improve your metacognitive abilities. This, in turn, will also help you assess your level of skill and knowledge on a subject more accurately.

In Conclusion

As human beings, we all have cognitive biases, such as the Dunning-Kruger effect, that affect our thoughts and behaviors. As you practice observing yourself and gain awareness about these cognitive biases, you will be better able to identify these cognitive biases and find ways to overcome them.

Be focused and mindful to do productive work