Here’s Why Below-Average People Think They’re Amazing

The truth hurts. This means people who fool themselves into believing they are exceptional when, in fact, they are anything but, may be in for some pain after watching this brief video on the Dunning-Kruger effect. The explanation of the psychological phenomenon will be especially helpful for those who tend to be at the bottom of the cognitive-ability ladder, but chances are they won’t bother watching it.

If you can’t watch the video—because YouTube isn’t loading or something, not ’cause of any deficit in cognitive ability—let us sum it up for you: In 1999 social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger co-authored a study, which found that people who were the least effective at executing a given task were the most likely to overestimate their own abilities, while those who performed best tended to think they were only slightly above average. Those who were slightly above average also tended to think they were slightly above average.

In the video, which comes via Laughing Squid, After Skool host Trace Dominguez describes how that famous 1999 study resulted in the identification of what has been dubbed the “Dunning–Kruger effect,” which is, according to Wikipedia, “a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”

The term “cognitive bias” may be familiar to you, especially in regard to the use of social media. It’s essentially what occurs when people create their own “‘subjective social reality'” that’s in disharmony with objective reality. In the case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, that disharmony results in below-average people thinking they are the best at a given task; tasks such as solving logical reasoning puzzles, identifying the improper use of grammar, or even rating the quality of jokes. (The original study has been replicated multiple times, using a wide range of different cognitive tasks.)

For anybody thinking to themselves Oh no, I bet this is happening to me all the time, first of all, congratulations, you’re probably not below average. Second of all, it seems that you can combat the Dunning-Kruger effect by using “metacognition,” i.e. thinking about the way you think. By assessing your own limitations realistically, you’ll be able to determine how much work you really need to do to become great at something. Watch the video for more information on this process unless you’re one of those people who thinks they know it all already.


What do you think about this video on the Dunning-Kruger effect? Are you now second-guessing where you rank in life’s meritocracy, or are you sure you’re simply the best? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: After Skool 

Top Stories
More by Matthew Hart
Trending Topics