Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Back in 1999, two Pittsburgh-area psychologists gave their names to the thesis that the incompetent are too incompetent to recognize their own incompetence. It's called the "Dunning-Kruger Effect" — and it's described this way, "our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence."

I hope I'm getting that right. I might not be. But I'd never know.


eileenerb said...

I thought it was the "Peter Principle."

Tore Claesson said...

The wiki says:The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the perverse situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."[1]
The Peter Principle is related: The Peter Principle is the principle that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise which also introduced the "salutary science of Hierarchiology", "inadvertently founded" by Peter. It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. This principle can be modeled and has theoretical validity.[1] Peter's Corollary states that "in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties" and adds that "work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence".
Well, both principles seem to have been at work in the US auto industry the last 30 years or so.

Dave Trott said...

Roughly around 400 BC, Lao Tzu said, "The wise man knows he doesn't know. The fool doesn't know he doesn't know."
The Peter Principle is 'Promote to the first level of incompetence."
In other words promote someone out of what they're good at (e.g. a player to a coach) and they fail, so they stop getting promoted.

Goodwin said...


The NY Times article is brilliant! I'm excited to see how the rest of the 5-part series turns out.

I think this idea supports the role of the account planner more than any article I've seen from the ad industry. You won't find people more aware and interested in unknown-unknowns and their implications. Client-side folks are too often caught up on the known-unknown problems and opportunities.