Interview with Dunning about the Unskilled and Unaware

Filmmaker/writer Errol Morris interviews Ig Nobel Prize winner (prize for psychology, 2000, for his and Justin Kruger’s report  “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments“) David Dunning, in the New York Times. The interview begins:

The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is

I called David Dunning at his offices at Cornell:

DAVID DUNNING:  Well, my specialty is decision-making.  How well do people make the decisions they have to make in life?  And I became very interested in judgments about the self, simply because, well, people tend to say things, whether it be in everyday life or in the lab, that just couldn’t possibly be true.  And I became fascinated with that.  Not just that people said these positive things about themselves, but they really, really believed them.  Which led to my observation: if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.

ERROL MORRIS:  Why not?

DAVID DUNNING:  If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute.  The decision I just made does not make much sense.  I had better go and get some independent advice.”   But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.  In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer.  And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas.  And to our astonishment, it was very, very true….

Dunning and Kruger’s study:

Improbable Research