Dunning Krugerification

Anyone who hangs out with writers for a while is bound to hear a fair amount of whining (or “existential angst”, as we prefer to call it).  Lord knows we have a lot to whine about, but one of the main things that writers worry about is being exposed as frauds who don’t know how to write.  In part, this is because writers tend to be big readers, and thus get exposed to lots of writing that makes them feel inferior.  But I think the Dunning-Kruger effect also plays a role.  I’d encourage everyone to read about it (Dunning and Kruger won the Ig Nobel prize for it in 2000, after all), but if I may be permitted to oversimplify, it seems that incompetent people don’t realize that they are incompetent, basically because they are too stupid to know how stupid they are.  Competent people, paradoxically, tend to underestimate their own abilities, because they assume that things that come easy to them probably come easy to others, and because they know how much they have yet to learn.

So it is actually a good sign if you are a writer and convinced that your own writing sucks.  The other interesting aspect of all this is that while competent tend to be poor at evaluating themselves, they are good at evaluating others.  So with all that in mind, and because some people really seem to like tests, I have devised the Dunning-Kruger flowchart:



Now, perceptive readers will note that the competent people one is asked to poll for this flowchart likely don’t realize how competent they are, on account of the very effect the flowchart is based on.  No problem!  Once you use them for input in the test, simply tell them to run through it themselves, using you as a resource (assuming the flowchart proved you competent, that is).


~ by smwilliams on August 16, 2012.

4 Responses to “Dunning Krugerification”

  1. This is awesome. I’m going to print it out and hang it on my bulletin board. Or possibly tattoo it somewhere that I can read without too many contortions. Like my husband.

  2. You know just the right way to talk to a girl! (heart be still) 😉

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