Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Dunning-Kruger effect (wikipedia.org)
33 points by yread on Jan 19, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments

The concluding remarks from Dunning and Kruger's paper make me chuckle:

In sum, we present this article as an exploration into why people tend to hold overly optimistic and miscalibrated views about themselves. We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Although we feel we have done a competent job in making a strong case for this analysis, studying it empirically, and drawing out relevant implications, our thesis leaves us with one haunting worry that we cannot vanquish. That worry is that this article may contain faulty logic, methodological errors, or poor communication. Let us assure our readers that to the extent this article is imperfect, it is not a sin we have committed knowingly.

I put the link in another comment already, but here's a copy of the paper in html format for anyone interested: http://gagne.homedns.org/~tgagne/contrib/unskilled.html

Except that when you ask someone "how well do you think you did on that test?", they hear "how well would you like me to think you think you did on that test?". The results are better explained, IMO, by noting that people tend to declare themselves as "about average" when asked about their intelligence, in an attempt to not appear snobby or lacking in confidence. For both extremes, evaluating oneself in the edge quartile is socially inappropriate.

Also, consider the correlation between schooling, ability to take grammar/logic tests, and modesty. In my experience, modesty is a social norm significantly correlated with schooling: have you ever heard someone brag about having studied at Princeton?

The experiment lacked the proper controls - for example, asking Princeton math majors how well they thought they knew political science, physics, or astronomy. I would hypothesize that they overestimate their competence (saying "about average") as much as anyone else. Another way to test this hypothesis would be to ask people to rate their own performance, then declare publicly how close their guesses were, and publicly award those with the best self-awareness.

I found this part interesting:

In a series of studies, they examined self-assessment of logical reasoning skills, grammatical skills, and humor. After being shown their test scores, the subjects were again asked to estimate their own rank

This implies there's some reasonably objective test of humor. Does anyone know how that might work?

Well, I can tell you how Dunning and Kruger did it--they borrowed a bunch of jokes from various sources (famous comedians, joke books, &c.), then had some professional comedians rate the quality of the jokes. The assumption was that making a living in comedy probably requires being able to recognize when something is or isn't funny.

We created a 30-item questionnaire made up of jokes we felt were of varying comedic value. (...) To assess joke quality, we contacted several professional comedians via electronic mail and asked them to rate each joke on a scale ranging from 1 ( not at all funny ) to 11 ( very funny ). (...) Although the ratings provided by the eight comedians were moderately reliable ( a = .72), an analysis of interrater correlations found that one (and only one) comedian's ratings failed to correlate positively with the others (mean r = - .09). We thus excluded this comedian's ratings in our calculation of the humor value of each joke, yielding a final a of .76. Expert ratings revealed that jokes ranged from the not so funny (e.g., "Question: What is big as a man, but weighs nothing? Answer: His shadow." Mean expert rating = 1.3) to the very funny (e.g., "If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is 'God is crying.' And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is 'probably because of something you did.'" Mean expert rating = 9.6).


I guess I would score poorly on this. I don't find most comedians very funny.

This joke goes to 11?

Sorry for being a bit off-topic. I have been reading up on psychology a bit recently and I would love to get some book recommendations. I am more interested in social psychology and behavioral psychology but would love to brush up on my knowledge on general psychology as well.

Currently I am reading my first psychology book in ten years: "Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious" quite an interesting read.

I had a long-standing interest in psychology, but haven't found a single book worth crap. Psychologists seem to obsess over fancy terminology and say-so stories with absolutely no conception of anything remotely like a controlled experiment. The one exception I've found is this blog:


Although most of his posts just complain about the lack of quality in medical and psychiatric publishing. That, and his definition of narcism (creating a persona and acting it out) is without doubt the most insightful model of the psyche I'd ever stumbled on.

Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice is amazing. It is almost a perfect mix (at least, in my opinion) between rigorous (citing studies) and accessible (using anecdotes, etc).


Unfortunately, most of the best information I have received for psychology came from the two classes I took (Social Psych, and Behavior in Organizations). I learned a tremendous amount, but very little (if anything) from the other books.

I found this audiobook very interesting: http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/coursedesclong2.aspx?cid=660

The follow up research which refuted some of the Kruger and Dunning's conclusions: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/kburson/files/bursonlarrickklayma...

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact