The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”
Psychologists call this the Dunning-Kruger effect, a centuries-old mental condition wherein unskilled individuals experience illusory superiority, failing to recognize the fact that they really are incompetent. The name was coined by Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who conducted a series of tests in 1999, which involved undergrad psychology students, in the areas of logic, humor, and grammar.
Many other tests were conducted between 2000 and 2012, some of which centered on sensitivity and skills, like playing tennis or chess, driving a vehicle, and reading comprehension. After results of the tests were given to the students, they were asked to assess themselves and, as expected, the results of the assessment were identical – poor performers always thought highly of themselves, as well as believed that they were better than anyone else.
The problem, however, is not only the fact that incompetent people fail to realize their own incompetence; high achievers believe that others are just as good as they are, failing to realize that they are actually more gifted and competent than others. Dunning and Kruger do not consider the latter case a serious issue, though, since they know that these people will understand and appreciate more their capabilities if told about their real abilities. While with regard to the poor performers, the two experts saw how they openly recognized and acknowledged their incompetence when trained further about certain skills.