Chris and I have a column in Today’s New York Post on what we’ve called the Illusion of Confidence. In the column, we discuss now-classic work by Justin Kruger and David Dunning on the double curse of incompetence: People who are unskilled are also unaware of it. Kruger and Dunning showed that this principle—the worst performers are the most overconfident—applied to domains ranging from senses of humor to logic abilities.
Our essay summarizes the results of a study we conducted some years ago with our colleague Daniel Benjamin (one of these years we’ll get around to writing it up for publication). The study surveyed experienced tournament chess players and found that the weaker players massively overestimated how good they were (they thought their own ratings did not reflect their true, and much better, ability). Their overestimates inherently reflected overconfidence — they thought they would beat someone with their own skill level more than 2/3 of the time. Better players didn’t show as much overconfidence.
The study shows that the Dunning/Kruger principle applies even to a domain for which the players know exactly where they stand relative to their peers and have a full understanding of how skill is measured in chess. We cover all of this research and its implications in more depth in “The Invisible Gorilla.”
Kruger J, & Dunning D (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of personality and social psychology, 77 (6), 1121-34 PMID: 10626367