Pranay believed that he had exceptional social skills, but his manager thought otherwise. He would often speak out of turn, make inappropriate remarks at work and forget to communicate important messages to his manager.

Pranay’s manager decided to talk to him and discuss his behavior at work. Upon discussion, his manager realized that Pranay had no self-awareness. Often, Pranay misinterpreted being intrusive for being sociable and friendly. It was Pranay’s lack of self-awareness that confirmed his cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

What Is The Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Developed by Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people tend to overestimate their abilities or skills.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect impairs our ability to think critically, leading us to misguided notions about ourselves. When we lack the ability to assess or evaluate our own skills, there’s a chance that we become boastful. We can even end up thinking that we’re smarter than everyone else.

Also known as the Dunning-Kruger syndrome, let’s look at some of its features:

  • It makes you inflate your abilities and skills

  • It prevents you from recognizing abilities and skills in others

  • It makes you believe that you’re an expert even with limited knowledge on the subject

  • It stems from a lack of self-awareness, which makes you look at things with rose-tinted glasses

  • It’s often considered the opposite of impostor syndrome, which makes you feel like you’re not good enough

What Is The Double Curse Of The Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Imagine your manager repeatedly tells you that you have to improve your skills. But they don’t specify which skills—and you certainly have no idea what they’re talking about.

This going around in circles is the double curse of the Dunning-Kruger effect. People who have this cognitive bias often don’t have the skills or awareness to identify their shortcomings. As a result, they’re unable to improve their performance or judge their skills accurately. They’re stuck in this cycle and continue believing that they’re good at their job.

How To Escape Falling Into The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Most of us may have been impacted by the Dunning-Kruger syndrome at some point in time. It’s only when someone else makes you realize your bias that you become aware of it.

Here are some Dunning-Kruger Effect examples and solutions:

  1. If You’ve Ever Ignored Constructive Feedback

Feedback is meant to help you grow and improve. If you’ve ever felt offended by someone’s feedback—friends, family or seniors at work—you may be biased towards your skills. You have to recognize that people who spend time with you and work with you know you. If they’ve identified certain areas where there’s room for improvement, you can consider their opinions and take action.

  1. If You Think Your Opinion Is The Only One That Counts

You may think that your opinions are the only ones that carry any weight in a conversation. This could keep you from looking at a situation from different perspectives. However, this can work against you at the workplace, especially when it comes to decision-making. You have to be objective if you want to come up with solutions that are in everyone’s best interests.

  1. If You Believe You’re Always Right

Believing that you’re always right can lead to conflict. This means that you prefer to go with what you believe rather than getting inputs from others, say, your team members. You must try to accept that there may be things you’re not right about. This will push you to learn more and gain practical knowledge in your field of interest.

The Dunning-Kruger effect directly affects our critical thinking ability. Thinking critically about problems or situations helps us make informed decisions. Overcoming your cognitive bias is not complex once you’ve developed self-awareness.

Learn more about how to identify your limitations with Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course. With frameworks like the Circle of Competence, you can equip yourself with relevant tools to identify areas for improvement. Thinking through situations, evaluating information and understanding perspectives will help you tackle cognitive biases.


Explore topics such as Analytical ThinkingCritical ThinkingTypes of ThinkingExamples of Critical Thinking & How to Improve Your Critical Thinking from Harappa Diaries and enhance your ability to think clearly and rationally.

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