The Dunning-Kruger effect can be summed up in one sentence: the less we know, the more we think we know. It is a cognitive bias with what people with fewer skills, abilities and knowledge tend to overstate those same abilities and knowledge. As a result, they tend to become ultracrepidarian; people who express opinions about everything they hear without knowing anything, but they think they know a lot more than the others.
邓宁-克鲁格效应 (Dunning-Kruger effect) 又称达克效应，一言以蔽之：知道越少，反认为自己知道的越多。这是一种认知偏差，越是缺乏技能、能力和知识的人，往往越容易夸大自己的能力和知识。结果就是，这种人更容易成为“臭屁者”(ultracrepidarian)：即对所有听说过的事儿都能表达观点，却对这件事本身一无所知的那种人——不过这种人却坚信，没有人比我更懂 。
ultracrepidarian:One who gives opinions on something beyond his or her knowledge.
The problem is that the victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect do not just merely give an opinion or suggestion but try to impose their ideas, as if they were absolute truths, making look the others as incompetent or ignorant. Of course, dealing with these people is not easy because they tend to have a very rigid thinking.
The criminal who tried to make himself invisible with lemon juice
In the mid-1990’s in Pittsburgh, happened something that we might call surprising. A 44-year-old man robbed two banks in full day, with no mask to cover his face and protect his identity. Obviously, that criminal adventure had a very short life, as the man was immediately arrested.
在上世纪 90 年代的匹兹堡，发生了件堪称惊奇的事儿。一名 44 岁的男子，一天内抢劫了两家银行，而且还没遮脸，也没隐藏身份。显然，这次犯罪之旅注定短命，该名男子立即就被捕了。
After being arrested, McArthur Wheeler, that’s his name, confessed to having applied lemon juice on his face that would make it invisible to cameras. “But if I put the lemon juice!” Was his answer when he was arrested.
被捕后，这位名叫 McArthur Wheeler 的男子在认罪时表示，他原本在脸上涂了柠檬汁，应该能让他的脸在摄像头中隐形。“但是我涂了柠檬汁的呀！”这就是他被捕时的应对。
confess: 供认, 自白, 认罪
Later, it was discovered that the idea of lemon juice was a suggestion of two Wheeler friends who, joking, said they would attack a bank using this technique to avoid being recognized. Wheeler tested the suggestion, applied lemon juice on his face, and took a photo where he could not see his face. Probably it was due to a wrong shot, but that “test” was definitive for Wheeler, who decided to complete the “genial” plan.
之后不久就弄清楚了，涂柠檬汁这个点子来自于 Wheeler 的两个朋友的玩笑话，说他们会用这一技术去袭击银行并避免被抓。Wheeler 测试了该项技术建议，在自己脸上抹了柠檬汁，并拍了一张看不到自己脸的照片。很可能是因为拍错了吧，但是，这个“测试”对于 Wheeler 来说却具有决定性的意义：他决定，去完成自己的“天才”计划。
The story reached Cornell University where the professor of social psychology David Dunning could not believe what had happened. So he wondered: is it possible that my incompetence prevents me from seeing this same incompetence?
这个事件流传到了康纳尔大学，学校里的社会心理学教授 David Dunning 根本不敢信这事儿。他不禁好奇：我的无能，真的能够让我对自己的无能视而不见吗？
That was how he quickly went to work with his colleague Justin Kruger. What they discovered through a long series of experiments left them even more surprised.
这份好奇，驱使他赶紧开始了和同事 Justin Kruger 的合作。然而，他们进行了一系列实验所得出的结论，让他们进一步感到震惊。
The study that gave rise to the Dunning-Kruger effect
In a series of four experiments, these psychologists analyzed the competence of people in the field of grammar, logical reasoning and humor.
在同一系列的 4 项实验中，心理学家分析了人们在语法、逻辑推理和幽默这三个领域内的能力。
Participants were asked to estimate their level of competence in each of these fields. Subsequently, they were subjected to a series of tests aimed at assessing their real competence.
It was then that the researchers noticed that the greater the incompetence of the person, the less his awareness. Paradoxically, the most competent and capable people were usually underestimating their skills and knowledge. Thus the Dunning-Kruger effect was born.
competent : 能干的, 胜任的, 有效的
capable ： 有能力的,
These psychologists also concluded that incompetent people in a certain area of knowledge:
- Cannot detect and recognize their incompetence
- Usually do not recognize the competence of others
The good news is that this effect is diluted as the person increases his level of competence and becomes even more aware of his limits.
dilute: 冲淡, 稀释
Why do the less we know and more we believe we know?
The problem with this unrealistic perception is that to do something good, we must have at least a minimum of skills and competencies that allow us to accurately estimate what our performance will be.
perception: 知觉, 感觉, 领悟力
competence: 胜任, 职称, 能力
For example, a person may think that he sings beautifully because he does not know anything of music and the skills needed to control the tone of the voice and follow the rhythm. So he will say that he “sings like an angel” when he actually has a terrible voice.
The same applies to spelling, if we do not know the spelling rules, we cannot know where we are wrong and therefore we will not be aware of our limits, which will lead us to think that we do not make spelling mistakes.
Indeed, the Dunning-Kruger effect can be seen in all aspects of life. A study at the University of Wellington showed that 80% of drivers considered being above the average, which, of course, is statistically impossible.
实际上，达克效应在生活中的各个方面随处可见。惠灵顿大学 (University of Wellington) 的一项研究表明，有 80% 的司机认为自己高于平均水平——当然，这在统计学上根本不可能嘛。
This cognitive bias has also been seen in the field of psychology. It is the case of people who argue that “the best psychologist it’s me” simply because they are completely unaware of how they could be helped by this professional figure and the complexity of the various psychological techniques.
In practice, we think we know everything we need to know. And this turns us into closed pople and with prejudices expressing opinions as absolute truths.
How to minimize the Dunning-Kruger effect, for our own good
We all make mistakes for calculation errors, knowledge and foresight. The story is full of epic mistakes, like the iconic Tower of Pisa, which began to tilt before the end of the construction. Only a few years ago, the French government spent 15,000 million Euros in a fleet of 2,000 new trains, so it found that they were too long for 1,200 stations of the country, and consequently had to invest even more to adapt those stations.
我们都会因为计算错误、知识(不足)以及预见(偏差)而犯错。世事总是充满了史诗级的经典错误，比如地标建筑比萨斜塔——在建造完成前，它就已经开始歪了。而就在几年前，法国政府花费 150 亿欧元买了 2000 列新火车，然后却发现，这些列车太长了，国境之内有 1200 座车站无法容纳，后续又不得不追加投入来改造车站。
In our daily lives we can be mistaken for lack of experience and for overestimating our capabilities. Errors are not negative and we must not escape them, but we can turn them into learning tools, but we must not stumble on the same stone continuously because it would be very frustrating.
In fact, we must pay attention to this cognitive distortion, because incompetence and lack of self-criticism will not only lead us to wrong conclusions, but will also make us make the wrong decisions that will end up damaging us.
distortion ： 扭曲, 变形, 曲解
This means that in some cases the responsibility for “failures and mistakes” that we commit throughout our lives is not dependent on others or misfortune, but depends on the wrong assessment we make of ourselves.
To minimize the Dunning-Kruger effect and not transform you into a person who expresses opinions on everything without knowing anything, it is enough that you apply these simple rules:
- Be at least aware of the existence of this cognitive bias
- Leave a space for doubt, for the different ways of thinking and doing things
- Always express your opinions in respect for the others. No matter how confident you are in your opinion, do not try to impose it
We must remember that no one is familiar with all the subjects of the knowable, we all have defects and ignore many things. Therefore, the better is to deal with life with humility and the attitude of the apprentice.
How to behave with people who do not recognize their incompetence or ignorance?
People who comment sharply, and above all without knowing the subject and underestimating the opinions of the others, create a strong malaise. Our first reaction is usually irritating or getting angry. It’s perfectly understandable, but it will not work. Instead, we must learn to keep calm. Remember that it can only hurt you what you give it power, what you consider important. And of course, the opinion of a person who is not expert in the matter and does not even know what he is talking about, should not be important.
有些人评论非常尖刻，尤其是对讨论的主题一无所知、还会贬低他人观点，这就让人特别不爽了。我们对此的第一反应通常都是恼火、生气。这种反应完全可以理解，可它真没啥用。相反，我们必须学会保持冷静。请记住，只有你给它提供能量，或者认为它重要，它才会伤害你。(Remember that it can only hurt you what you give it power, what you consider important.)当然了，有些人并不是某个问题的专家，甚至根本不知道自己在说什么，那么，他们的观点也理应不重要。
malaise ： 不舒服
If you do not want the conversation to go beyond, say simply: “I’ve heard your opinion. Thank you” and close the subject. If you really want this person to be more aware of its limits, the only thing you can do is help him/her develop the skills in that matter.
Avoid phrases like “you do not know what you’re talking about” or “you have no idea”, because in this way you will only obtain that the person feels attached, take a defensive attitude, and close to your proposals. Instead, propose a new perspective. You can say, “I’ve already heard you, now imagine that things did not go exactly that way.” The goal is to make that person open to different opinions and ways to do things.
避免使用“你都不知道你自己在说啥”或“你不懂”这类说法，因为这么说只会让对方感觉到很重要 (feels attached)，产生防御姿态，并拒绝你的提议。其实，不妨提出一个新的观点。你可以说：“我听了你说的，现在假设下，事实并不是完全按那样发展。”目标就是，让这个人能够对不同的观点和做事方式，产生一种开放的态度。
You can also point out the idea that we are all inexperienced or even deeply ignorant in some field, it is not a bad thing, but an incredible opportunity to continue learning and grow as people.