The Dunning Kruger Effect is the tendency for individuals with little knowledge to make poor decisions or reach the wrong conclusions, in addition their incompetence prevents them from being able to spot their mistakes.

In learning terms individuals effected by the Dunning Kruger effect are classified as being unconsciously incompetent.

The Dunning Kruger effect is typified by the phrase

“Ignorance is bliss”

One of the most common ways of learning is to learn by trial and error or to learn from our mistakes, with the Dunning Kruger effect we are however unaware we are making them and in my field as a clinician ignorance is a very dangerous thing indeed.

What we can do to prevent the Dunning Kruger effect is to be open to advice, ask if we are unsure even if we think we know the answer. Additionally we can model what we do on someone else who we know is an expert and perhaps ask ourselves “how do we know what we don’t know”.

Dunning and Kruger were awarded the 2000 satirical Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology for their paper, “Unskilled and Unaware of It”

I wrote this short blog on reflection after two events that happened today, the first event was being aware that I had to let medical students see some of my patients by themselves, before that we needed to discuss how to consult in a manner that prevented the Dunning Kruger Effect.
The second event was to reflect on a patient who’s daughter prevented her from getting her yearly influenza immunisation from our nurse, her reasons for this were based on poor knowledge.

There is in fact a very thin line between the Dunning Kruger effect and stupidity, a fact known only too well by Benjamin Franklin who is quoted to have said;

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid”.