Scott’s Thoughts: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Charles Darwin, (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882), English naturalist

Dunce in the corner.


Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? According to Wikipedia, it’s a “cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is.”

You might think of it as the overconfidence of the amateur. For any given skill, researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger proposed that incompetent people will:

  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  • recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill, after they are exposed to training for that skill


You can see this manifest in novices who are quickly frustrated by their lack of success. They’re positive they’re doing everything right, and yet the results don’t “come their way.”

There’s also an interesting corollary to the Dunning-Kruger effect: “Highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.” Translation: What’s a no-brainer for you is a no-brainer for everyone.

Ah, cognitive biases. I bring this up today in the spirit of a few values, namely: Humbleness, patience, and mentorship.

If you are new to real estate, be wary of what you don’t know. Guard yourself against blindness to your lack of experience. Look for opportunities to enhance your education at every turn. Check your impatience for success.

If you are experienced in real estate, don’t assume new agents know what you know. Recognize that the skills you take for granted are just being developed in your junior colleagues. Look for opportunities to mentor at every turn. Have patience with those who are learning.

Keep an open mind out there this week!

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