Friday, July 06, 2007

Dealing with Dunning-Kruger

Just a quick clarification about yesterday's post (man, did that feel good). As the original researchers were careful to point out, the Dunning-Kruger effect lessens with education. While those who are most ignorant of a particular subject tend to wildly over-estimate their understanding of it, Dunning and Kruger showed that as people learn more about a field of expertise, their evaluation of their "expertise" becomes more realistic.

Besides the obviously cathartic motivations for yesterday's post, I wanted to call attention to effect, as it affects us all.

I finally understood just how much I didn't know about house painting, for example when we hired professionals to redo our house and watched the work. I now have an appreciation for the craft of house painting (and can now sometimes spot amateur work).

Some simple home repairs I'll do myself, but if it involves installing a new socket, I'll opt for a licensed electrician every time. As somebody once said, "It'll cost you fifty dollars. Ten dollars for the part, and forty dollars for knowing how."

So next week at the conference I'll be keeping that thought in mind, too. Perhaps the person I'm talking to doesn't understand the complexity of my area of expertise, but its more than even odds that I'd be completely at sea trying to do their job.

And your job as well.

- Ralph

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