The Dunning-Kruger Effect

A distant photograph of mount Fuji at sunset.

“Yeah, I can do that easily! Oh wait, there’s a lot more to it than I thought…”

I’m in my first year of a new degree this year and I’ve started studying Oral Health. One aspect of the course I’ve been looking forward to is being able to work closely with patients. I distinctly remember thinking to myself at the start of this year how easy patient interaction must be. I mean, I talk to people every day, can’t be that much different! That was until we started learning about it during the course that I came to notice all the nuances that truly make patient interaction a skill. There were so many more things that had to be taken into consideration than I realised. My confidence plummeted. 

That wasn’t the first time I experienced something like that. When starting research assignments I would think to myself “yeah, this should be easy enough.” But again, as I researched more into the topic, the vastness of the project became more apparent to me and my confidence took a hit.

If you’ve felt like this too, don’t worry. These feelings are common. There’s even a name for them, it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. This cognitive bias is where an individual overestimates their skill when lacking experience in a field and the consequent loss of confidence as experience increases. Although there are debates and criticisms around this theory, being able to overcome low self-confidence when faced with new tasks is something I have been trying to work on. Something that has helped me re-establish my confidence is accepting and appreciating the depth of such topics, reassuring myself that with more experience I will be able to gain the required skills.

Tagged in What messes with your head, confidence