Saturday, March 2, 2013

Relationship between art, work and the "Dunning and Kruger effect"

I have a friend who is a brilliant photographer, on any given day gazing at his album would lighten up my day and I am sure it's lightening up the days of many other people too. Usually his pictures generate comments in hundreds, one day one of the comments read- "I wish I had a camera like yours to take pictures like this!"

Similarly, there is this prolific blogger. Who has won a loyal following and made an emotional connection with his audience.  Time to time on his blog I see comments like - "Lots of thing to write about, I wish I had the time like you!"

At times you feel you want to go and tell them that a camera doesn't make a great photographer and that having time will not make you a great blogger. You start to pity the narrow minds, who doesn't understand the dedication and hardship individually each artists undertake to create the works of art, which the rest of us just sit relax and enjoy with a cup of coffee. I was sitting and wondering what was the root cause of it and I couldn't stop thinking that it was all due to a mis-calibration they have of their abilities and the lack of experience having ever tried creating any art. I felt convinced that if  Leonardo da Vinci had lived among us in modern times and shared a picture of the painting of Mona Lisa on facebook, they would have put a comment like "I wish I had oil and panel!"

Digging a bit deep in to this problem, it seems that this has a scientific explanation.It's called as the Dunning and Kruger effect. Quoting from wiki,

"The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average."

Once, one of my mentors pointed out that, it's the very same issue in units, teams and organizations where there will always be a set of people, who perform poorly on tasks, but lack the capacity to evaluate their performance. Worst part being that they cannot even identify or accept that they lack competencies and get in to a vicious cycle of not working to over come their in-competencies.

On the opposite side of the spectrum Dunning and Kruger's study also identifies that people with true ability under estimate their competency! Which again I am sure we had noticed many times with the bright minds who are genuinely humble. Firstly as individuals, it might be a good idea to know which point we are in the Dunning and Kruger's effect. Secondly, when someone advises us, it might good to find out which side of the Dunning-Kruger's effect the adviser is on!

"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." - Bible


  1. You're going to have every reader thinking at which point they are... like i'm thinking right now :|

    1. ha ha ha ... That's the whole point of the post. Even I was wondering which point I was in while I wrote.

  2. Couldn't have been any better said.

    "Firstly as individuals, it might be a good idea to know which point we are in the Dunning and Kruger's effect. "

    Is this possible? If so do you have any idea of how to figure it out? I felt its more of a character, but would like to find out if there is a way.

    1. Perhaps wake up the inner god in you ;)