If you have ever been on the receiving end of an unwarranted attempt at the praise, the idea that incompetent people think they’re amazing probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you. Sadly, story after story proves this point: it seems that those who are least competent in certain areas are often most confident and sure of themselves in those same areas. The question is why? Since some of us can’t handle praise, it’s time to examine what is really going on.
Maybe incompetent people don’t know how much more competent other people truly are (early life exposure to false praise?). Maybe they think their boss is biased or self-interested (no one else tells them otherwise).
Let’s continue to theorize. According to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, incompetent people think they are more competent than they really are.
This hypothesis is supported by a new study that claims we are all, in fact, a little bit less competent than we think we are. The study examined how our judgments of competence correlate with actual competence status. The research was conducted by researchers at Cornell University and was published on June 12th in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
The study’s authors suggest that they don’t know what exactly causes this phenomenon. They do offer some speculation. The theory states that people who are generally low in incompetence across multiple domains may not realize (or even care to realize) how poorly they are doing.
The evidence suggests they don’t know any better and can’t recognize their own shortcomings. This is an interesting hypothesis, but I would like to take it a step further. Incompetent people usually find excuses as to why they failed. Rather than taking the criticism, they blame the system and anyone who might be involved.
Why do people who are generally low in incompetence in multiple domains believe themselves to be superior even when they are on the bottom of the pile? If you think about it, you realize that this is not always the case.
There are incompetent people out there who do know they’re incompetent. They may be quite knowledgeable about other topics but not their own. However, if you take into account the overall level of competence within a domain, then the overall incompetence rating seems disproportionate to how competent they actually are.
The confidence among these people is also often associated with narcissism. But that is most often not the case. As we all might suffer from this particular shortcoming.
So the next time you start something new… just be self-aware about your competence. Ask people for their feedback. Take in criticism and evaluate your actions.
And remember, it is okay to be average!