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The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Arrow Image ...and how it applies to you

According to the almighty wikipedia, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a ďcognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakesĒ. I have been interested in this psychological effect for awhile and its implications are rather profound. The DK effect basically contributes to the ignorant and unskilled being confident in their abilities and the talented to be unsure of themselves.

I know from my experiences that the more I learn, the less I feel I know. Venturing into any topic really gives you an impression of how much is involved and how little you know about it. However, the effect can be useful in some circumstances, especially when attempting to learn something new. Would anyone honestly venture into some facets of computing if they knew from the start how long and winding the road to understanding was? In this way, the DK effect offers an unfounded confidence to take on difficult tasks and seek knowledge on elusive topics.

What does this have to do with hacking? Well for one, you get a lot of arrogant noobs on sites like this. Iím not saying that Iím an expert, because thereís a ton of stuff I donít know. But at least I realize this and attempt to further educate myself rather than keep myself under the impression that Iím so much more of a 1337xor than everyone else. You also get people who falsely assume they know what they are doing, and because they are too ignorant to realize that they really donít, said people are confident in their unreal abilities. As a whole, the less skill a hacker has, the more skill they perceive themselves having.

On the flip side, there are really talented hackers that realize how much there is that they donít know and so have less confidence in how skilled they actually are. I donít see this so much across the interwebs, but Iím sure it exists. Someone who might have a perfect answer to a question, or the solution for a thread, fails to post it due to their self-doubt. Maybe this isnít so prevalent in the hacking community due to the superiority complex of the average hacker.

The implications of the DK effect are widespread. Given a task, people are downright bad at predicting its difficulty and how they will perform at it. Those ignorant in the task area will underestimate its difficulty and overestimate their performance of the task. Those experienced in the task area will overestimate its difficulty and underestimate their performance of it. Script kiddies will view virus writing as relatively easy, while programmers realize how complex a Ďgoodí virus is to write. When performing social engineering, picking someone with the least ability may yield the most fruitful results. In programming, the experience programmer may take longer to write code than the amateur. The experienced programmer will often scrutinize his code much longer before becoming satisfied. So much can depend on confidence.

And so I leave you with a quote, thanks for readingÖ

ďIgnorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.Ē
- Charles Darwin

Submitted by: rootDaemon


The Ripperon January 04 2011 - 17:25:27
Good article, interesting topic. I think you explained it well and got your thoughts out clearly.
stealth-on January 06 2011 - 03:51:24
Not bad. It was a very well done article, but a little short.
spywareon January 09 2011 - 17:03:27
You don't know anything if you think you do. These kind of articles are great contributions to the site. Well done.
t0xikc0mputeron January 25 2011 - 12:18:08
Good article, amazing writer. You are one of the few psychologist hackers on this site.
Arabianon February 27 2011 - 01:30:49
Aka, anyone who watches FoxNews, amirite?? amirite??? fuck you guys. Good article OP.
idlecometon June 01 2011 - 23:01:36
Very interesting article. Got me evaluating my own habits. Double-plus-good.
4rm4g3dd0non August 22 2011 - 20:40:42
All I know is that i don't know nothing -Operation Ivy
desearcheron September 19 2011 - 17:55:06
Great article! I've noticed this effect before, but didn't know there was a proper name for it. Wikipedia makes an interesting point you had left out: The effect is most prevalent in America. Being American myself, I've always wondered if this was attributed to our "America: Fuck Yeah!" philosophy. It's food for thought, at least. I wonder how this correlates to age? My 4 year old insists she's the best at everything, but acts retarded. Is it genetics? Cultural? Or perhaps it's that this effect exists in nearly all infants, but some of us never really grow out of it due to lax economical responsibilities. i.e. the "Welfare State" mentality that if we cannot provide for ourselves, somebody else will. Any thoughts?
Mb0742on June 28 2012 - 05:32:18
wait who calls their 4 year old retarded des?
hc1984on July 17 2012 - 17:41:28
Sounds like the sort of transference in Ingmar Bergman's "Persona". Punks not dead... just kinda crusty
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