Dunning–Kruger effects in reasoning

theoretical implications of the failure to recognize incompetence

Gordon Pennycook*, Robert M. Ross, Derek J. Koehler, Jonathan A. Fugelsang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Dunning–Kruger effect refers to the observation that the incompetent are often ill-suited to recognize their incompetence. Here we investigated potential Dunning–Kruger effects in high-level reasoning and, in particular, focused on the relative effectiveness of metacognitive monitoring among particularly biased reasoners. Participants who made the greatest numbers of errors on the cognitive reflection test (CRT) overestimated their performance on this test by a factor of more than 3. Overestimation decreased as CRT performance increased, and those who scored particularly high underestimated their performance. Evidence for this type of systematic miscalibration was also found on a self-report measure of analytic-thinking disposition. Namely, genuinely nonanalytic participants (on the basis of CRT performance) overreported their “need for cognition” (NC), indicating that they were dispositionally analytic when their objective performance indicated otherwise. Furthermore, estimated CRT performance was just as strong a predictor of NC as was actual CRT performance. Our results provide evidence for Dunning–Kruger effects both in estimated performance on the CRT and in self-reported analytic-thinking disposition. These findings indicate that part of the reason why people are biased is that they are either unaware of or indifferent to their own bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1774-1784
Number of pages11
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume24
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Keywords

  • decision making
  • high-order cognition
  • judgment

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