You Don’t Know Yourself as Well as You Think

[♪ INTRO] Odds are, you think you know yourself pretty
well. So if I asked you a bunch of questions, like
if you’re generous, or how good a driver you are compared to other
people, you would probably have some confident answers
for me. Except… I have some bad news. According
to research, your answers to many of these questions likely
are not all that accurate. Scientists have compared how people assess
their abilities to how they objectively perform, and the two
often do not line up. But if nothing else, there does seem to be
a reason for this, and a way people can get better. Much of the research in this field centers
around something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s usually described as a type of cognitive
bias where unskilled people believe they are more competent, more capable,
and smarter than they really are. So in part, unskilled people are more likely
to over-estimate their skill level, underestimate the skill level of those around
them, and be unable to recognize expertise. But it’s not just those with the least skill
who misjudge themselves. The highest performers also inaccurately rate
their skillset, just in different ways. While they are generally good at self-assessment,
like, they can pretty accurately tell you how many
questions they got right on a quiz, they tend to think that they’re less skilled
relative to others. Though there is some nuance to this. In a 2014 meta-synthesis, for example, researchers
found that people’s self-evaluations were more likely to match others’ evaluations
in more specific, objective, or familiar domains. For example, like, “the ability to shoot free
throws”. Those evaluations tended to diverge when it
came to more vague areas, like “general athleticism”. Still, overall, those results leave a lot
of room for improvement. One reason understanding yourself can be so
difficult depends on your actual level of skill. As I mentioned earlier, part of the Dunning-Kruger
effect describes the way highly skilled people underestimate their
abilities and unskilled people overestimate them. But those misjudgments don’t happen for
the same reason. Dunning and Kruger’s research shows that
highly-skilled people have a hard time comparing themselves to others
because they assume that since they know the information,
everyone else must know it, too. Unskilled people, on the other hand, often
don’t have the tools to judge their own skills, so they think their ability is higher than it is
because they don’t know what the real skill entails. Like, I know nothing about flying an airplane, so I might look at a cockpit and think it’s
just like driving a car. And since I know how to drive, I totally know
how to fly a plane. Which I do not! I don’t know how to fly
a plane! At least I know that. Now, it might seem like the solution to this
is just good old-fashioned feedback. But weirdly, that isn’t always true. High performers are more likely to adjust
their expectations of other people’s skill based on feedback. But under-performers can be told how bad they
are at something and still be overly optimistic about how well
they’re gonna do the next time, as well as how they compared to others. Though, researchers have found a few ways
to fix this tendency. For people who aren’t very good at something,
one way to improve self-assessment is to get better at metacognitive skills,
that is, thinking about thinking. In Dunning and Kruger’s 1999 paper that
launched the name for this effect, they tested the logic skills of 140 participants and asked them to rate how well they thought
they did. Then, the researchers gave half of them a
logic training session. Finally, they asked all of the participants
to rate how well they’d done on the original test,
one more time. Before the training, those who scored in the
lowest percentiles overestimated their abilities more than anyone
else in their experiment, as usual. But after the training, they were as good at judging
their own abilities as the highest performers were. Essentially, the researchers suggested that
they’d gotten better at thinking about their own
thought processes. And that helped them more accurately evaluate
their own performance. More broadly, other research has suggested
that the way you think about intelligence may affect the accuracy of your self-assessments,
at least for some things. In a 2007 study, Joyce Ehrlinger, one of Dunning
and Kruger’s colleagues, gave participants various word problems and
also asked them about their views on intelligence. Erhlinger found that those who considered
intelligence a fixed skill, rather than one that could be improved, were generally overconfident
in self-assessments of their performance. Research suggests that this happened because
that group was more motivated to succeed, so they tended to better remember the parts
of the test that went well. And that makes sense. If you think your intelligence
is an inherent, fixed thing, it could be hard to wrestle with the implications
of a low score. Meanwhile, if you think you can learn to be
more intelligent, you might not be afraid to focus on the easy
and difficult parts of the test, so your self-assessment might not be as biased. So in that sense, not being afraid to fail
and make mistakes could help you have a more accurate view of
your skills. Alternatively, there are some exercises you
could try, including one we are exploring with Vanessa from BrainCraft, which is a channel
on YouTube if you don’t know, it’s amazing. Please follow me over to her channel so you
can see how to increase your self-awareness and then
you can subscribe if you like it. Thanks Hank! So this tool that Hank mentioned is called
the Johari window and it’s a really helpful way to figure out what you believe about yourself
versus how others see you. So over on my channel BrainCraft, I’m gonna
to try this out with Hank, so please follow us over, and I’ll see you
there! [♪ OUTRO]

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100 thoughts on “You Don’t Know Yourself as Well as You Think

  1. AHHHHHHH NOOOOO! There are so many things wrong with this research at least as it is described herein… I wrote my thesis on this and just want people to stop advertising the Dunning-Kruger effect (which should be called the unskilled-and-unaware phenomenon/effect like most researchers use; naming effects after people is nothing more than hedonism). Please contact me if you want to discuss this more. It's not that they're all wrong, but there is so much that is overlooked that has serious implications for the interpretations of the results.

  2. I wonder how much low self esteem comes into play in these self assessments? I’ve noticed a trend whereby many highly intelligent people often suffer from emotional issues like depression and low self worth. This is of course not necessarily a correlative effect, one doesn’t cause the other for certain, but I would not be surprised to discover a higher prevalence of emotional issues among those who are of above average levels of intelligence and creativity. Low self worth of course would tend to lead one to underevaluate their capabilities.

  3. You just described 90% of incoming physics and computer science college students who drop out by their second year, because they aren't actually half as smart as they think they are.

  4. I wonder if your skill level also affects what your points of comparison are. Say you’re a good guitarist; this almost certainly means you like, care about and listen to a lot of music. So if someone asks you ‘Are you musical?’, you may not think, ‘Well, compared with most people in the world, yes;’ you may instead think, ‘Well, I’m no Jimi Hendrix…’

  5. Psychology communicators: [Talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect]

    Everyone with major self-esteem issues from depression, GAD and related mental illnesses: Allow us to introduce ourselves.

  6. Something my husband and I have been talking a lot about lately is our tendency, as people, to think that everyone sees things through the same lens we do, the same processes, the same knowledge, the same reasoning. Being more aware of how we, ourselves, think, enables us to better approach asking how someone else might function differently, and it's been interesting to discuss.

  7. Since I actually teach a rudimentary version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in my business classes, I'd like to think that I have a heightened level of self-awareness. I don't eagerly score myself a 10 in any skill anymore and I'm more critical of my weaknesses.

  8. First 15 seconds, sounds like Dunning-Kruger effect.

    45 seconds in, brings up Dunning-Kruger effect.

    Mount Stupid is real.

  9. w̸͚̄a̴͚͆i̴̥͗t̴̤̑i̶̛͚n̶͊͜g̷̻̒ ̷͈̓f̸͎͘ǫ̵͐r̵̢̉ ̷̣̔y̷͎̽o̷̮͝ù̵͔ ̸̤̑ says:

    I remember in middle school our whole gym class did free throughs agents the other gym class. I remember beating 3 of the basketball players and felt like a beast.

  10. First that Squirtgirl from Vanessa from that Braincraft…you are a playah , a big dig playah, way past your kneees , big dig baby !!

  11. It's good to hear you articulate the concept that skilled people assume others know what they know. This realization came to me when I'd get frustrated that others weren't on the same page as me. Had to learn to understand where they are as a starting point rather than getting pissy. PS nobody really knows themselves.

  12. I hear all the time about dude ranches and such getting people who have been on a horse once or twice calling themselves advanced riders and then people who have been riding for years and years and years calling themselves intermediate!

  13. I thought this video would be about how loud you chew, or the weird noises you make, or how stinky your breath actually is, than what you think

  14. I do know myself pretty well. I know my self awareness level too well. It's not like I haven't been told this my whole entire life by others. It's not a lack of confidence, it's a fact. I know I am less skilled and am less smart then I believe I am! I also typically underestimate my potential and skill. It's like knowing you're clumsy and not being given the task of carrying something fragile . I think it is better to under rate yourself and be surprised then to be overconfident and be wrong. Knowing one's absolute limit is crucial to avoid catastrophic failure and embarrassment.

  15. I notice that if I do something mildly above average there will sometimes be people who don't understand the task and compliment me on being so good, when in reality they are just bad, but of course I can't tell them how bad they are cuz that would be rude.

  16. I used to think I knew everything there was to know about the Dunning-Kruger Effect…. Then I watched this video.

  17. "The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." – Bertrand Russell

  18. My generosity is sporadic and inconsistent and I should not be allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in traffic. How's that for self-awareness?

  19. I don't think l have the issue of overestimating my abilities, l just have the issue of being shocked how poor others abilities can be.

  20. I always judge myself in third person. The good part is you can judge yourself better, the bad part is that you're your own research subject and therefore subject to mistreatment of your own part.

  21. I teach Spanish as a foreign language.
    Once, in an oral exam, one of the worst students I have ever had did terrible (as usual), and he asked me while smiling and very excited: "how did I do? I did great, right? "
    He was such a nice guy. I didn't know how to tell him he didn't.

  22. It may have a lot to do with societal expectations. We are taught to over estimate and over sell our abilities and to hide or lie about our flaws. Resumes for example.

  23. I thought I was better than most people at driving a car but I guess the people driving 40 on a road that has a 55 mph speed limit and those driving 70 on a road that has a 55 mph speed limit, not using a turn signal, riding my ass even though there's no one in the lane next to us, swerving into the wrong lane, running through red ligh…. Actually, they are bad.

  24. There's lots of potential for methodological issues in research on this topic. Here are just two: 1. Questions about one's abilities are very likely not to be answered honestly. 2. Many abilities are not easy to assess; "objective" tests often give the illusion that you are assessing an ability, but often only assess one's performance on that particular test. Unfortunately, psychologists are often quite blind to this issue (you can call this bias many names: measurement bias, blindspot bias, even the Dunning-Krueger effect) and simply take their test results to reflect the objective truth of their choice. A good study design can reduce the effect of both these factors (e.g., if one is asked to predict one's performance on a particular test, while stressing the test results do not reflect anything beyond just the results of this particular test), but if I understood anything from reading papers in this field, is that good study designs are few and far between (though sub-fields vary a lot on this parameter).
    Also, being able to assess my future performance in some test and knowing myself are two vastly different things. Knowing myself means knowing my feelings, behaviours, responses to stress, ability (or lack thereof) to help a friend in need, my body's response to various environmental factors, and lots of other stuff. Assessing my own test performance comes very late and low on that list. In short, your title for the video is very misleading.

  25. Everything I do I presume I will fail. Usually turns out pretty good and spares me the disappointment of it not working.

  26. i wonder if the Dunning – Kruger effect imparts some kind of evolutionary advantage in the person and as such we evolved to have it

    maybe people who are over confident and don't recognize their flaws succeed in making babies more than those who are well aware of their limitations

  27. So how can we include awareness/training for this in our society? I really feel we are drifting to something like "Idiocracy" because of Dunning-Kruger.

  28. "Like if you're generous"

    "or how good a driver you are"
    Pretty terrible, actually.

    Edit: I know how to fly a plane, though! Don't have a license yet, but I'm allowed to fly solo, so… that counts.

  29. What does it mean if I'm constantly doubting myself and putting myself down? Am I truly incompetent? I don't know :/

  30. Old news in a new package. Its in THE eye of THE beholder to decide. Beyond Good & Evil can follows laws of gravity. This Guy should ask himself how he preforms when he wanks. According to a study at Harvard only 5% of THE women likes penis i THE anal but he is THE One WHO likes it.

  31. Q? What groups of people did they interview for these studies? Americans? People of the "western" hemisphere? The Northern Hemisphere? Or groups from many different countries & cultures all over the world?

    I'm very aware of my lack of skills, and how much better others are then me at the same 'job'.
    I try to use this awareness to learn from others, and become, even if only for a moment, a little bit better.

  32. I'm really good a flight sim x and ksp so i can basically fly anything.

    jk, im full of impostor syndrome so I neither know nor think that I know.

  33. Stefen just told us told us about greenhouse gases, and then she flew over to Montana. Apparently, carbon dioxide isn't an issue.

  34. I hate this effect because I started thinking I'm average or possibly below average intelligence a LONG time ago, because I realized that almost everyone thinks they're smart, so me thinking that probably just means I'm the same as others. Which is probably true still, but I can't tell for sure if it's really that I am average/stupid or if I'm just underestimating myself. To be honest I'm leaning more towards me being stupid, so even if I'm not above average intelligence I'm probably still underestimating myself, so maybe it's kind of a mix of both. In any case the more annoying thing is I don't know if my art is good or not yet because I used to think it was in the past when my creatures practically looked like beans, so that's even more confusing for me :') Am I actually good now or is it more overconfidence? I can't tell, maybe never will

  35. Dunning-Kruger effect is too long a name and doesn't instantly convey the point, let's just call it what it is, the trump effect.

  36. As a person who has been playing an instrument for close to 20 years, I had no idea how terrible I really sounded, at least for about first 15 years. Then a couple of years back my ears began to pick things up that I hadn't noticed before; bent-out-of-tune notes, badly fretted (badly intonated) notes, unwanted string noise, not playing in the pocket of a groove etc. this made me sad at first but I realised I now had feedback I could use to better my craft. I'm not really close to being perfect but at least I know what to do about it now.

  37. My anxiety-driven hyperawareness helps me let myself know what my reach is and I usually only slightly underestimate myself but not by much

  38. The real question is how you can train people who refuse to learn anything? Republicans, flat-Earthers, religious fundamentalists — all the anti-intellectuals. They believe that education is bad and that science is a conspiracy. You could never improve their skills at anything, so they’ll never realize how little they actually know about everything. This is the most serious problem facing humanity.

  39. A reason why highly skilled people underestimate their skill/knowledge may be due to the fact that they know enough about something to realise that there is soo much more to know about it and they need to learn.. And hence their skill seems inadequate to them

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