Ian Weinberg

5 months ago · 3 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Ian blog
Averting the tumble

Averting the tumble

From the domain of cognitive psychology emerges an item of interest which I believe may have a far greater application than that which defined its origins. The Dunning-Kruger effect refers to a cognitive bias in which those with a low objective performance tend to overestimate their abilities in a self-reporting process. When analysed statistically in a group, those in the bottom 25% (quartile) view themselves as being comparable in performance to the top quartile of the group. Additionally, those who manifest this bias are unaware of themselves and their inefficiencies. In other words we have identified a group of individuals who are not merely ignorant but are ignorant of their ignorance!

I would suggest that the absence of self-awareness to this degree is the consequence of an intrinsic need to bolster oneself in order to fend off lurking self-esteem issues. Since most biases date back to the nurture period, we can safely conclude that the individual in the lower quartile has experienced significant nurture deprivation. In this nurture situation recognition and relevance would need to be restored by appeasing the caregiver with favourable behaviour – reward through conditional behaviour. Thus develops the external locus of control wherein all behaviour is driven and moulded by the requirements of the external environment in order to remain recognised and relevant. Consequently this behaviour is driven perpetually by a deep seated fear of being disregarded and seen to be irrelevant. The risk of exposure of any personal weakness ensures that the authentic self is kept tightly under wraps. In this way, self-awareness is all but snuffed out.

Growth and evolution of self requires self-awareness of one’s flaws. In fact essential for growth is the acceptance that one will mess up from time to time and experience disappointment and possibly even temporary rejection. But ultimately it is not how you fall that will determine success but how you rise up and prevail. In this way both ability as well as self-awareness are enhanced. Interestingly the studies performed to identify the lower quartile individuals exhibiting inflated abilities showed that those in the highest quartile exhibited the reverse bias – they subjectively saw themselves as performing poorer than their objective evaluation! Perhaps the experience of multiple failures in the path to excellence creates those other essential qualities for success – humility and gratitude.

Here is the best illustration that I could find which describes all the components of the Dunning-Kruger effect (Copied from the website waitbutwhy.com).

Pretty damn sure you
1 know a whole lot and
g great about it


«— 2


whether you
actually know
\ that much

that you don't



kaowithat & Realizing that
Q knowing how little
© you know is the first


step in becoming
someone who

<Q ¢ 4 actually knows stuff

Feeling ashamed
and embarrassed
about not knowing
that much







The bottom quartile with the exaggerated performance spend their existence securing and defending their position atop Child’s Hill. They dare not allow themselves a passing peak into their murky depths since this will surely result in the painful fall into the Insecure Canyon. Unfortunately there are those who crash down into the Insecure Canyon and have neither the means nor the resilience to effectively ascend the slow growth up Grown-up Mountain. They will be doomed to repeated ineffective attempts to ascend, ala Sisyphus, eventually succumbing to hopeless-helplessness and a feeling of irrelevance in Insecure Canyon. On the other hand, those who effectively negotiate Grown-up Mountain become our successful upper quartiles.

Getting back to Child’s Hill: These are individuals who will defend their turf with all that they have since instinctively, even without peaking into themselves, they recognize that forsaking their position will result is a crashing fall into oblivion. Invariably like-minded defenders will band together for safety and support. Being influenced by an external locus of control, they will appease the stronger and more influential prevailing forces at any given time. They are averse to identifying with any individuals, concepts or behaviours which may jeopardise their safety. In fact they will take an active antagonistic stand against such factors. They fear appearing different from their co-defenders for this will surely result in excommunication and the painful crashing descent into the Insecure Canyon. Their favourite weapon is to discredit all that challenge them, for to successfully discredit is to render the challenge ineffective and obsolete. Collectively these are our lower quartiles - ignorant of their ignorance. These are the defenders of the Covid-19 narrative. In the obsessive defense of their position they have snuffed out all possibilities of peaking into the murky depths of an alternative reality, for this will inevitably result in the painful crashing descent into the Insecure Canyon.


For those versed in the Triangles Model - you may recognize the Bravo archetype as defending Child’s Hill, the Alpha/Alpha-Bravo archetype as ascending up Grown-up Mountain and the Charlie archetype as occupying Insecure Canyon.

Copyright reserved - Ian Weinberg 2023

Life Lessons

Ian Weinberg

4 months ago #8

🐝 Fatima G. Williams

5 months ago #7

Love this post @Ian Weinberg  The Dunning-Kruger effect is indeed a well known psychological phenomenon that describes how individuals with low ability in a particular domain tend to overestimate their competence, while those with high ability may underestimate their competence. However I have never used this framework to explain it in the context of why many get stuck in the insecure canyon and I normally use others concepts such as the 4 stages of learning with the 2 new stages of Deliberate incompetence & Conscious superiority.  I think I would try to start using this in the context of job seekers and career success, the D-K effect can perhaps provide insights to some individuals as to WHY they fail to achieve their desired career outcomes. While I don’t subscribe to all interpretations and opinions drawn from the concept just like Ken, I do believe the framework can be portrayed different to stay on the fine line balancing both conviction and knowledge

Ian Weinberg

5 months ago #6

Ken Boddie

5 months ago #5

Ian Weinberg

5 months ago #4

Ken Boddie

5 months ago #3

Much has been said of the Dunning-Kruger effect, Ian, including on this platform. While I don’t subscribe to all interpretations and opinions drawn from the concept, the following certainly appears obvious (to me at least): 

• ignorance is bliss 😇 as long as we are unaware of our ignorance; 

• suddenly being made to be aware of our ignorance is the pits, unless we have the initiative, drive and capability to do something about it; and

• the process of successful learning is fraught with ups and downs, encompassing a series of initiatives followed by failures, essential for learning on the uphill path to success, but an undertaking not for the faint of heart. 

Personally, I prefer to look at the DK effect in terms of the lack of success of many of my dad jokes … 25 percentile just don’t know a good joke when they hear one. 😂

Such a pity that, in my case, the lack of consequential humour is more like 75 percentile. 🤔

Ian Weinberg

5 months ago #2

Thanks Randy

Randall Burns

5 months ago #1

Great post Ian. Very thought provoking indeed. I'm reminded of the old saying; “The older I get the more I realize what I don't know”

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