The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure
and the intelligent are full of doubt.
— Bertrand Russell


The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.


Abraham Maslow describes an insecure person as a person who “perceives the world as a threatening jungle and most human beings as dangerous and selfish; feels rejected and isolated person, anxious and hostile; is generally pessimistic and unhappy; shows signs of tension and conflict, tends to turn inward; is troubled by guilt-feelings, has one or another disturbance of self-esteem; tends to be neurotic; and is generally selfish and egocentric.” (Maslow, 1942, pp 35). He viewed in every insecure person a continual, never dying, longing for security. Alegre (2008).



15 thoughts on “doubt

  1. I, unfortunately, know too many people like those unskilled individuals the Dunning-Kruger effect describes. It’s actually pretty cool there’s a name for it because I’d observed the phenomenon for many years and wondered what the heck was going on!

    Thanks for clearing up some of my confusion surrounding unskilled people’s over competence.

  2. If a post starts with a Bertrand Russell quote I need to like it!!
    No seriously, I agree: In the very first lecture I ever attended at a university the professor told us (among other things meant motivational) that we will most likely question our abilities – and it is usually the brightest students who suffer from most severe self-doubt. I believe he was right – the so-called imposter syndrome is also related to this, I suppose.

    • Well, I seem to suffer a lot of ego-deflation these days. Citrix was not my best experience. Another project is very humbling: although I have been busy with open source and linux since 1996, I’m humbled facing a petabyte-cluster and I doubt whether I have enough background to administer it.

    • Well, I agree that it is not much of a post, more like a statement. Peace to you. (ik is the first person singular personal pronoun in dutch – my native tongue – translated as “I” 🙂 )

    • Well it hurt a lot this morning, but then I finally got the idea and the weather (22C and sunny) to do some heavy gardening, and my endorphins have removed all self doubt.

      • You hurt, too? A loving father and husband. I never thought of you as selfish and egocentric at all. And you doubt yourself so therefore, according to what you wrote, are not guilty of sounding off.

    • I prefer to be in the unknowing, but I also notice that sometimes I do pretend to be in that place, judging others, and that is not the right thing to do. Shamata Meditation is the perfect start for metacognition. This can grow into self awareness. After some time, the awareness starts to pop up unexpectedly — a very long time later, the awareness is never far away, and has become a kind of habit. The article you link to is very brief. I wrote about metacognition in this blog post:

    • I felt like this in the morning, so I decided to cook something for lunch, but it didn’t work well and I had to eat a sandwich. Then decided to do some physical work in the garden, and that did the job, all endorphins released, I feel good!

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