For the next few weeks to months I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Cognitive Biases with you and trying to give you basic explanations that may help you identify and whenever possible mitigate them.
There are so many cognitive biases that I’ll just be spending time with those that I think are most relevant and interesting to you. There are three major types of cognitive biases:
1- those that effect memory
2- those that are social in nature
3- those that effect decision making, behavior, and beliefs
I’m going to kick this party off with one of my favorites: The Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger bias effects beliefs about oneself. Specifically, incompetent individuals not only fail to see their incompetence, but they feel they are highly competent. The bias was named in 1999 by researchers Dunning & Kruger.
This one cracks me up. We ALL know someone who suffers from this bias, and we all secretly really hope that we don’t. Fortunately, this bias also indicates that competent people might see themselves as less competent. So we can all hope we fall into that half of the equation.
Let’s operationalize this one. Why would a person who is less competent think that they are highly competent? Easy. Because they don’t know what they don’t know. Literally. If you are not competent in your domain, you are far less likely to be able to self-diagnose your own skills because of your incompetence. This is unfortunate when it happens, because the limitations of one’s own knowledge about that domain allows them to think that they know everything. Basically, if you suffer from this, you think you know everything because you don’t know enough to know how much there is to know. k
People suffering from this bias must have it pretty tough around evaluation time, when their performance is likely to be rated lower than their perception of their performance. If you find yourself feeling confident with your competency but your evaluations are lacking, I recommend you do a little self diagnosis. Ask yourself the following questions:
1- Is the person assessing your competence an asshole?
2- Is there a chance that they are wrong?
3- Are they themselves less competent than you?
If you answered Yes to more than one question, you may wanna just do a little check in with some people you highly respect in your field. Do not just ask your friends. They will likely lie to you, especially since they probably know you suffer from this bias even if they didn’t know its name.
In fairness, many of us have suffered from an undeservedly low evaluation at work. There are several reasons this could happen including a bell curve system that forces even top performers to be in the bottom, a supervisor who isn’t knowledgeable enough to appropriately understand your contributions, and sometimes just a rough period that didn’t allow you to highlight your skills. Or, sometimes, you just work for jerks. If this happens consistently you either gotta find a new gig or take a good look at yourself in the mirror.
If it turns out you suffer from this bias, you’re really going to have to expand your skill set stat. If you know someone who suffers from this…well…just point them to this post…if they don’t get the hint … they never will.