MiB: David Dunning on Metacognition



This week, I sit down with David Dunning, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, where he focuses on the psychology underlying human misbelief. He is best known for the Dunning Kruger effect, his work (with colleague Justin Kruger) on metacognition, and why the unskilled are unaware of their own lack of skills. The original 1999 paper is Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (PDF)

Dunning’s work focuses on the psychology underlying human misbelief. We discussed skill and self-evaluation, and the issue of how the second depends upon the first. (Self-evaluation is very much dependent on the underlying skills).

Each of us have our own pockets of ignorance, and we can wander into them at any time. A cautionary example Dunning uses is those of new pilots. It is not the pilots with 100 hours of training who are dangerous; rather, its those pilots with 700-800 flight hours who are in “the killing zone.” They know enough to think “I got this,” when  they really don’t. The results are often catastrophic.

Dunning’s research also focuses on Social Norms, and its impact on peoples thoughts and behaviors. He also studies Hypocognition, the state of not having a concept For their great insights, the Dunning & Kruger were awarded an igNoble Award in 2,000.

His favorite books can be seen here; A transcript of our conversation will be available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunesSpotifyOvercastGoogleBloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Note: we recorded this March 3, just before the work-at-home lockdown had begun. Before you listen, I must apologize in advance for my fanboyness. It is less noticeable on the broadcast, but on the podcast extras, it is obvious and embarrassing when Professor Dunning mentioned the daily reads — you might not be able to tell, but I can hear myself losing my own $h*t, and then wildly overcompensating by mindlessly blathering. Rather than delete this embarrassment, I left it in. Hey, if you are that deep into the pod, you deserve to know exactly how ridiculous your host is.

Next week, we speak with Wall Street Journal’s NBA correspondent Ben Cohen. His new book is The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks was just released.






David Dunning’s Favorite Books


Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray


Books Barry Mentioned

The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science by Will Storr

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