Word of the Day

the Dunning-Kruger effect

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the fact that people who are not very competent think they are more competent than they really are

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The Dunning Kruger Effect is named after the two social psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who identified it in a study carried out in 1999.


The Dunning-Kruger Effect refers to a cognitive bias that leads incompetent people to overrate their own competence. In a study published in 1999 called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”, Dunning and Kruger noted that people who lack knowledge or expertise also lack the ability to recognize their own shortcomings and therefore consistently overestimate their own performance. The same researchers identified the converse phenomenon: that competent people underestimate their own competence. The entry for the Dunning-Kruger Effect was submitted to the Open Dictionary in 2017 and subsequently promoted to Macmillan Dictionary. If you have any words and expressions that you think should be in the Open Dictionary you can submit them here.


“In short, those who are incompetent, for lack of a better term, should have little insight into their incompetence—an assertion that has come to be known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.
(David Dunning, 2011)

Related words

understanding, knowledge, expertise, awareness

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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