How could you know if you have reached your level of incompetence?
You can’t…because you most likely won’t know to ask.
That’s what Justin Kruger and David Dunning at Cornell University reported in their 2000 research article Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.
They concluded that most people “tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains.” Moreover, the researchers found that those who are mistaken in their social or intellectual prowess suffer another burden:
“…Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”
In repeated trials, those participants in the lowest 25% in the categories of humor, grammar, and logic “grossly overestimated their test performance and ability.” When they scored in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves as high as in the 62nd percentile.
As a cure, the researchers claim, incompetence could be improved through education, increasing the metacognitive competence “to recognize the limitations of their abilities.”
Which means the only way to test to see if you are incompetent is to improve on the skills that you already think you have knocked….or as the researchers suggest, “the state of ignorance is bliss.”