DEV Community

Adam Gordon Bell
Adam Gordon Bell

Posted on

Knowing I'm Dumb Is the First Step

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is my favorite.

This effect has been the darling of journalists who want to explain why dumb people don’t know they’re dumb.

It's where 'dumb' people don't know that they are 'dumb' and think they are better than more skilled people.

So maybe it's false?

But I've found it helpful as a model of learning. Learning where you are ignorant is an essential step in understanding.

When you don't know anything about software development, and you want to learn, it seems like it will either be easy or impossibly hard. It's just a giant skill to acquire.

But as you learn, you start to recognize all the different gradations of learning. So this one big thing is actually a bunch of skills, and there are levels of each of them.

And the more you learn about, say, backend development, the more you realize there are other areas you don't understand, like not just frontend, but networking programming, phone development, OS development, and writing firmware. Every little area is fractal with so much knowledge in it.

Part of learning is just learning how much you don't know, so it makes sense that "dumb people don't know how dumb they are" because knowing how dumb you are is something you have to learn.

What do you think?

Discussion (18)

Collapse
sberrus profile image
SamDev

**first, I apologize for my English level. I know I have to improve a lot. 😅

Hello everyone. I'm a newbie into software development. I started learning by YouTube courses, udemy, coursera, official documentation and so on. And I remember a few months ago where I pass from felling that I was a software guru to "Damm, I'm so dumb" and is strange because when I learnt new stuffs I thought that I have to learn a lot more for get that "I know stufs" feeling.

I want to ask you, how do you pass that line of "impostor syndrome" and where you find out you were in that place? 🤔

Because I think I'm stopping myself and I don't have enough confidence for start looking for a better job.

Any advice is gold for me. Thanks 😅

Collapse
adamgordonbell profile image
Adam Gordon Bell Author

I wish there were an easy answer but just keep going at it and maybe keep track of all the things you've learned, so you can review it when feeling discouraged.

Collapse
sberrus profile image
SamDev

Thanks man i really apreciate the advice. I surelly will keep pushing and trying to improve everyday 😁

Collapse
coderlifeisawesome profile image
lifeascoder

Be Confidence. Don't lose your hope. Learn new stuffs, Lear new coding language.
You have a great skill. Don't be like - I am not that good, I am bad at this. Be confident and code. You have your own skills. Even I was so bad at coding, but didn't lose hope. Now I make websites easily. YOU CAN DO IT BRO.

Collapse
sberrus profile image
SamDev

Thanks men. Sure 💪 i`ll keep improving everyday to become a better programmer.

Thread Thread
coderlifeisawesome profile image
lifeascoder

Yeah bro

Collapse
sandrarodgers profile image
SandraRodgers

It's kind of a chicken-and-egg discussion. Or a paradox. You are wise when you realize how dumb you really are, and that makes you smart.

I do think that the most wise people recognize that there is so much they don't know, so they may actually be 'dumb' in the scheme of the universe, but in the scheme of this world they are ahead.

But people who don't think about what's missing from their brains and are satisfied with their limited collection of facts are truly ignorant and not likely to reach that higher level of wisdom.

I love the attitude of just embracing the fact that we are all learners, that we all have something to learn and something to offer. Let's help each other learn rather than gatekeeping that knowledge that makes us feel so 'smart' but which actually holds us back from learning from others.

Collapse
adamgordonbell profile image
Adam Gordon Bell Author

Hey, totally agree and it makes something like the Dunning-Kruger effect make sense. It's like of course a skilled pianist can tell the 100 ways in which they could improve, but a new pianist thinks they might be above average, because they've learned some things.

Collapse
bslentz profile image
Bree Lentz

This is so well said and very helpful to here as someone who is just learning and needs to constantly realize we are or were all in the same boat, thank you!

Collapse
lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr

I think this is quite an oversimplification to the point of misunderstanding. You're very probably not dumb (unless your IQ is proven to be below 90) and neither are we. The Dunning-Kruger-effect is decidedly not about intelligence, but about ignorance and confidence.

It may not even be a psychological effect, but it is still true that you can gain confidence faster than knowledge and thus will much more likely overestimate your own abilities and underestimate those of others.

It is one of the greatest properties of development that it is constantly evolving so there's always something new to learn. Unfortunately, this can also cause an inverse Dunning-Kruger-effect, better known as impostor syndrome: when you overestimate your own ignorance and underestimate everyone else's.

Collapse
adamgordonbell profile image
Adam Gordon Bell Author

Yes, inexperienced maybe a more accurate term, but dumb is the term used in the McGill article linked so I thought I'd use it.

Dunning-Kruger-effect, if it exists, is often defined to include not just inexperienced people being confident, but also experienced people being less confident. So imposter syndrome could be related to it, just a different part of the curve they found, not its inverse.

Either way, it seems like it may not exist :shurg:

Collapse
lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr

The curve itself is an issue, because, as the paper you cited notes, it is also reproducable with static noise (no significant p-value)

I would still disagree, because the Dunning-Kruger-effect is defined as the relation between actual knowledge and confidence, but impostor syndrome is the relation between perceived ignorance of oneself and confidence, so it is not a part of the curve, but some other dimension instead - and actual knowledge and perceived ignorance are exact opposites, as I previously stated.

Thread Thread
adamgordonbell profile image
Adam Gordon Bell Author • Edited on

Oh interesting. How are perceived ignorance and low confidence different?

Certainly some people seem to think its the same:

Thread Thread
lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr

It's nowhere on this graph. Since the perceived ignorance is first high, drops steep, and then had its ups and downs.

Collapse
thumbone profile image
Bernd Wechner

Yes indeed. A mark of professionalism is in fact humility in face of what we don't know and clear criteria for knowledge. A simple study of knowledge and knowing and what it means benefits most people. As we compartmentalise things as "known" by very different criteria. One persons knows something with the same evidence that brings another only to suspect that same thing or to see it as a likely hypothesis.

Collapse
scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

I think that's an awesome idea. I approach continual learning from a similar standpoint. If you think you know something, then you are closed off to learning more about it. Plus, human biases (like confirmation bias) always reflect a tendency to filter information incorrectly.

This idea is reinforced by various scientists. For example, Feynman believed that discoveries don't happen sometimes because scientists are convinced (he called it "fooled") for or against certain possibilities, despite what the data may say.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
― Richard P. Feynman

So following data / evidence where it leads is a huge skill.

Einstein also said things like:

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

and

It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.

and

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

This article I wrote about whether or not to memorize things is closely related.

Collapse
redbar0n profile image
Magne

«The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.» — Aristotle

ardalis.com/the-more-you-know-the-...

Collapse
vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

For those who want to go deep in Dunning-Kruger effect:

psmag.com/social-justice/confident...