The illusion of competence

A mirage from the Mojave Desert

Do you remember when you read these slides ten times but when it was the moment to present you blanked out on many parts? Alternatively, when you studied for many weeks to fail miserably in an exam? When (you thought) you mastered a skill by watching a YouTube video before trying it and embarrassing yourself?

I did crash many times before learning about The illusion of competence.” It’s when a person thinks she knows more than she really does. People exhibit this illusion while reading a book, highlighting sentences, and taking notes. We think that we have just mastered the subject at hand.

Why shouldn’t you feel strongly about something?

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a bias in which people exhibit illusory superiority. It’s when people assess their abilities to be better than their peers even though there’s nothing really special about them. It’s called the above-average effect for a reason.

In the past, I exhibited illusory superiority. I was opinionated about many topics in life just because I’ve read a couple of books about the subject. When one of my friends called me out about my sweeping statements, I learned that I’m not as informed as I expected myself to be.

The difference between being informed and being specialized

But these statements are not something we could say if we needed to gain credibility in this age. We’re under constant pressure to read the next book or attend the next class. We want to run around and fool ourselves about how much we learned and how much we know.

We want to take a firm stance and show everyone that we understand the world better than they do. What happens if we just took a moment and thought about if we’ve really mastered the topic at hand before moving to the next one?

When do you really learn about something?

It’s OK to learn from others

Software Engineer @Microsoft

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