The Laymen Problem: What Is It About?

Definition of Incompetence

People without the sense of humor like to tell jokes. People, who have just become the drivers, like to teach others how to drive. Managers, who have no idea about what their company is doing, like to scold their employees for everything, they do not understand. These people are so incompetent and cannot even notice this. Why, you will ask? This is a so-called Dunning-Kruger effect. It states that people with low intellect, simple level of professionalism and narrow-minded outlook cannot realize that the decisions they are making are wrong, as well as that the talents they have are unreal. That is why such a person believes that he is right and wants to be Mr. Know-It-All. However, as time passes by, this disposition turns into the pattern of psychological defense: the dull person starts to fight for his point of view, because of the thought “If I am not right, I can be removed from the office. I am right anyway!” Now let us tell you more about this disease and it is up to you to choose: whether to fight with the problem or let it be. This is also important to understand while working on academic assignments.


The effect was theoretically predicted and then experimentally confirmed in 1999 by D. Dunning and J. Kruger. The theoretical bases of their research were the observations of Ch. Darwin and B. Russell. Nevertheless, the practical inspiration came from the crime, a very funny crime. They investigated the bank robbery by Wheeler MacArthur. The man committed two banks robberies with lemon juice on his face (he thought that the lemon juice reflects his image from the cameras). The scientists were fascinated with the depth of the incompetence of this person. They started the research.


While making the investigation, they gathered in one room people of various fields of occupation. All these people had various levels of knowledge, but were given the same questionnaire. The main task was to qualify the level of their professionalism in the usual sphere of their work and then pass some tests, which would reveal the real level. According to the results, scientists created the graph, which demonstrated the dependence of the real knowledge on the people’s confidence in their field.



The graph looked like an imperfect parabola: in the left part (where the less competent parties were represented) the percentage was the highest – 100%. The second part was the lowest (people, good at their sphere) – 43% of them had the low estimation of the skills and knowledge. Nevertheless, the third part (the best professionals) was also the highest – 66% truly understood the level of their expertness. As you can see, the confidence of the great experts in their fields is less than half-lower of the nonprofessionals’ one.

Further Application

Every year students of the most prominent medical universities are tested according to this experiment. It mostly concerned the obstetricians and therapists. Medicine was the first sphere that had to pass this test. The education sphere will be the next.


As the scholars stated, the laymen do not only overestimate their power, but are unable to mark adequately the others’ level of proficiency in the same field. Moreover, they could not believe that they made some mistakes in the test. All of them agreed to differ, even after the scientists explained their mistakes and logically proved their wrongfulness. However, we can observe the reverse effect of the truly gifted people – they understand the complexity of reality and breadth of knowledge, which lead to the underestimation of their own abilities.

Thanks to Dunning and Kruger, now there is a possibility to differentiate the master of his sphere and swindler. However, the hope that those blind people, unable to see the abyss of ignorance and the shining peaks of knowledge the other people have reached, will change, still exists. The scientists offered the nonprofessionals to take the special training programs. The methods used for training laymen are useful for people who cannot adequately estimate their own skills as well as the abilities of their co-workers. It is necessary to take this course if you want to become a successful person and not be afraid of changes.

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