The Dunning Kruger Effect: Why It’s Okay Not to Be an Authority on Everything

Everyone has a voice on social media, everyone can share their opinion, but how many of those opinions are baseless and confounded in fear?

I couldn’t tell you. I have no idea. But what is incredibly safe to say is that being intellectually humble right now is incredibly important.

While it may feel comforting to speculate amongst your peers about unfathomably complex issues such as the Coronavirus pandemic, what’s really happening is we’re creating breeding grounds for hysteria, paranoia and the spread of misinformation. Your average person barely knows the answers let alone the questions when it comes to best practice in epidemiological disaster.

The Coronavirus pandemic is one of the most frustrating exhibitions of the Dunning Kruger effect I’ve ever seen.

I first found out about the Dunning Kruger effect while watching Netflix’s 2018 flat earth documentary Behind the Curve. Suddenly, the assuredness of self-proclaimed experts spouting away on social media on massively complex theories made complete sense.

Self proclaimed experts dunning kruger effect

The Dunning Kruger effect is the ignorance of your own ignorance. Furthermore, it is the sufferance of illusory superiority which leads people to rate their intelligence far higher than it actually is. This is why it’s fairly futile to try and hammer sense into someone who is too wrapped up in their own ignorance. If you challenge them, the ignorance bubble is at risk of bursting, so, it’s no surprise that they’re so protective of it!

Commonly, it is only revealed how little you know on a certain topic when you start attempting to understand it. And it is through that process that our self-confidence can become weakened.

Meanwhile, your average Joe will be reading newspaper headlines and think that they have a full intellectual handle on situations. They’ll look at infographics, take in the stats, and pay absolutely no mind to any of the parameters of the information or the agenda behind that it was published with.

Oscar Wilde quote The Dunning Kerger Effect

Oscar Wilde was definitely right when he wrote “The ugly and stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live-- undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.”

It’s not my intention to intellectually shame anyone. All different forms of intellect are important in our society. People only become experts by dedicating a substantial proportion of their lives to furthering their education in the subject. Given that we’ve only got a limited time on this earth which isn’t consumed by menial tasks, there are only so many things which we can become experts in.

Intelligence may not be universally applied in all situations, but you know what is? Being a decent human being.

Be modest. Be kind. Be safe. Don’t buy into the hysteria.  We might just get through this with our sanity and our society intact if we do.

Chances are, if you’re regularly logging onto social media in this deeply confusing time, you’ll have come across a conspiracy theory or two by now.

There are so many reasons not to trust our respective world leaders. We know we’ve been gaslit, Adam Curtis’ documentary Hypernormalisation proved it beyond any doubt. But peddling conspiracy theories such as the ones about the Coronavirus vaccine and 5G being responsible for the deaths isn’t helping anyone.

5G Coronavirus Covid-19 conspiracy theory The Dunning Kruger Effect


Anti-vaxxers have been the laughing stock of the internet for quite some time now. But in our endemic-obsessed climate, these fresh fears over the Coronavirus may start to sound more appealing.

We have a very, very real problem with the Coronavirus. Both in terms of the financial and economic issues which will arise from people’s lives being put on hold, and the strains it will put on our medical infrastructures. By saying that, I don’t want to deepen the existential fear. What I do want to do, is allow people to strive to find the facts and see how we can make the most out of this shit show.

If you’re an artist, do what you best, make the world more beautiful and tolerable with what you create. That has always been an artist’s responsibility, and it’s even more important now than ever.

If you aren’t an artist, there’s no better time to start peeling yourself away from the doom and losing yourself in creative expression.
Written By Amelia Vandergast


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