Skill and self-knowledge: Empirical refutation of the dual-burden account of the Dunning-Kruger effect

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Abstract / Description of output

For many intellectual tasks, the people with the least skill overestimate themselves the most, a pattern popularly known as the Dunning–Kruger effect (DKE). The dominant account of this effect depends on the idea that assessing the quality of one's performance (metacognition) requires the same mental resources as task performance itself (cognition). Unskilled people are said to suffer a dual burden: they lack the cognitive resources to perform well, and this deprives them of metacognitive insight into their failings. In this Registered Report, we applied recently developed methods for the measurement of metacognition to a matrix reasoning task, to test the dual-burden account. Metacognitive sensitivity (information exploited by metacognition) tracked performance closely, so less information was exploited by the metacognitive judgements of poor performers; but metacognitive efficiency (quality of metacognitive processing itself) was unrelated to performance. Metacognitive bias (overall tendency towards high or low confidence) was positively associated with performance, so poor performers were appropriately less confident—not more confident—than good performers. Crucially, these metacognitive factors did not cause the DKE pattern, which was driven overwhelmingly by performance scores. These results refute the dual-burden account and suggest that the classic DKE is a statistical regression artefact that tells us nothing much about metacognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number191727
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number12
Early online date7 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • metacognition
  • Dunning–Kruger effect
  • overconfidence


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