Cognitive biases

Ever since I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect, I've started observing a bit more how I and some other people behave. Last week a friend introduced the “Impostor syndrome” concept to me, a “syndrome” apparently common among graduate students. There's a very interesting article that presents the concept nicely, and which I quote here:

“Impostor syndrome” is the name given to the feelings that Abigail and many other young scientists describe: Their accomplishments are just luck or deceit, and they're in over their heads. The key to getting past it, experts say, is making accurate, realistic assessments of your performance. Perhaps equally important: knowing you're not alone. Abigail thinks that sharing her feelings with other people is how she will eventually come to grips with her sense of feeling like an impostor. “It's fantastic to hear other people say, ‘I've felt that way, too.’ "

And it continues to say that

( … ) the root of the problem appears to be “very unrealistic notions of what it means to be competent” and says that people “set this internal bar exceedingly high.” When they occasionally fail, these people may adopt negative behaviours such as procrastination and perfectionism. ( … )

The article also presents some interesting solutions. Acknowledging the problem may help, but when you're under a cognitive bias’ effect1, you don't operate on logic.

The Dunnig-Kruger effect, introduced by IgNobel-winning article “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” is equally interesting, by stating that

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

Their (Impostor syndrome & Dunning-Kruger effect) corresponding Wikipedia entries are worth reading.

  1. I suppose, I'm not a psychologist. 😛

Renato Cunha
Machine Learning Software Developer

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.