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Dunning-Kruger Effect


In a nutshell, the Dunning-Kruger effect may be defined (thanks to your online encyclopedia Britannica) as “a cognitive bias whereby people with limited competence in a domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or the performance of their peers…” and it effects almost all of us!  Quite a mouthful, but pretty easy to grasp the idea…

A simple example could involve my own personal capacity to cook.  I am so breathtakingly inept that I both lack the capacity to cook well, but additionally I have also not managed to cultivate a discerning palate enough to realize that I can’t cook!  Realistically, I am not so much “cooking” as “torturing food” which is consumable, but produces relatively little pleasure to those involved.  Now perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly, however the principle is valid, I am of a culinary level where I do not have a solid enough grasp of the competency to judge myself, let alone others and, being a human and open to the same flaws we all are… I OVERESTIMATE MY ABILITIES!  I think I’m a bit like Gordon Ramsay, I just don’t know any better until I actually get in a kitchen with an expert and, well, ouch, embarrassment city!


Well, candidly, I’m not sure that we need to lie in bed at night worrying about it, however the concept is a useful one to acknowledge, not just for our squash but for our general lives.  Squash, however provides the easier gateway into the learning, as it does with many other aspects of our lives such as fairness, honesty, hard work and suchlike. In the case of the D-K phenomenon, it gives us a guide as to being cautious in our goal setting.  If you won a Silver Tournament, it is possible, but unlikely you’ve moved onto winning JCT’s in the same season.  “Those top 32 players don’t look that good” is something I’ve heard more than a couple of times, and, without wanting to sound grumpy, don’t be that guy/girl!  Goal setting is unquestionably the foundation of motivation, without goals we’re not going to work hard… but inappropriate goal setting will seriously mess with a young players development as disappointment sets in.


The simple solution to the potential problem, as with so many other things, is “ask your coach”.  A developing player, someone learning the game, is not normally equipped to appreciate how good, or, well, how “not-good” they are and respectfully, it’s unlikely Mom or Dad is either.  When you set your goals, when you dream of achievements, just make sure they’re within the bounds of credulity and when you look at some of the best juniors or seniors, just be sure you know what you’re seeing… you’ll be happier in the long run, I promise!

P.S. if you have a few minutes to continue on this.. check out some of the formal (if somewhat dated) research here!


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