Dunning-Kruger, X Factor and workplace learning styles

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Most of you will be familiar with X Factor, a British television music competition show which began in 2004 to find new singing talent, contested by aspiring singers drawn from public auditions.

The majority of the general public would argue that it is an amazing show because it provides an ideal, equal and fair opportunity for people from all walks of life and from different socio economic backgrounds to become a celebrity.

However, what’s often not discussed is that X Factor is one of the key pioneers of this progressively unhealthy celebrity, facebook, twitter, botox obsessed society we currently live in. Furthermore it’s generating an increasingly common epidemic “social comparison” that is sweeping the world, an extreme envious, keeping up with the Joneses and it’s causing burn out, anxiety, depression, addiction, low self esteem, envy, procrastination to name a few.


Another negative feature of X factor is a strange psychological phenomenon, “the Dunning Kruger (DK) effect”. Named after its founders, the DK effect argues that the more you know about a subject or idea the more you realise that there is to know and to understand.

In other words, as you are constantly aware of the gaps in your knowledge base, you continually strive to enhance it or beat yourself up for not knowing everything.

Contrarily, the less you know about a topic, the less you are aware of what there is to know about it.

So what’s this got to do with X Factor then?

A major consequence of DK is that, on many occasions, uninformed people will rate their ability noticeably higher and educated people will rate their own ability far lower.

Put simply, the educated expert thinks they only know as much as the layperson whilst the layperson believes they know as much as the expert. That’s why cocksure, overconfident contestants on X factor often deliver dreadful performances whilst the more self-conscious, humble contenders are usually more talented.

This you tube clip is a great example of X Factor people over rating their abilities:


This rather reminds of the four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model:

Developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s, the four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model relates to the psychological states involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill.

The Four Stages of competence or conscious competence” learning model describes how a person learns, progressing from:

1. Unconscious Incompetence (you don’t know that you don’t know something),

to 2. Conscious Incompetence (you are now aware that you are incompetent at something),

to 3. Conscious Competence (you develop a skill in that area but have to think about it),

to the final stage 4. Unconscious Competence (you are good at it and it now comes naturally).

Several elements, including helping someone ‘know what they don’t know’ or recognise a blind spot, can be compared to some elements of a Johari window (although Johari deals with self-awareness; while the four stages of competence deals with learning stages).

So in terms of the X Factor contestants on the you tube clip and Dunning Kruger, in most cases, these people are functioning at the Unconscious Incompetence level

Put simply ignorance is bliss !!

More about the four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model and how it can help you in the workplace in You Revolution’s next blog

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