In this episode of the Magness & Marcus show, we delve into the Dunning Kruger effect. You might not know the name of this cognitive bias, but it’s something we’re all familiar with. It refers to our inability to accurate assess our abilities. Novices tend to overestimate their abilities, while experts tend to do the opposite and underestimate their competence.  Or put in layman’s terms, it’s that friend who is 100% confident that he’s right on a subject which he is only vaguely familiar with.

It’s this inability to accurately assess oneself that is the central theme of the podcast. We begin with how this impacts athletes and their racing. Starting with the phenomenon of “clueless” athletes having break throughs because they don’t realize who they are racing or that they ‘shouldn’t go with X athlete in the race. To the opposite effect where our runner who knows every stat about everyone in the race doesn’t let himself believe that he can go to the next level because of this information overload. We talk about the power of not knowing using examples from Olympians such as Moises Joseph, who doesn’t check entry lists to his races, to utilizing watch-less and feedback-less workouts and having the athletes guess how fast they ran each rep; so that they can calibrate the mismatch between their perceived abilities and their actual.

To end, we turn the spotlight on ourselves and discuss how we over/under estimate our own knowledge and how it plays a role in our own coaching. In what I think is a very honest appraisal, we end with declaring that we have no idea what we’re doing. And it’s not just us, no one actually does, or perhaps that’s just us falling into the trap of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

“The more people think that you’re really good, actually the stronger the fear of being a fraud is.” David Foster Wallace

Steve and Jon


Resources Discussed:
You’re not so smart podcast on The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Although of Course you end up Becoming Yourself: A road trip with David Foster Wallace: by David Lipsky

Get My New Guide on: The Science of Creating Workouts


    1. Unknown on October 3, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Welllll…..I didn't get "good" at a sport UNTIL I studied its history, technique, and training theory(and that involved, GULP, getting away from coaches who held the watches while we did workouts that had us throwing-up ). Two sides to everything and no offense intended….

    2. George Ilie on October 16, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      You are one step further when you take in consideration the possibility to be wrong.
      In some cases unfortunately, you may become embarrassing by mumbling all kinds of theories.

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