Source of article Jury Insights.

Narcissistic Self-delusion


The successful litigator possesses insight into his or her strengths and deficiencies.


Some people, however, demonstrate exquisite unawareness, or denial, of their skills and deficits. David Dunning and Justin Kruger have been studying this phenomenon or narcissistic self-delusion since the late nineties.


Litigators may hope that opposing counsel suffers from the Dunning-Kruger Effect.


Meta Ignorance

The Dunning-Kruger effect reflects “meta-ignorance,” in which some inadequate performers are ignorant of their own ignorance or lack of expertise. Instead, these unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority.


Dunning-Krugerians seem incapable of realistically placing their abilities into a hierarchy of competitors, and in many situations, may not be able to recognize or learn from their mistakes.



Will Ferrell when interviewed about his Broadway one-man show about George “Dubya” Bush explained that his approach to character humor is based on people who have an undeserved sense of self-confidence.


ClouseauThink Inspector Clouseau or Maxwell Smart…


In contrast, the highly competent may actually experience less than deserved self-confidence out of a humble appreciation of the amount of information or skill they have yet to discover or develop.


Although David Dunning and Justin Kruger discussed the D-K effect in 1999, Darwin is attributed with saying, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge,” while philosopher Bertrand Russell noted, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”





Kruger, Justin; David Dunning (1999). “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121-34


Dunning, David; Kerri Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger (2003). “Why people fail to recognize their own incompetence”. Current Directions in Psychological Science 12 (3): 83-87.