Watch Out: The Dunning-Kruger effect in medicine

The Dunning-Kruger effect is much in the news these days since the best example ever of this truism, the current president of the United States, provides nearly daily proof that this effect is pervasive, real, and in his case at least, totally worrisome.

The Dunning-Kruger effect refers to a study back in the 1990s by Dunning and Kruger (duh!) that concluded that the people who are least knowledgeable about a subject are often the ones who actually think they know most about it, and who are also most vehement in their opinions.

See, Trump, Donald J, on virtually anything.

Anyway, over the years, the Dunning-Kruger effect has shown to be true in virtually anything that researchers want to study (and it’s very easy to verify it on you own, by the way: just ask friends or relatives about a subject they clearly know very little about and see how sure they are of their opinions; you will be amazed at the strength of the Dunning-Kruger effect in your environment).

So no surprise, either I guess, that it turns up so often in the world medicine as well (see vaccines, supplements, marijuana, and so on).

The latest excellent example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is from a recent paper in Nature Human Behaviour in which the authors surveyed 2000 people about their views of GMO foods and concluded that “the people who hold the most extreme views opposing genetically modified (GM) think they know most about GM food science, but actually know the least”.

Which will come as a shock to absolutely no one. of course.