Are You the Top Gun You Think You Are? Unsafe Perspectives and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

I can remember my father, an Eastern Airlines captain, saying to me as a young aviator, “The most dangerous time in a pilot’s career is after they get their Commercial license up until about the time they get their ATP.”  I hadn’t given that much thought until recently.  I fondly recall that period of my career.  I was cautious, but I also had a sense of unfounded bravado that I really knew what I was doing.  Looking back, boy was my perspective wrong.

Lately I have been running across many operators who are not best practices or IS-BAO, are not particularly safe, or are even operating under CFR 14 Part 91 illegally – not because they want to, but because they don’t have the perspective to know any better.  Moreover, their bravado puts them, their companies or owners, and the general public at risk.  Please read on…

You’re saying, “Hey, that’s not us.”  Research shows, however, if you are in denial you have a high likelihood of overestimating your knowledge.  I challenge you  to see if perhaps your operation is at risk from what’s been called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

One of the best titles for a scientific paper has to be the Ig Nobel prize winning “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments“.  The paper compares people’s skill levels to their own assessment of their abilities. In hindsight, the result seems self-evident. Unskilled people lack the skill to rate their own level of competence. This leads to the unfortunate result that unskilled people rate themselves higher than more competent people. The phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the paper’s Cornell University authors. (more…)