David Dunning

David Dunning
University of Michigan | U-M · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

150
Publications
309,686
Reads
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17,923
Citations
Additional affiliations
September 2015 - present
University of Michigan
Position
  • Professor (Full)
July 2015 - present
Cornell University
Position
  • Professor Emeritus
September 2013 - June 2014
Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Position
  • Fellow

Publications

Publications (150)
Article
Across two studies, we investigated how much cognitive variables and emotional dynamics anticipated endorsement of politically partisan misbeliefs. In Study 1 (n = 298), those with lower levels of cognitive ability endorsed more political misbeliefs regardless of whether those beliefs aligned with their political preferences. However, emotional inv...
Article
Across three studies, we investigated who expresses concern for COVID‐19, or coronavirus, and engages in behaviors that are consistent with slowing the spread of COVID‐19. In Studies 1 and 2 (n = 415, n = 199), those with warmer feelings toward scientists were more concerned and engaged in greater COVID‐preventative behaviors, regardless of partisa...
Article
In schizophrenia research, patients who "jump to conclusions" in probabilistic reasoning tasks tend to display impaired decision-making and delusional belief. In five studies, we examined whether jumping to conclusions (JTC) was similarly associated with decision impairments in a nonclinical sample, such as reasoning errors, false belief, overconfi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Across 3 studies, we investigated who expresses concern for COVID-19 and engages in behaviors that are consistent with slowing the spread of COVID-19. In Studies 1 and 2 (n=415, n=199), those with warmer feelings towards scientists were more concerned and engaged in greater COVID-preventative behaviors, regardless of political preferences. Furtherm...
Article
Social obligation begins far before people establish explicit cooperative relationships. Research on trust suggests that people feel obligated to trust other people even at zero acquaintance, thus trusting complete strangers even though they privately expect to be exploited. Such obligations promote mutually beneficial behavior among strangers and...
Article
Full-text available
Trust is a double‐edged sword. When warranted, it leads to positive and rewarding interactions. When not, it leads to disappointment and anger. Therefore, it has been argued that people will display “betrayal aversion” in trust situations (i.e., avoid trusting to avoid betrayal). Yet, people also feel tense and uneasy when they signal distrust to a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Across 2 studies, we investigated whether cognitive or emotional dynamics better anticipated endorsement of politically partisan misbeliefs. In Study 1 (n = 298), those with lower levels of cognitive ability endorsed more political misbeliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs aligned or misaligned with their political preferences. However, emoti...
Preprint
Full-text available
People display only meager to modest self-insight of their intellectual and social skills—having particular difficulty in recognizing deficits and imperfections in their expertise. Data from four waves of the international Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS) suggest that there are cultural differences associated with the magnitude of this diff...
Article
People are more inclined to believe that information is true if they have encountered it before. Little is known about whether this illusory truth effect is influenced by individual differences in cognition. In seven studies (combined N = 2,196), using both trivia statements (Studies 1-6) and partisan news headlines (Study 7), we investigate modera...
Article
Interpersonal trust is essential for a productive and rewarding social life, yet it presents many theoretical puzzles, particularly among strangers, because its existence violates the rational-actor model. Here, we focus on two mysteries. One is cognitive, focusing on why people cynically underestimate how trustworthy their peers are. The second is...
Article
Having skill does not necessarily mean more self-confidence in that skill, as shown in four panels, from 2003 to 2015 (n ≈ 983,934), of self-assessments by eighth graders in the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). Within a given country, self-judgments of math and science skill correlated positively with actual performance, but...
Article
I discuss the best option illusion, the tendency for people to select what they believe is the most reasonable option when solving problems or deciding on a course of action. Such a strategy is straightforward, sensible and difficult to quibble with, but occasionally the seemingly best option turns out to be anything but—leading to systematic error...
Article
Full-text available
People think, feel, and behave within the confines of what they can conceive. Outside that conceptual landscape, people exhibit hypocognition (i.e., lacking cognitive or linguistic representations of concepts to describe ideas or explicate experiences). We review research on the implications of hypocognition for cognition and behavior. Drawing on t...
Article
Doris suggests thought-provoking directions for rehabilitating moral agency within a self that is unaware and incoherent. These directions suggest more radical proposals. First, moral reasoning may serve many different functions beyond merely expressing a person's values. Second, social collaboration may not focus on moral reasoning as much as it d...
Article
We reflect back on our 2004 monograph reviewing the implications of faulty self-judgment for health, education, and the workplace. The review proved popular, no doubt because the importance of accurate self-assessment is best reflected in just how broad the literature is that touches on this topic. We discuss opportunities and challenges to be foun...
Article
Full-text available
The rational actor model has a long and successful history of explaining human motivation across several disciplinary fields, but its focus on material self-interest fails to explain the many courtesies that people extend to each other and the frequent sacrifices they make on a day-to-day basis. What promotes this pro-social behavior—in particular...
Article
Emotions play complex roles in economic decision-making, particularly those involving risk. We discuss recent scholarship documenting three different entry points at which emotion can influence decision-making. First, decisions can be influenced by anticipated emotions, the feelings people forecast that they will experience once the outcomes of the...
Chapter
For any organization or society to thrive, it must possess a behavioral code that tempers self-interest, promoting instead coordinated, cooperative, and self-sacrificing action among its members. In this chapter, we examine respect as a case study of such behavioral codes or norms. By respect, we mean that people are impelled to treat each other as...
Article
Full-text available
Baumeister’s energizing call-to-arms suggests theorists might wish to adopt more “radical” approaches toward theorizing about the role of motivation in human action. By radical, I mean re-igniting strands of theoretical analysis that were once more common in psychological scholarship but which have fallen to the wayside. At the heart of this argume...
Article
Decision-making theories in psychology and economics that include emotions almost all work within a consequentialist framework, asserting that risky decisions are predicted by anticipated emotions, that is, those people forecast what they will feel once the outcomes of their decisions are known. We argue instead that risky decisions are not so much...
Article
Trust is both essential for social interactions to succeed yet is also demonstrably irrational. We address this theoretical paradox by examining the meaning of "rationality" surrounding trust. Emerging research shows that people are willing to accept more risk when trusting other people, including strangers, than they are in bets against nature, su...
Article
Full-text available
People overestimate their knowledge, at times claiming knowledge of concepts, events, and people that do not exist and cannot be known, a phenomenon called overclaiming. What underlies assertions of such impossible knowledge? We found that people overclaim to the extent that they perceive their personal expertise favorably. Studies 1a and 1b showed...
Article
PurposeTo thrive, any individual, organization, or society needs to separate true from false expertise. This chapter provides a selective review of research examining self and social judgments of human capital – that is, expertise, knowledge, and skill. In particular, it focuses on the problem of the “flawed evaluator”: most people judging expertis...
Article
Representations of the self and others include not only piecemeal traits but also causal trait theories-explanations for why a person's standing on 1 trait causes or is caused by standings on other traits (Studies 1a-1c). These causal theories help resolve the puzzle of egocentric pattern projection-the tendency for people to assume that traits cor...
Article
Behavioral norms influence human interaction in virtually every situation, yet the study of norms in the behavioral sciences lags relative to their real-world power and significance. We describe basic distinctions in norms emerging in the behavioral and social sciences – in particular, how norms may be descriptive (i.e,, what people commonly do) ve...
Article
In this article, we review evidence that people are more positive in assessments of specific individuals than they are about collectives of others, even when people have essentially no information about the individual or collective they are judging. We offer three explanations for this difference. First, evaluative “attacks” on individuals are more...
Article
We present an "affirmation as perspective" model of how self-affirmations alleviate threat and defensiveness. Self-threats dominate the working self-concept, leading to a constricted self disproportionately influenced by the threat. Self-affirmations expand the size of the working self-concept, offering a broader perspective in which the threat app...
Article
Full-text available
Trust is essential for a secure and flourishing social life, but many economic and philosophical approaches argue that rational people should never extend it, in particular to strangers they will never encounter again. Emerging data on the trust game, a laboratory economic exchange, suggests that people trust strangers excessively (i.e., far more t...
Article
Zell and Krizan (2014, this issue) provide a comprehensive yet incomplete portrait of the factors influencing accurate self-assessment. This is no fault of their own. Much work on self-accuracy focuses on the correlation coefficient as the measure of accuracy, but it is not the only way self-accuracy can be measured. As such, its use can provide an...
Article
Even if people are experts at understanding how various input cues landed them at a particular decision (something the authors refer to as cue utilization ), they may still fail to appreciate how context influences the weight given to those input variables. We review evidence suggesting that people are unaware of contextual influences on their deci...
Article
Previous work on the Dunning–Kruger effect has shown that poor performers often show little insight into the shortcomings in their performance, presumably because they suffer a double curse. Deficits in their knowledge prevent them from both producing correct responses and recognizing that the responses they produce are inferior to those produced b...
Article
Despite the importance of self-awareness for managerial success, many organizational members hold overly-optimistic views of their expertise and performance—a phenomenon particularly prevalent among those least skilled in a given domain. We examine whether this same pattern extends to appraisals of emotional intelligence (EI), a critical managerial...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the importance of self-awareness for managerial success, many organizational members hold overly optimistic views of their expertise and performance-a phenomenon particularly prevalent among those least skilled in a given domain. We examined whether this same pattern extends to appraisals of emotional intelligence (EI), a critical manageria...
Article
People appear to know other people better than they know themselves, at least when it comes to predicting future behaviour and achievement. Why? People display a rather accurate grasp of human nature in general, knowing how social behaviour is shaped by situational and internal constraints. They just exempt themselves from this understanding, think...
Article
Full-text available
People often hold inflated views of their performance on intellectual tasks, with poor performers exhibiting the most inflation. What leads to such excessive confidence? We suggest that the more people approach such tasks in a "rational" (i.e., consistent, algorithmic) manner, relative to those who use more variable or ad hoc approaches, the more c...
Article
Seligman and colleagues importantly ask when behavior is produced by the past or the future, but in doing so forget that it can also be guided by the present. We discuss the distinction between expressive influences (i.e., those that attach to behavioral choices in the present) and instrumental ones (i.e., those attached to potential future outcome...
Article
People assume that they perceive the world as it really is. In this article, we review research that questions this assumption and instead suggests that people see what they want to see. We discuss classic and current research demonstrating wishful seeing across two perceptual tasks, showing that people categorize ambiguous visual information and r...
Article
Are people better self- or social psychologists when they predict prosocial behavior? Why might people be more or less accurate when predicting their own and others' actions? In two studies, participants considered variants of situations classically known to influence helping behavior (being alone vs. in a group, being in a good rather than bad moo...
Article
The risk-as-feelings hypothesis argues that many risky decisions are not only predicted by anticipated emotions, as most consequentialistic decision making theories would presume, but also by immediate emotions. Immediate emotions refer to the “hot” visceral feelings people feel as they contemplate a specific decision option at the cusp of making a...
Article
Emotional perspective taking involves people's attempts to estimate the attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of other people who are in different emotional situations. We propose a dual judgment model in which perspective takers first predict what their own reactions would be to different emotional situations, and, second, adjust these self-predic...
Article
Behavioral forecasts of individuals ("How likely is it a randomly selected person will …") and behavioral forecasts of populations ("What percentage of people will …") are often used interchangeably. However, 6 studies showed that behavioral forecasts of individuals and populations systematically differ. In judgments of morally relevant behaviors,...
Article
Do stimuli appear to be closer when they are more threatening? We tested people's perceptions of distance to stimuli that they felt were threatening relative to perceptions of stimuli they felt were disgusting or neutral. Two studies demonstrated that stimuli that emitted affective signals of threat (e.g., an aggressive male student) were seen as p...
Article
We review research suggesting that decisions to trust strangers may not depend on economic dynamics as much as emotional and social ones. Classic treatments of trust emphasize its instrumental or consequential nature, proposing that people trust based on expectations that their trust will be honored and the size of reward if it is. Data from our la...
Article
Full-text available
Peer predictions of future behavior and achievement are often more accurate than those furnished by the self. Although both self- and peer predictions correlate equally with future outcomes, peers tend to avoid the degree of overoptimism so often seen in self-predictions. In 3 studies, the authors tested whether this differential accuracy arises be...
Article
Are decisions in a trust game more or less sensitive to changes in risk than decisions in a purely financial, non-social decision-making task? Participants in a binary trust game (they could either keep $5 for sure or give it to a trustee with the chance of getting $10 back) were informed that their chance of interacting with a trustworthy person w...
Article
Full-text available
An accurate assessment of an individual often requires taking their potential into account. Across six studies the authors found that people are more inclined to do so when evaluating themselves than when evaluating others, such that people credit themselves for their perceived potential more than they credit others for theirs. Participants rated p...
Article
Does subjective reward value influence early visual perception? During binocular rivalry, one eye receives an image that is incompatible with the image the other eye receives. People consciously experience perceiving one image; the other image is suppressed from conscious awareness. We tested if subjective value functions as an endogenous influence...
Article
People exhibit an “illusion of courage” when predicting their own behavior in embarrassing situations. In three experiments, participants overestimated their own willingness to engage in embarrassing public performances in exchange for money when those performances were psychologically distant: Hypothetical or in the relatively distant future. This...
Article
In this chapter, I provide argument and evidence that the scope of people's ignorance is often invisible to them. This meta-ignorance (or ignorance of ignorance) arises because lack of expertise and knowledge often hides in the realm of the “unknown unknowns” or is disguised by erroneous beliefs and background knowledge that only appear to be suffi...
Article
In four studies, we examined how people maintain beliefs that self-interest is a strong determinant of behavior, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. People reflecting on selfless behavior tend to reconstrue it in terms of self-interested motives, but do not similarly scrutinize selfish behaviors for selfless motives. Study 1 found that peop...
Article
We examined age differences in temporal discounting, the tendency to devalue delayed outcomes relative to immediate ones, with particular emphasis on the role of affective responses. A life-span sample completed an incentive-compatible temporal discounting task involving both monetary gains and losses. Covariates included demographic characteristic...
Article
von Hippel & Trivers's central assertion that people self-deceive to better deceive others carries so many implications that it must be taken to the laboratory to be tested, rather than promoted by more indirect argument. Although plausible, many psychological findings oppose it. There is also an evolutionary alternative: People better deceive not...
Article
Trust involves making oneself vulnerable to another person with the prospect of receiving some benefit in return. Contemporary theoretical accounts of trust among strangers emphasize its instrumental nature. People are assumed to trust to the extent that they can tolerate the risk and are sufficiently optimistic that their trust will be reciprocate...
Article
Full-text available
Research on self-affirmation has shown that simple reminders of self-integrity reduce people's tendency to respond defensively to threat. Recent research has suggested it is irrelevant whether the self-affirmation exercise takes place before or after the threat or the individual's defensive response to it, supposedly because the meaning of threats...
Article
Full-text available
People tend to grossly underestimate the trustworthiness of other people. We tested whether this cynicism grows out of an asymmetry in the feedback people receive when they decide to trust others. When people trust others, they painfully learn when other people prove to be untrustworthy; however, when people refrain from trusting others, they fail...
Article
Although people assume that they see the surrounding environment as it truly is, we suggest that perception of the natural environment is dependent upon the internal goal states of perceivers. Five experiments demonstrated that perceivers tend to see desirable objects (i.e., those that can fulfill immediate goals-a water bottle to assuage their thi...
Article
Full-text available
Self-assessments of task performance can draw on both top-down sources of information (preconceived notions about one's ability at the task) and bottom-up cues (one's concrete experience with the task itself). Past research has suggested that top-down self-views can mislead performance evaluations but has yet to specify the exact psychological mech...
Article
Focusing on the individual's internal cognitive architecture, McKay & Dennett (M&D) provide an incomplete analysis because they neglect the crucial role played by the external environment in producing misbeliefs and determining whether those misbeliefs are adaptive. In some environments, positive illusions are not adaptive. Further, misbeliefs ofte...
Article
Full-text available
Five studies demonstrated egocentric pattern projection, in that the implicit personality theories (IPTs) that participants held about other people tended to recapitulate the terrain of their own personality. To the extent that participants believed they possessed 2 traits to a similar degree within themselves, they tended, through their judgments...
Article
Across two studies, we asked whether people trust too much or too little, relative to what an economic analysis would suggest. In the trust game paradigm, participants decided whether to hand money over to an anonymous individual who could either return more money back or keep all the money. Participants trusted too little, in that they grossly und...
Article
Collectivists know themselves better than individualists do, in that collectivists provide more accurate self-predictions of future behavior in situations with moral or altruistic overtones. In 3 studies, respondents from individualist cultures overestimated the likelihood that they would act generously in situations involving redistributing a rewa...
Article
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs th...
Article
Full-text available
People are typically overly optimistic when evaluating the quality of their performance on social and intellectual tasks. In particular, poor performers grossly overestimate their performances because their incompetence deprives them of the skills needed to recognize their deficits. Five studies demonstrated that poor performers lack insight into t...
Article
In four studies, this article investigates the impact of situational experience on social inference. Participants without firsthand experience of a situation made more extreme and erroneous inferences about the personalities of people behaving in that situation than did participants with firsthand experience. Firsthand experience, thus, appears to...
Article
Full-text available
People's perception of their competence often diverges from their true level of competence. We argue that people have such erroneous view of their competence because self-evaluation is an intrinsically difficult task. People live in an information environment that does not contain all the data they need for accurate self-evaluation. The information...
Chapter
This chapter answers two questions: 1. How are we able to distinguish between those we can trust and those we cannot? 2. Do we trust other people too much or too little?
Chapter
Desire for KnowledgeDesire to AffirmDesire for CoherenceCurrent Thinking and Future DirectionsConcluding Remarks
Article
Full-text available
In four studies, the authors explored the emergence of one-shot illusory correlations--in which a single instance of unusual behavior by a member of a rare group is sufficient to create an association between group and behavior. In Studies 1, 2, and 3, unusual behaviors committed by members of rare groups were processed differently than other types...
Article
Two studies demonstrated that the motivation to resolve cognitive dissonance affects the visual perception of physical environments. In Study 1, subjects crossed a campus quadrangle wearing a costume reminiscent of Carmen Miranda. In Study 2, subjects pushed themselves up a hill while kneeling on a skateboard. Subjects performed either task under a...
Article
The commentaries provided by Kruger, Galek, and Burrus and Sedikides, Gregg, Cisek, and Hart spark some speculations concerning future questions to study. The belief harmonization approach may provide an explanation, for example, for why people tend to be more dissatisfied with complex rather than simple decisions. In addition, if individual differ...
Article
This article reviews social cognitive research suggesting that people shape their beliefs and judgments of the social world to maintain sacrosanct beliefs of the self as a capable, lovable, and moral individual. This article then argues that consumer behavior might similarly be designed to bolster positive self-views and then discusses the potentia...
Article
This article reviews social cognitive research suggesting that people shape their beliefs and judgments of the social world to maintain sacrosanct beliefs of the self as a capable, lovable, and moral individual. This article then argues that consumer behavior might similarly be designed to bolster positive self‐views and then discusses the potentia...
Article
The commentaries provided by Kruger, Galek, and Burrus and Sedikides, Gregg, Cisek, and Hart spark some speculations concerning future questions to study. The belief harmonization approach may provide an explanation, for example, for why people tend to be more dissatisfied with complex rather than simple decisions. In addition, if individual differ...
Article
Full-text available
People's motivational states--their wishes and preferences--influence their processing of visual stimuli. In 5 studies, participants shown an ambiguous figure (e.g., one that could be seen either as the letter B or the number 13) tended to report seeing the interpretation that assigned them to outcomes they favored. This finding was affirmed by uno...
Article
Full-text available
Four experiments demonstrate that self-knowledge provides a mixed blessing in behavioral prediction, depending on how accuracy is measured. Compared with predictions of others, self-knowledge tends to decrease overall accuracy by increasing bias (the mean difference between predicted behavior and reality) but tends to increase overall accuracy by a...
Article
Prominent theories of health-protective behavior predict increasing information seeking as a function of increasing disease severity, yet diagnostic screens for serious diseases are notoriously underutilized. We suggest that in addition to severity, disease treatability impacts people's willingness to submit to medical tests. In two studies, partic...
Article
Like a flawed painting, our self-image suffers from poor perspective: we consistently overestimate our skills and overlook flaws
Article
Perceptions of ability often bear little relationship to objective performance. We suggest that people fail to judge their ability more accurately because they have little or no insight into their errors of omission (i.e., solutions they could have generated to problems but missed), although they can be perfectly aware of solutions found. Across fi...
Article
Virtually all previous research addressing the self as a standard of comparison in social judgment defined the self to be one's current-held characteristics. We extended research on egocentric definitions of social categories (Dunning, Perie, & Story, 199114. Dunning , D , Perie , M and Story , AL . 1991 . Self-serving prototypes of social categori...
Article
The results of two experiments support the thesis that emotional perspective taking entails two judgments: a prediction of one’s own preferences and decisions in a different emotional situation, and an adjustment of this prediction to accommodate perceived differences between self and others. Participants overestimated others’ willingness to engage...
Article
Full-text available
Economics has typically been the social science of choice to inform public policy and policymakers. In the current paper we contemplate the role behavioral science can play in enlightening policymakers. In particular, we provide some examples of research that has and can be used to inform policy, reflect on the kind of behavioral science that is im...
Article
People base thousands of choices across a lifetime on the views they hold of their skill and moral character, yet a growing body of research in psychology shows that such self-views are often misguided or misinformed. Anyone who has dealt with others in the classroom, in the workplace, in the medical office, or on the therapist's couch has probably...
Article
Research from numerous corners of psychological inquiry suggests that self-assessments of skill and character are often flawed in substantive and systematic ways. We review empirical findings on the imperfect nature of self-assessment and discuss implications for three real-world domains: health, education, and the workplace. In general, people's s...
Article
Krueger & Funder (K&F) could have gone further to sketch out a more comprehensive vision of “balanced” psychology. The triumphs and travails of other sciences (e.g., economics) provide clues about the advantages and pitfalls of pursuing such an approach. Perhaps introducing more positivity into psychology may involve asking how people can do better...
Article
Reviews the book "Psychological Dimensions of the Self" by Arnold Buss (covered in its original form in record 2001-05479-000 ). Buss takes on the challenge of creating a textbook suitable for undergraduate or graduate courses on the self, as a supplemental text for courses in social or personality psychology, or even as a good read for the intelli...
Article
People tend to value objects more simply because they own them. Prior research indicates that people underestimate the impact of this endowment effect on both their own and other people’s preferences. We show that underestimating the endowment effect and hence owners’ selling prices can lead to suboptimal behavior in settings with economic conseque...
Article
Full-text available
Successful negotiation of everyday life would seem to require people to possess insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills. However, people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence. This lack of awareness arises because poor performers are doubly cursed: Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to...