President Trump’s unique place on the Dunning-Kruger curve.

It’s becoming apparent to me that I seem to have some sort of fascination with the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s the effect that I first wrote about in 2013 that suggests that a person’s self-assessment of their knowledge of a subject differs greatly from their actual knowledge.[1] The idea is that most people tend to assume they know more about a subject when they in reality know very little about it, but as their knowledge of the subject increases, their self-assessment of their knowledge decreases.

I think the Dunning Kruger effect is real and can be used as a construct to understand the actions of people in various contexts. In October 2015, I indulged my frivolous side by placing several of the presidential candidates on the Dunning-Kruger curve.[2] I had no idea at the time that the candidate I placed at the top of the first peak, indicating maximal delusion, would eventually become president.

Since Mr. Trump is now president, I feel compelled to revisit and revise the Dunning-Kruger chart I published in 2015 to more accurately reflect President Trump’s place on the curve. As you can see in the revised chart below, I believe President Trump has the distinction of being impossible to place on the standard Dunning-Kruger curve. Instead, he has earned his own curve.

President Trump and Donald Trump

It’s a curve that is fully contained within a chrysalis of delusion. No matter how much Trump learns about a subject, he will never reach the realization that he really doesn’t know as much as he thinks. Instead, his self-assessment of his knowledge continues to grow with any modicum of new information. I encourage mental health workers to ignore the Goldwater rule and offer their own opinions of why this may be true.

This chart may not mean much to anyone but fans of Dunning-Kruger. However, I do think it captures the danger that President Trump represents. It’s not just that he’s ill-informed and ill-prepared to be president. It’s that he thinks he awesome and doesn’t need to really know anything other than that which can be condensed into a 140 character Tweet.

I have to believe that most people entering the Oval Office for the first time as President have a feeling of “Oh Crap.” I think that visceral reaction would be an appropriate reaction indicating a degree of humility that an effective president needs. I think President Trump entered the Oval and thought, ‘How can I tell people in 140 characters how awesome it is for me to finally be here, where I deserve to be?”

Humility, introspection, intellect, and reason are virtues that serve presidents. their constituents, and the country well. These personality traits  are discovered in those individuals that reach the far right side of the Dunning-Kruger curve. It’s difficult not to observe that President Trump is at the far left.




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