David Dunning

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David Dunning
United States
EducationMichigan State University (BA)
Stanford University (PhD)
OccupationPsychologist, professor
Known forDunning-Kruger effect
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
Cornell University
ThesisSituational construal and sources of social judgment (1986)
Doctoral advisorLee Ross
Doctoral studentsEmily Balcetis

David Alan Dunning is an American social psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.[1] He is a retired professor of psychology at Cornell University.[2]


Dunning received his BA from Michigan State University in 1982 and PhD from Stanford University in 1986, both in psychology.[1][3]


Dunning has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and commentaries. He is well known for co-authoring a 1999 study[4] with Justin Kruger, now of the Stern School of Business.[5] This study showed that people who performed the lowest at certain tasks, such as judging humor, grammar, and logic, significantly overestimated how good they were at these tasks. This study has since given rise to what is known as the Dunning–Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.[6] The study also found that people who performed slightly above average at identifying how funny a given joke was tended to be the most accurate at assessing how good they were at the assigned tasks, and that those who performed the best tended to think they performed only slightly above average.[7] In 2012, Dunning told Ars Technica that he "thought the paper would never be published" and that he was "struck just with how long and how much this idea has gone viral in so many areas."[6]


Dunning is the executive officer of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. He has also served as an associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.[2]


In 2021, Dunning was listed by Stanford University as being in the worlds top 2% most cited psychological scientists.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b "David Dunning". University of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "David Dunning". Cornell University Institute for the Social Sciences. Retrieved May 25, 2016.[dead link]
  3. ^ Dunning, David Alan (1986). Situational construal and sources of social judgment (Ph.D. thesis). Stanford University.
  4. ^ Kruger, J; Dunning, D (December 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. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121. PMID 10626367.
  5. ^ Abrahams, Marc (December 2005). "Those Who Can't, Don't Know It". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Lee, Chris (May 25, 2012). "Revisiting why incompetents think they're awesome". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Stafford, Tom (November 25, 2013). "The more inept you are the smarter you think you are". BBC Future. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Stanford University Names World's Top 2% Scientists, 2021 | U-M LSA Department of Psychology". lsa.umich.edu. Retrieved May 15, 2022.
  9. ^ Jeroen Baas (October 19, 2021), August 2021 data-update for "Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators", John P.A. Ioannidis, Kevin Boyack, Jeroen Baas, Elsevier BV, doi:10.17632/btchxktzyw.3, retrieved May 15, 2022