The DKIS Problem

The DKIS Problem a shorthand term for pair of competency related issues known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Impostor Syndrome. In simplest terms, a lack of perspective means that people will misjudge their abilities, with less introspective individuals judging themselves superior, while same time, more introspective individuals will judge that the tasks were simple. This leads to doubt that they have any additional competence, feeling that they are in fact impostors for any credit that they are given for their skills.

Mainly this comes from the fact that the better you get at something, the more you understand all the nuances required to do the job properly and all the little things that can go wrong. These are things that a person not experienced in the task would overlook and potentially underestimate. Instead of understanding the task, they’d relate it to a task that they do with ease, and in the process they would not only draw false parallels, but they’d have also likely forgotten the time spent developing those skills to the point where they became effortless.

I suspect that there is also a variant of this for physical appearance, where people will judge themselves, at their average, based on the appearance of others at their best, especially in this post Photoshop era. Thus people who would be of better than average attractiveness consider themselves to be of below average.

In any case, I was wondering what the implications of this were for the various communities that I’m involved in, and some examples of it are glaringly obvious. There’s a particular GM who comes to mind, who is at best average in his ability to tell a compelling story, most of his plots are remixes of other stories, without much in the way of unique takes. But as this individual is not overly introspective, he won’t realize the limitations of his creations.

On the other hand, another GM I can think of, underestimates himself, despite being one of the best GMs that I’ve ever sat down with. He is annoyed by the fact that he needs to refer to the audio logs to recover details from a side plot that occurred during one of the previous 6+ hour sessions, usually a week or two prior.

In the BDSM community, the same pattern is likely there. I can think of a variety of individuals who consider themselves to be competent or skilled at things, only to have the general consensus being that they inflate their competence. Though in those situations, it is mostly attributed to ego, rather than a flawed thought process.

Conversely, there are some who are extremely skilled at a certain task, but through practice it has become rote for them, and thus they don’t feel that it is worthy of the praise that they receive for it.

The balancing act between confidence in something and crushing doubt, made more difficult by the inability accurately judge the difficulty of a task, coupled with the inability to discern the biases of external arbiters; it is daunting. And many would question the value in having that structure in your head in the first place. Why convert the idea into a mental construct, rather than just trusting your gut?

Without some external points of reference, you can’t have accurate perspective, and I think that’s dangerous. Too many knocks on the head from misjudging the height of things to think otherwise.

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