Ignorance is, in fact, a blissful state. This theory was proven by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who in their landmark 1999 study, found that people who have virtually no skill in something often rate themselves as near experts. Why? Because they have no idea how much they don’t know, and how much they still have to learn.
Now the Dunning-Kruger effect might be something to avoid if you’re interested in becoming a thoracic surgeon, industrial architect, or Supreme Court justice. But for the rest of us, embracing a lack of “structured learning” may lead to fresh and exciting work.
Picasso himself said that it took him four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. Why is that something to strive for? One could argue that a five-year-old has no Yale-educated intelligence about art. And yet, how magical are the paintings a 5-year-old brings home to hang on the refrigerator?
Buddhists strive for this kind of openness to life, minus judgment or criticism, calling it “beginner’s mind.” They practice detachment from thought in order to experience each moment with a fresh perspective.
Perhaps the Dunning-Kruger Effect isn’t something to sidestep, but to adopt. Enjoying a bit of “illusory superiority” can’t hurt if you’re wielding a paintbrush, or writing a poem. Though the opposite is true if you’re operating a 15-story construction crane, or facing your Thesis Examination Committee at MIT.
Or serving as President of the United States.