I'm looking for the name of an effect that relates confidence in your decisions (dependent variable) against your level of knowledge for a specific domain (independent variable). I don't remember where I first heard of this. It could have been more than 20 years ago in college psych classes, or years later in management seminars. It could have been junk science I heard from a friend. It's been too long ago to remember.

The gist is this: A graph of decisiveness or confidence in your ability to make decsion (on the y axis) vs. education/experiences/fund of knowledge (on the x axis) is shaped like a U. When you have little knowledge, you underestimate the complexity of a situation, and you think making decisions is easy. The nadir of the U happens when you know enough to understand a domain's complexity, and you find it hard to make decisions because you're overwhelmed by all the possibilities. With experience, at the upper end of the x-axis, you have started to assimilate the information in a more intuitive way, you can better estimate the most likely outcomes, and you're better at accepting uncertainty. So you find it easier to make decisions.

Ideas that are vaguely similar are the Hype Cycle ("valley of expectations"), the Dunning-Kruger effect, and source amnesia.

I may be thinking of the "Four Stages of Competence." Perhaps the U-shaped graph and the emphasis on confidence in decision making was just a unique way one of my instructors presented the data. It may have got this idea from a medical internship manual (I no longer have) with a graph very much like the Hype Cycle, but related to experience gained over the course of an intern year.

Does this effect sound familiar to anyone? I'm looking for a name for the effect. Part of me thinks that over time, I may have conflated the Hype Cycle with the Four Stages of competence.

  • $\begingroup$ Illusion of Explanatory Depth? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jul 30, 2017 at 23:59


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