Note: I am not talking about Law of the instrument.

I am referring to the following (anti-)pattern of behavior:

A person very competent in one area (say, Philosophy) peremptorily expressing his opinion on an unrelated area (say, Medicine) as if he were an expert there also (and he is not).

There are many prominent examples (e.g., an expert in finance making sweeping assertions with great confidence and surrounded by insulting language ... [about] a field he palpably does not master), but, obviously, plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

Does this pattern actually exist statistically or is it just a variant of the Dunning-Kruger effect ("Unskilled and Unaware of It")?

One way to test this would be to plot the DK curve (actual expertise vs. self-assessment) for a given domain for

  • the "general population" (people who have no significant expertise in other domains) and
  • the "outside experts" (people who are experts in an unrelated domain)

and check whether they would be statistically significantly different.

E.g., one can try to use StackExchange as the source of data: measure the user expertise by the reputation and subjective assessment thereof by the "confidence level" of their posts (questions/answers/comments).

Has something like this been done? Does the question make sense to the practitioners in the field?


1 Answer 1


A possible name for the effect is "Nobel Disease", as in

where the authors

offer brief descriptions of eight Nobel laureates in the sciences who embraced “weird” ideas. Following Shermer (2003), [they] define weird ideas as assertions that are (a) highly implausible in light of scientific knowledge; (b) roundly rejected by essentially all scientific experts; and (c) based mostly or exclusively on anecdotal or uncorroborated evidence.


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