Person A has led a successful career and is very well renowned in field A.
Later in life, person A moves to field B, a field they're curious about but have very little experience in.

Person A struggles to accept their limited understanding of their new domain, having been an expert in their own domain for so long, and imposes their (usually) incorrect views on a field B topic on others based on a confidence they've built from being good in field A.

Is there a term in psychology for this phenomenon?


3 Answers 3


Déformation professionnelle is probably the closest match:

Déformation professionnelle is a French phrase, meaning a tendency to look at things from the point of view of one's own profession rather than from a broader perspective. It is often translated as "professional deformation" or "job conditioning". The implication is that professional training, and its related socialization, often result in a distortion of the way one views the world.[1]

Followed by the law of the instrument / Maslow's hammer:

The concept known as the law of the instrument, Maslow's hammer, Gavel or a golden hammer[a] is an over-reliance on a familiar tool; as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."[1]

1 [déformation professionelle]. Bönisch, J. (2007, November 30). Déformation professionnelle: Beruflich bedingte Missbildung. Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved from http://www.sueddeutsche.de/karriere/deformation-professionnelle-beruflich-bedingte-missbildung-1.786888.
1 [law of the instrument]. Maslow, A. H. (1966/2004). The psychology of science (pp. 15). Maurice Bassett.

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    $\begingroup$ The Dunning–Kruger effect is also worth considering; what do you think? $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2014 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ Cool! Hadn't heard of it before. It suits an interestingly different interpretation of the question. If the overconfidence is a consequence of lack of skill, rather than a consequence of misapplication of other skills, then yes, I think the Dunning–Kruger effect would be an even better answer. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2014 at 5:55

People base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Because these notions often do not correlate with objective performance, they can lead people to make judgments about their performance that have little to do with actual accomplishment.

This is an example of the Dunnig-Kruger effect[1] Simply stated, it is the cognitive bias that people who are ignorant of a subject/field overestimate their competence in that subject/field. People tend to be unaware of their incompetence.

Though this is an interesting phenomenon, it is not as specific to acheivement impairing one's ability to gauge competence as is Déformation professionnelle.

[1] Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence, Dunnig et. al., Current Directions in Psychological Science, 82 (2002)


I think the most common verbage would be


Though often used in subcultural contexts, 'posuer / poser' means someone who affects an attitude or position — which is very much the case when someone comes in from an external field and acts with the authority of a resident expert.

Still, I stand by my position that this question is best served at the English Language site, since the community there will provide amore-rich breadth of answers for consideration.

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    $\begingroup$ You may have missed the specification that the term in question should be "in psychology". Poseur is nonscientific, as would most answers be at EL&U. Then again, I should admit I'm unaware of any empirical research focusing on Maslow's hammer, but at least Maslow was a psychologist (and proposed a lot of useful psychological theory without empirical research, as was more normative in his time). $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2014 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ sure. fair point $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2014 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ A poseur may also be consciously engaging in behavior meant to give the appearance of competence. Déformation professionelle (exceeding one's professional competence) is more of an unconscious bias that professionals are in some manner often trained to guard against. In the case of medicine the training is in the form of obligatory seminars offered by your malpractice insurance provider. $\endgroup$
    – G. Cito
    Nov 16, 2023 at 16:53

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