The psychology of being a beginner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Beginners are plagued with overconfidence. They perform the worst on tests of knowledge or skill and yet are the most overconfident. One would expect that learning would better calibrate beginners and lead to better quality decisions. However, learning can instead produce overconfidence. In this article I discuss how being beginner can lead to errors in self-assessments and riskier decisions. I review differences in beginner overconfidence in several places in the literature. First, the Dunning–Kruger Effect, which finds those with the least knowledge are the most overconfident. To be sure, beginners can range from rank beginners, those who have acquired no knowledge, to experienced beginners, beginners who having gained some but not vast knowledge. Next, I discuss the beginner's bubble that follows the trajectory of confidence and overconfidence as people transition from rank to experienced beginners. The beginner's bubble pattern finds rank beginners have insight into their poor abilities. However, with some learning there is a surge of confidence and overconfidence. Lastly, I explore differences in confidence and overconfidence as learners transition from rank to experienced beginners in other places in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12659
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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