Dunning-Kruger effect

I was recently talking to a track buddy who had tried iRacing and claimed that it was unrealistic because the car lost control in situations where he knew it should not. That’s the opinion of someone who tried it for a few hours. Ask someone like Glenn McGee, an eSport pro gamer who became a Mazda professional racer, and he’ll tell you it handles exactly like the real thing.

The reason the track buddy believed iRacing was at fault was because he didn’t recognize how difficult sim racing is. In 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kruger began experimenting on competence (or incompetence) and one’s ability to recognize it. This has become known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Simply put, it’s an inability of those of low ability to recognize and evaluate their ineptitude. Lacking a frame of reference, people tend to believe they are much more skilled than they are. There is a second side to the D-K effect where people who are highly skilled fail to recognize how easy they make it look.

The D-K effect is rampant in track driving. Low level HPDE drivers think track driving is easy. Part of this comes from driving around town every day. Surely that has to count for something? Not really. What can be done about it? In order to recognize and evaluate your own incompetence, you have to gain competence. That could take a long time. Alternatively, you can evaluate your driving externally and objectively. Just grab a lap timer and find out how well you perform compared to others in similar vehicles. If you find out you’re 10 seconds off pace, your knee-jerk reaction might be that there’s something wrong with the car. Alternatively, and more painfully, perhaps your own incompetence is getting in the way of recognizing your incompetence.

The way forward is to admit that you suck at racing and make plans to improve. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit it. I suck at racing. But I’m getting better and I have plans to continue improving. What’s next on my list?

  • Learning more about car control by driving on dirt
  • Using telemetry in simulation to identify specific weaknesses
  • Re-reading my racing library in the off-season
  • Writing more blog posts (nobody learns more than teacher)
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