Why X-Factor Contestants Don’t Know How Bad They Are

Even though the X-factor does have some contestants with amazing vocal abilities, the best part of the show is arguably watching the auditions. As nice as it is to see people give good performances, watching bad ones can be incredibly funny. A lot of the times when I’m watching these bad auditions I find myself wondering why people would embarrass themselves like this on television. Surly they must know that they’re not that good at singing? I then heard about a concept  in psychology which shed some light on this topic. So I said it would be the theme for this weeks’ post. The concept is the Dunning–Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that impedes on an individuals ability to accurately assess their own level of competency at an activity. An illustration of this effect can be seen below.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

As is shown in the above figure, when people are inexperienced they tend to have an inflated level of confidence regarding their ability. This is because the person has such little knowledge of the activity that they don’t fully understand all aspects of it and as a result, don’t realise how little they know about it.

Then when the person becomes more experienced they start to become aware of the more subtle nuances of the activity and begin to realise how much they have left to learn and as a result, begin to doubt their ability in that area, despite the fact that they now know more than when they began.

Finally, further experience begins to comfort the individual and they start to feel more confident about their ability in that activity. The issue is, everyone has to start from the beginning at some stage which means that they will probably suffer from this mistakenly inflated sense of self-confidence. Which is what leads to those awfully embarrassing X-Factor auditions.

By Daragh O’Leary

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