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David A. Dunning


  • 278B Uris Hall
  • Cornell University
  • Ithaca NY 14853-7601
    Office Hours:


At its most general level, my research focuses on accuracy and illusion in human judgment. In my social psychological work, I am interested in how, and when, people’s perceptions of themselves and their surroundings differ from an objectively definable reality. In my psycholegal work, I concentrate on accuracy and error in eyewitness testimony.
Social Psychology: My social psychological work focuses on two related phenomena. First I am interested in why people tend to have overly favorable and objectively indefensible views of their own abilities, talents, and moral character. For example, a full 94% of college professors state that they do "above average" work, although it is statistically impossible for virtually everybody to be above average. Second, I am interested in how people bolster their sense of self-worth by carefully tailoring the judgments they make of others. That is, people tend to make judgments of others that reflect favorably back on themselves, doing so even when the self is not under explicit scrutiny.
Psycholegal Research: My work in eyewitness testimony is a search for something, anything that might help people distinguish accurate from inaccurate eyewitness identifications. In published work, we focus on witnesses making an identification out of a lineup. We have found that accurate identifications are something witnesses have a difficult time explaining, essentially because such identifications are reached automatically (e.g., "I just recognize him; I don’t know why."). Inaccurate witnesses tend to have elaborate explanations for their decisions (e.g., "I compared the photographs to each other to narrow the choices."). In more recent work, we are looking for other objective and measurable indicators that a witness has made an accurate or an erroneous identification.

Graduate and undergraduate students who wish to get involved in the work described above should email Professor Dunning at Undergraduates usually get involved by serving as research assistants for independent study credit. They usually assist in the creation of experimental situations, run the subjects (the most time consuming task), and (if interested) help analyze the data. Many students apply each semester, and so those interested should apply early and often.

Anyone interested in this work is encouraged to read the following publications to get a more detailed exposition of the type of work done in the Dunning lab. Some of them are available at the Self and Social Insight Lab.

Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research (BEDR).

Social & Personality Psychology

Selected Publications

  • Dunning, D. (Ed.) (in press). Social motivation. New York: Psychology Press.

  • Critcher, C. R., Dunning, D., & Armor, D. A. (in press). When self-affirmation reduces defensiveness: Timing is key. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

  • Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2010). Wishful seeing: More desired objects are seen as closer. Psychological Science, 21, 147-152.

  • Fetchenhauer, D., & Dunning, D. (2010). Why so cynical? Asymmetric feedback underlies misguided skepticism in the trustworthiness of others. Psychological Science, 21, 189-193.

  • Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2009). Egocentric pattern projection: How implicit personality theories recapitulate the geography of the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 1-16.

  • Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2009). How chronic self-views influence (and mislead) self-evaluations of performance: Self-views shape bottom-up experiences with the task. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 931-945.

  • Fetchenhauer, D., & Dunning, D. (2009). Do people trust too much or too little? Journal of Economic Psychology, 30, 263-276.

  • Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2008). A mile in moccasins: How situational experience reduces dispositionism in social judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 102-114.

  • Balcetis, E., Dunning, D., & Miller, R. L. (2008). Do collectivists “know themselves” better than individualists?: Cross-cultural investigations of the “holier than thou” phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1252-1267.

  • Ehrlinger, J., Johnson, K., Banner, M., Dunning, D., & Kruger, J. (2008). Why the unskilled are unaware? Further explorations of (lack of) self-insight among the incompetent. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 105, 98-121.

  • Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2007). Cognitive dissonance and the perception of natural environments. Psychological Science, 18, 917-921.

  • Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2006). See what you want to see: The impact of motivational states on visual perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 612-625.

  • Dunning, D. (2006, May 5). Not knowing thyself. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52 (35), B24.

  • Epley, N., & Dunning, D. (2006). The mixed blessings of self-knowledge in behavioral prediction: Enhanced discrimination but exacerbated bias. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 641-655.

  • Alicke, M., Dunning, D., & Krueger, J. (Eds.) (2005). The self and social judgment. New York: Psychology Press.

  • Caputo, D. D., & Dunning, D. (2005). What you don’t know: The role played by errors of omission in imperfect self-assessments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 488-505.

  • Dunning, D. (2005). Self-insight: Roadblocks and detours on the path to knowing thyself. New York: Psychology Press.

  • Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. (2005). Picture imperfect. Scientific American MIND, 2(4), 20-27.

  • Van Boven, L., Loewenstein, G., & Dunning, D. (2005). The illusion of courage in social prediction: Underestimating the impact of fear of embarrassment on other people. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 96, 130-141.

  • Dunning, D., Heath, C. , & Suls, J. (2004). Flawed self-assessment: Implications for health, education, and the workplace. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 69-106.

  • Epley, N., & Dunning, D. (2000). Feeling “holier than thou”: Are self-serving assessments produced by errors in self or social prediction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 861-875.

  • Kruger, J. M., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1121-1134.


updated on Friday, Mar 20 2015 @ 12:02pm