“He who knows best knows how little he knows.” –Thomas Jefferson

Imagine your were given an acting-skill performance test with a group of other actors, but you were not given the opportunity to observe the performances of the other actors participating in the test. If you were asked to estimate where your acting abilities ranked among others in the study with 100% representing those with the most talent, at what percentile would you rank your skills? If you’re like the vast majority of people who are asked to rate themselves in a wide variety of abilities, virtually no one reading this article would rank him or herself below average in abilities, even though it would be statistically impossible for everyone to rate in the top 50%.

Scientists have discovered overconfidence is indeed common. Dr. David A. Dunning, professor of psychology at Cornell University concluded after a series of studies that people who do things poorly are often supremely confident of their competence level and are, in fact, more confident than those who actually are competent.

Click here to see a line up of overly confident American Idol contestants.

Those who “grossly overestimated” their abilities in Dunning’s studies were blind to their own lack of skills largely because the self-monitoring abilities required to achieve a competent skill level are likewise required to recognize competence.

“I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn’t know it,” Dunning said.

On the other hand, those in the studies displaying high-level skills were likely to underestimate how well they performed, as they often assumed others taking the test would be doing as well as they were.

With all the mix ups in perceived and actual skill levels, Dunning set out to discover if training confident-but-incapable subjects would help their ability to properly assess their own skill levels. Thankfully, yes, it did!

So what can an aspiring actor conclude from these studies? Don’t be so confident? Wrong! In no way, shape, or form should you allow anything to mitigate your confidence level! In acting, confidence in your abilities ranks supreme and allows you to show your best no matter what your skill level at any given time. But, this study can serve as an inspiration to likewise be humble, and energize your training efforts. Never assume you now know it all. There is always room for improvement no matter what your skill level. When you remain open to learning, you can build on your communication skills, acting mastery, auditioning expertise, or on-camera technique, to name just a few examples. Following a sense of intrigue, wonder, and curiosity will serve you well over the years, and reaching out for more knowledge and skill can lead you the next level of the game and make all the difference in your acting career.

Please share what aspect of your career you’re currently working on. Inquiring minds want to know!