Why Do The Least Knowledgeable Have The Most Conviction?

Regarding the Personal Protection community (but applicable to every discipline), one of the great mysteries to me is trying to wrap my head around the idea that the people who have the least experience, training, and knowledge, always seem to be the ones who are the most vocal about what they view as absolutes and certitudes.

How it feels sometimes.
How it feels sometimes.

These people (usually) fit into the following categories:

  • New gun owners
  • People who ‘grew up around guns’, with no formal training
  • People who have only completed their state-mandated CCW qualification
  • People who have only trained with one instructor/school

Conversely, the greater the depth of knowledge, the more experience, and the broader and deeper their understanding of the various personal protection disciplines, the more likely they are to speak with nuance and never in absolutes. They are aware of what they don’t know.


The Dunning-Kruger effect is the oft-cited cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Also, high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. (wikipedia)

I think that perceived ability is part of it, but there is likely a lack of awareness that isn’t necessarily the fault of that person.

Let me use a metaphor to illustrate



Imagine you are a soap bubble floating in a large pool. The pool represents Everything you DON’T KNOW about a topic. You have no awareness of the size of the pool because your bubble prevents you from seeing it.

The internal volume of the bubble is your knowledge. You are confident that you KNOW everything that is happening inside of that bubble.

You are ALSO aware of the inside surface of your bubble. You see the barrier between you and the pool. You recognize this surface as Things You Don’t Know. It’s where ‘things you know’ meet the unseen ‘things you don’t know’.

Since we can’t know the true size of the pool, only the size of the inside of our knowledge bubble, then it seems reasonable that the larger our knowledge bubble, the more we are aware of what we don’t know.

So the less we know, the less we are aware of what we don’t know. The more we know, the more we are aware of what we don’t know.


This imagery has helped me realize that folks with minimal knowledge are in such a small bubble that it must appear to them that they know almost everything. Their bubble surface is tiny, so they go forth on the internet and to local gun stores and tell you to shoot the guy taking your TV and drag him back inside.
This realization only allows me to be less frustrated with outspoken doofuses. It doesn’t solve any real issues. No one knows how big the pool is. I keep expanding my bubble and I’m finding the metaphor to hold true for me.

I hope it helps some of you deal with people like this with more understanding, and hopefully expand their bubble. We’re all on the same team, after all.


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