Let's say a student studies his curriculums earlier than his peers. When the contents are officially taught, he thinks he knows everything and therefore slacks. As a result, he performs worse than his peers.

In this example, early study causes low motivation and eventually result in poor performances. Is there a written word to describe this causation chain as a phenomenon, particularly an academic word in education domain?


  • The student may have had a shift in motivator. From experiencing reward by praise from teachers or parents to experience reward by one's own sense of gaining understanding and figuring things out. In that case it could well be your measurement device that does not manage to measure what you think it is measuring. Aug 8, 2016 at 17:36
  • Regarding coasting, as discussed in @Jared's answer, you might enjoy this humorous article from Spy magazine (see cover and page 84) about people who coast after early career success.
    – eipi10
    Aug 8, 2016 at 18:11

7 Answers 7


You could say the student is suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately.

See also:

  • Huberis is what I was thinking
    – MVCylon
    Aug 9, 2016 at 10:46
  • This is the type of words I'm looking for! However, Dunning-Kruger effect only indicates an inaccurate self-evaluation, it doesn't indicate the cause of the inaccuracy, in this case, early study.
    – Lee
    Aug 10, 2016 at 3:26

The student in question is a victim of his own complacency.

From dictionary.cambridge.org:

complacency noun also complacence, disapproving ​

a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder:

What annoys me about these girls is their complacency - they seem to have no desire to expand their horizons.

There's no room for complacency if we want to stay in this competition!

From oxforddictionaries.com:

complacency (also complacence) NOUN

A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements:

the figures are better, but there are no grounds for complacency

  • 1
    Add 'complacent'. That's the right word. You have mentioned all the other forms of it. Aug 8, 2016 at 0:36
  • 2
    @displayName, I indeed started with complacent, the adjective form; however, it appears that the question asks for a noun ("describe slacking because you think you already know everything" and "written word to describe this causation chain"), so I used the noun form complacency. Aug 8, 2016 at 5:11

A familiar expression is

[He's] resting on his laurels.

From Phrase Finder:

Rest on one's laurels


To be satisfied with one's past success and to consider further effort unnecessary.


The origins of the phrase lie in ancient Greece, where laurel wreaths were symbols of victory and status.

  • 1
    Thanks Edwin. That certainly describe it. Would you have another one uniquely describe this in education domain
    – Lee
    Aug 7, 2016 at 14:39

"he thinks he knows everything and therefore slacks" suggests that he is overconfident and overconfidence can negatively affect performance.

  • The Weakness Of Overconfidence - We’ve all experienced it before. You take a test that you think is ridiculously easy,and end up getting a B. You get into a relationship and start taking your significant other for granted, resulting in a breakup. You invest in a stock thinking there’s no way it’ll go down, and lose a big chunk of your money

  • Well, let’s first take a look at why we get overconfident. Generally, if something requires the full extent of our abilities, we find it challenging and need to use all our resources to overcome the problem. That’s a really hard thing to do, and we generally feel not too confident about it. When things are at about our ability level but don’t strain it too much, we find it interesting and maybe even a bit relaxing. In this case, we can feel confident about our ability to accomplish the task, but know that we still have to work decently hard. However, when the task is extremely easy or below our abilities, we may often feel that it’s barely worth our time. That is where the danger of overconfidence becomes a menacing threat.

Usage Examples:

  • "As we shall see in the next chapter, overconfidence can have pronounced negative effects"

  • "Examples abound of the negative effects overconfidence has on forecasting accuracy.


Resting on his laurels, as Edwin suggested, is an appropriate term. But I've rarely heard someone reach for that particular phrase on a campus. In my experience students (who talk about grades very often) have an accepted term for this arc, or something very close to it. When complacency causes grades to slip they say they were coasting or letting themselves coast or that they coasted too much.


I think get ahead of oneself may apply here:

  • Fig. [for someone] to do or say something sooner than it ought to be done so that the proper explanation or preparations have not been made. I have to stick to my notes or I will get ahead of myself in my lecture. When he bought a new little bicycle before the baby was born, he was getting ahead of himself.



A more informal word might be coasting. In a car, this is when you take your foot off the gas and let the car's momentum carry it forward. The relevant dictionary entry would be:

coast verb:

to advance or proceed with little or no effort, especially owing to one's actual or former assets, as wealth, position, or name, or those of another: The actor coasted to stardom on his father's name.

There's nothing about the word that means your coasting must result in success; you can just as easily coast to a defeat as a victory.

  • I am not the downvoter. You should back up your answer with appropriate references/links, so that it becomes more acceptable and less prone to downvoting. Aug 9, 2016 at 11:33

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