I learned about this in college, but have since forgotten over the decades. An example is an anthropologist who has learned about a tribe but has never actually visited and studied the tribe first hand.

  • Are you simply asking for the term for who one who falsely believes oneself to be an expert? The reference to 'first-hand experience' confuses the matter, because in highly theoretical fields it may not be obvious what would constitute first-hand experience.
    – jsw29
    Jan 3, 2020 at 17:41
  • Probly self-confidence. At least, that's what many people believe it means. Jan 3, 2020 at 17:46
  • Such a person would be called book smart, but I'm not sure that's what you're looking for.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 3, 2020 at 19:18
  • @jsw I don't think the term implies any sort of Dunning-Kruger effect, it just differentiates a person who doesn't have experience in the topic they have learned. Basically, it is a technical term similar to armchair expert per my comment to Nuclear Wang
    – pooter03
    Jan 6, 2020 at 16:46
  • O.K., so you are looking for a term for somebody who does have some relevant knowledge, but the knowledge is all of the kind that is acquired in a classroom or a library, rather than in the field. That probably needs to be more explicitly stated in the question, to make it clear that it is not a duplicate of the listed ones. Mr. Lister's book smart seems to capture the concept, but it looks like you are looking for something more formal.
    – jsw29
    Jan 6, 2020 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


This person could be described as an armchair expert, or an armchair X, where X is some occupation (e.g. armchair detective, armchair anthropologist). They may be well-versed in a topic, having studied many books from the comfort of their armchair, but they have little to no practical experience in the field they're studying. They might sound knowledgeable about a subject, but it's entirely possible that their knowledge has little to no bearing on the real world, as it is entirely untested in a practical application.

  • It basically means the same thing as armchair expert, but the word itself was technical/academic and not a colloquialism.
    – pooter03
    Jan 6, 2020 at 16:41

You're possibly thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect by which people who lack competence in some area are thus unable to judge their own level of competence and often over-estimate it.

As far as I know, there is no single word for this.

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