When You (Wrongly) Believe Other People Know What You Know

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Image by Pixabay / CC 0

While I do author most of the articles featured on Poly Land, I love working with guest contributors. I generally love working with talented writers — and especially those who don’t know that they’re talented. Many good ones don’t actually.

Part of this is likely due to Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby the most skilled among us are largely unaware that they’re talented. (Yes, this seems to be linked to the more common/colloquial “impostor syndrome.”)

But also as big of an issue is that when they pitch me topics, they’re quick to dismiss certain ones, saying that they don’t think it’ll be interesting to readers. They’re quick to condemn their subject areas as “old hat,” essentially.

And many times, I’ll encourage them and let them know that actually that’s a great idea. That the readers will love it. And that they should write it.

The Curse of Knowledge and You

The trouble in these circumstances seems to be a little thing called the curse of knowledge. Curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias in which the person mistakenly thinks that the individuals they’re communicating with already has a similar background.

This can cause a number of problems.

For example, an expert can confuse an audience of laypeople if they assume that the audience knows enough to understand them and therefore don’t tailor their talk appropriately. I remember this predicament all too well, sitting in a lecture hall where a guest expert filled the conversation with words that nobody in attendance knew.

In the days before smart phones (and before laptops in classrooms were all that common), this typically resulted in bewilderment as no one could look anything up mid-lecture. The best we could hope for was that the regular professor would interject with appeals for the guest lecturer to define basic concepts.

But that’s not the only way curse of knowledge can cause problems. Difficulties can also cause manifest in the form that I see it most in my line of work: Where people assume that everyone knows what they know and that no one would be interested in hearing what is in reality quite a fascinating perspective.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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