The curse of knowledgePosted: October 18, 2011
When I read this I couldn’t help but think about how technical people have trouble communicating technology to every day people:
In 1990, Elizabeth Newton did a fascinating psychology experiment: She paired participants into teams of two: one tapper and one listener. The tappers picked one of 25 well-known songs and would tap out the rhythm on a table. Their partner – the designated listener – was asked to guess the song. How do you think they did?
Not well. Of the 120 songs tapped out on the table, the listeners only guessed 3 of them correctly – a measly 2.5 percent. But get this: before the listeners gave their answer, the tappers were asked to predict how likely their partner was to get it right. Their guess? Tappers thought their partners would get the song 50 percent of the time. You know, only overconfident by a factor of 20. What made the tappers so far off?
They lost perspective because they were “cursed” with the additional knowledge of the song title.
It’s hard for knowledgable people — on any topic — to understand what it’s like to not have knowledge of that topic. So when we try to explain something that we know well, we often leave out key details because we assume their too obvious.
It’s important to understand how people not like you think.