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The Curse of Knowledge: What It Is and How to Account for It

The curse of knowledge

... is a cognitive bias that causes people to fail to account for the fact that others don’t know the same things that they do. 

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The Curse of Knowledge: What It Is and How to Account for It

The Curse of Knowledge: What It Is and How to Account for It

https://effectiviology.com/curse-of-knowledge/

effectiviology.com

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Key Ideas

The curse of knowledge

... is a cognitive bias that causes people to fail to account for the fact that others don’t know the same things that they do. 

Why we experience the curse of knowledge

Since we spend the majority of the time experiencing things from our own perspective, we struggle to imagine the perspective of others.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that makes it difficult for people to account for the fact that other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and views are different from their own.

Minimize the curse of knowledge

You need to be conscious of the fact that people have different levels of knowledge than you.

  • Ask for feedback from the people you are communicating with, in order to confirm that they understand what you are saying.
  • Make sure that you explain the technical terms and concepts that you use as you are using it.

Debiasing techniques

Use various debiasing techniques in order to help you account for the influence of the curse of knowledge.

  • Visualize the perspective of the people that you are communicating with or use self-distancing language.
  • You could also slow down your reasoning process and improve your decision-making environment, which will enable you to think in a clearer, less-biased manner.

Being an expert

The curse of knowledge is about the difficulty in communication that people have when they know something that others don’t, and not just about the difficulty experts have.

This bias can play a role in any situation where one person recognizes something that other people don’t, and then account for it accordingly.

Predicting other people’s behavior

Having an understanding of how the curse of knowledge affects people’s thinking can help you anticipate their behavior more accurately.

If you are aware that someone else is more knowledgeable in a certain field than others, you can take this into account when predicting how they will behave. 

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The bandwagon effect

It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause...

Examples of the bandwagon effect
  • The bandwagon effect can influence people’s political choices.
  • It can influence consumers’ decisions regarding which products to buy.
  • It can influence users’ decisions regarding how to rate stories or comments.
  • It can influence investors’ financial choices.
  • It can influence doctors’ medical decisions.
  • It can influence organizations’ implementation of new technologies.
Why the bandwagon effect happens

It serves as a mental shortcut that people instinctively use in order to make a decision quickly.

Specifically, bandwagon cues, which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, can trigger the thought that “if other people like this, then I should too”.

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The Verbatim Effect

The verbatim effect is a cognitive bias that makes people remember the general outline and meaning of the information that is provided and not the exact, complete details.

Examp...

Why We Experience the Verbatim Effect

There are two main memory processes:

  • Gist Memory concentrates on the core meaning of the information.
  • Verbatim Memory focuses on the surface form or the easily visible part of the information.

The Gist Memory is encoded in a better way because it is an important part of the information, and is not apparent at first, making it desirable and thus easier to retain.

Variance in the Verbatim Effect

The Verbatim Effect varies in its influence on people and may or may not occur in situations, as it depends on several factors like:

  • The individual's preferences, abilities, and experience.
  • The type of information, along with the reason for interacting with the information. A meaningless piece of information will not have any verbatim effect on an individual.

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Cognitive Bias
Cognitive Bias

Cognitive Bias is a predictable pattern of mental errors where we misperceive reality and move away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.

These mental blind spots...

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping. Unconscious bias often leads to discrimination, be it deliberate or unintentional.

Unconscious bias is different from cognitive biases. Cognitive biases relate to our brains' particular wiring, while unconscious bias refers to perceptions between different groups and are specific to different societies.

How to Reduce Unconscious Bias
  • Recognise that the unconscious bias is a systemic issue. Internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.
  • There is no shame or guilt in unconscious bias. Unconscious bias stems from our tendency to categorise people into social groups and often doesn't match our conscious values.
  • It takes a series of conversations and interventions to prevent and protect against unconscious bias.
The egocentric bias
The egocentric bias

It is a cognitive bias that causes people to rely too much on their own point of view when they examine or remember events in their life.

This means that people tend to either underest...

Examples of the egocentric bias
  • When you are giving a public talk, you assume that your nervousness is more apparent to others than is actually the case.
  • You overestimate the amount of work that you contributed to a group project.
  • You might believe that your colleagues all share your political beliefs and social values.
  • You might remember yourself as having been the key player in a past event, despite the fact that you only played a relatively minor role in it.
What causes the egocentric bias

It occurs primarily due to the fact that we tend to naturally examine and remember events primarily through our personal point of view.

Even when we realize that we should adjust our perspective to see things through other people’s eyes, we tend to anchor this new perspective to our own, and we often fail to adjust from our original viewpoint enough to properly assess how other people feel.

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Theory of mind

This is a social-cognitive skill that relates to the ability to think about your own mental state and the mental states of other people.
It's called a theory because what we believe is go...

Benefits of the theory of the mind

In our daily interactions with other people, it is important to be able to understand their mental states and to think about how those mental states might influence their actions.
The theory of the mind helps us understand how people think, predict their behavior and solve interpersonal conflicts.

Stages of the Theory of mind
  1. The understanding that the reasons why people might want something may differ from one person to the next.
  2. The understanding that people can have different beliefs about the same thing or situation.
  3. The understanding that people may not comprehend or have the knowledge that something is true.
  4. The understanding that people can hold false beliefs about the world.
  5. The understanding that people can have hidden emotions, or that they may act one way while feeling another way.

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The Just-World Hypothesis
The Just-World Hypothesis

Is a cognitive bias that causes us to assume that people’s actions always lead to fair consequences, meaning that those who do good are eventually rewarded, while those who do evil are eventually p...

Why poeple believe is a just world
  • Belief in a just world can serve as motivation for making long-term efforts.
  • Belief in a just world can serve as a coping mechanism for everyday struggles.
  • Belief in a just world can help people cope with existential issuesby providing them with a sense of purpose.
  • Belief in a just world can help people feel in control, because they believe their future will be determined by their actions.
Factors influencing the Just World bias

  • Various background factors, such as religion and ethnicity, can affect the likelihood that people will display just-world beliefs, and the degree to which they will display them.
  • Various situational factors can also affect the degree to which people believe in a just world. For example, being in a good mood reduces people’s tendency to blame innocent victims, while being in a bad mood increases this tendency.

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The empathy gap
The empathy gap

The empathy gap is a cognitive bias that causes people to struggle to understand mental states that are different from their own.

When someone is happy or angry, they ...

Examples of empathy gaps

The empathy gap causes us to misjudge our own emotions and behaviors. Examples include overestimating our ability to stay composed in a stressful event, overestimating the likelihood that we can control our desire for an addictive substance, such as coffee, or underestimating how much our feelings for someone affected our judgment in the past.

The empathy gap can cause people to be unprepared for situations and act differently to what they would ideally prefer.

Types of empathy gaps
  • Cold-to-hot empathy gaps. When someone is in a cold (emotionally neutral) state, they have trouble understanding someone in a hot (emotional state). A calm person might be unable to predict how they will act when they're upset.
  • Hot-to-cold empathy gaps. Someone in this state might be passionate about a topic but fail to understand how other people feel that are not passionate about it.
  • Intrapersonal bias. An interpersonal empathy gap occurs when someone struggles to consider their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal bias. An interpersonal empathy gap occurs when people battle to consider someone else's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Retrospective bias. A retrospective empathy gap occurs when people fail to understand why they acted emotionally in the past.
  • A prospective bias. A prospective empathy gap occurs when people fail to predict the future behavior of someone who doesn't care about the same thing as much.
  • The outgroup empathy gap. This is a cognitive bias that causes people to be more empathic towards members of their ingroup than toward people in their outgroup.

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The zero-sum bias

A cognitive bias that causes people to mistakenly believe that one party’s gains are directly balanced by other parties’ losses.

This bias encourages belief in an antagonistic natur...

Zero-sum bias effects

It can generally be said to affect people on two scales:

  • Individual scale. It causes people to mistakenly assume that there is intra-group competition for a certain resource, between them and other members.
  • Group scale. It causes people to mistakenly assume that there is inter-group competition for a certain resource, between their group and other groups.
Examples of the zero-sum bias
  • People sometimes view membership in social groups as being zero-sum: belonging to one social group excludes you from being a member of a different group.
  • People sometimes view gender hierarchies in the workplace as being zero-sum, which can cause them to be more opposed to gender-fair policies.
  • People sometimes believe that there is an inherent zero-sum competition between different ethnic groups, which can cause them to develop negative attitudes towards immigrants.
  • People sometimes view racism as a zero-sum game, meaning that they believe that a decrease in racism against one group will be balanced by an increase in racism toward other groups.

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The backfire effect

Is a cognitive bias and it means that showing people evidence which proves that they are wrong is often ineffective, and can actually end up backfiring, by causing them to support their o...

Why the backfire effect appears

People experience  as a result of the process that they go through when they encounter information that contradicts their preexisting beliefs.

When people argue strongly enough against unwelcome information, they end up, in their mind, with more arguments that support their original stance.

Reducing other people’s backfire effect

If you’re trying to explain to someone the issues with their stance, you can mitigate the backfire effect by presenting new information in a way that encourages the other person to consider and internalize that information, instead of rejecting it outright.

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Opportunity Cost

It is the estimated value of the best alternative or the best option that one misses out as a consequence of picking one particular option.

Example: Spending a limited resource, lik...

Opportunity Cost in Non-financial Situations

Opportunity cost in non-financial situations is more difficult to quantify. The loss or gain with choosing an option while foregoing another can be subjective and not readily comparable.

Example: While deciding on which job offer to take, we may consider job satisfaction, brand name, commute time, long-term growth, and the salary offered. While finalizing, we have to forego the other best offer. While deciding on a career, we have to consider options like prestige, impact and the work sector.

Calculating Opportunity Cost

The way to calculate the opportunity cost is to subtract the value of the option from the value of the alternative that is foregone.

Opportunity Cost = Return on the best foregone alternative - Return on the chosen option.

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