What’s the Latest?
Following on data that showed a wide gap between people’s beliefs and their actual knowledge–such as believing to know how a toilet works while not truly understanding its mechanics–University of Colorado researchers have found that asking people to explain their beliefs encourages reflection on what they claim to know. Conversely, when researchers showed individuals that their knowledge was inadequate–soliciting no input from the individuals themselves–their beliefs were hardened even while they were presented with clear counterfactual evidence.
What’s the Big Idea?
If you want to win an argument, rather than assault your opponent with your superior knowledge, it is better to listen to him or her and ask follow up questions that require more specificity about the position in question. Researchers call the phenomenon by which people claim know vastly more than they do “the illusion of explanatory depth”. It is common, they say, for people to confuse their familiarity with a subject–say something that is blasted at them every day over the Internet–with an intricate understanding of the causal forces involved.