The Curse of Knowledge

Douglas Wise

The curse of knowledge is a common cognitive bias that leads us to believe that the people we typically interact with know just as much as we do.  It’s an unhelpful default setting that stems from our natural assumption that those around us possess mental models akin to our own.  As teachers – relative experts – we’re particularly susceptible to succumbing to the curse: it’s easy for us to assume that our students have much higher levels of knowledge than they actually do.  And even when we don’t, it can still be difficult for us to recall how complicated it can be to assimilate knowledge that we are confident with and take for granted.

Here’s a brief example…  An Inspector Calls, by J. B. Priestley, is a play about the suicide of a working-class girl named Eva Smith.  It’s a staple GCSE text.  The action takes place in the…

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