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  • John Macedo


Updated: 6 days ago

Or you might have been cursed by knowledge.

Pissed off supervisor (photo)

I an experiment made in 1990 by a Stanford University graduate student, by the name of Elizabeth Newton. She illustrated the curse of knowledge in the results of a simple task. She took a number of subjects and split them into two groups. She asked the first one to "tap" out well-known songs with their fingers, such as “happy birthday”. The purpose of the second group was to try and name the melodies.

Maybe two people sitting in front of eachother. One is tapping and saying (this one is easy) 1 unit

When the "tappers" were asked to predict how many of the "tapped" songs would be recognised by listeners, they would estimate the success ration in 50%. The curse of knowledge is demonstrated here as the "tappers" are so familiar with what they were tapping they could practically hear the melody, which caused them to assume that the listeners would easily recognise the tune. Furthermore, it was actually frustrating to them not having the listener’s understanding. The actual success rate in recognising the songs where 2.5% - one time in 40, not one in 2.

(Make it a vector using some sort of infographic)

as a definition:

"The “curse of knowledge” is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand."

In other words: if you’re passing instructions, you’re cursed.

For instance, in a construction setting, a tradesman may have some difficulties and getting frustrated when teaching his labourers about their jobs as they can hardly put themselves in the position of their apprentice - this is a perfect example of how the curse of knowledge may play out in our everyday lives.

A brilliant carpenter might no longer remember the difficulties that a young apprentice encounters when learning a new task.

When you're dealing with workers on site, the “curse of knowledge” is present in the mistake of explaining a task in the way that you would understand instead of checking how to “land” on the same page with the workers.

"First we a trench" - "then we build the rest of the house". (vector)

We can use a couple of workers talking to each other. And we can also use the illustration of a hole -> full house. like there is no in between)

When passing instructions to your workers, you need to be aware that you will always be in the position of “curse by the knowledge” of what you’re trying to achieve. It is very important that you acknowledge your “curse” and go with your workers back and forth as many times it’s necessary to make sure nothing is left out or just assumed understood.

Workers talking to each other. One is talking very difficult math (we can use some sort of calculation vector here) and asking: do you know what I mean?

Worker (supervisor) asking the following questions: Are you ok to do this? Any suggestions? Do you need anything else?

Let your workers explain to you not what you said, but what their head, and build on it. Keep adding information, resolving presumptions and aligning expectations until you make sure everyone is in the same page. It may be counter intuitive in the beginning, but will definitely save you time since you improve your chances to get everything done as you want in one go. Remember: "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" (learn what we're taking about here)