Cursed With Knowledge

We all possess knowledge that we’ve had for so long it seems like second nature.  As a result, it’s easy to assume that what is common knowledge to us is the same of everyone else.  There’s a name for this mindset.  It’s called being cursed with knowledge.

While it’s good to possess extensive knowledge of a topic, the challenge comes when we attempt to explain or teach that topic to someone who doesn’t have the same level of knowledge.  What is elementary information to us is newfound, and potentially confusing, information to someone just hearing it for the first time.

If we’re cursed with knowledge, we can easily find ourselves brushing over basic foundational information because we assume everyone “just knows this stuff”.  This causes frustration for the learner who can’t grasp the basic concepts (because they’re not hearing the basic concepts!).  It’s also frustrating for the instructor who wonders why they just aren’t getting it.

Unfortunately, I’ve been on both sides of this scenario.  As a learner I find it helps to ask a lot of questions and not worry about looking ignorant.  (If we’re learning something new then, by definition, we are ignorant; but we won’t stay there.)  As an instructor, I’m working to be more aware of the curse of knowledge when explaining concepts to others so that I’m not needlessly frustrations someone’s efforts to learn.

It all comes down to knowing your audience.  Seek to communicate with people at a level they can understand.  Your audience will thank you.


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