April 17, 2017

If you had to rate your level of knowledge on a scale of 1-10, how high would you score if 10 indicated extremely knowledgeable? Now, think about all there is to know in the world and again, rate how knowledgeable you are. Did your score change? If it did, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Many people think they know a lot more than they do and offer strong opinions on matters they know relatively little about. Consider how discussions supporting or opposing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could result in adrenaline-raising debates. A brief pause to discuss the details of the ACA and implications of a repeal could silence the conversation or cause greater confusion. In healthcare, a lack of awareness regarding the limitations of one’s knowledge could prove disastrous. So why do individuals tend to overinflate their level of knowledge?

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach are cognitive scientists who explain why in their just released, soon to be best seller, Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. The authors state that individuals tend to argue issues based on values and attitudes rather than a deep understanding of details and implications. In addition, information is just so readily accessible it is easy to exaggerate what one knows. The delineation between one’s own knowledge and that which is borrowed is sometimes blurred. Besides the embarrassment of opining on matters that reveal one’s true explanatory depth, the inherent dangers of the “knowledge illusion” could range from damaged relationships and stalled polices to medical errors and plane crashes. So how can a better understanding of the “knowledge illusion” improve safety, lead to less polarizing debates, and spark a more informed discourse?

Steve, a professor at Brown University and the Editor in Chief of the journal Cognition and Phil, a professor at the University of Colorado, will join me on HealthCetera to respond to the above questions and discuss the importance of collective wisdom. Be sure to tune in to HealthCetera on Thursday, April 20th at 1:00 on WBAI, 99.5 in New York City or go to www.wbai.org to stream live. Or, you can listen anytime by clicking here: