Better-informed have trouble or are unable to pass knowledge to less-informed. This bias has large and overlooked consequences.
Hindsight bias and expert trap
The phrase “expert trap” was first used in 1989 by Camerer and Loewenstein. They saw it closely relating to
It is as if our brains are wishfully reconstructing the knowledge to fit the outcome. Therefore if a person is better-informed about the line of reasoning they may be less inquisitive about the knowledge, less motivated to look at it from first principles – and gleaning over the ingredients of the process, bending them to fit the outcome.
“Study participants could not accurately reconstruct their previous, less knowledgeable states of mind, which directly relates to the curse of knowledge. This poor reconstruction was theorized by Fischhoff to be because the participant was "anchored in the hindsightful state of mind created by receipt of knowledge". Fischhoff, Baruch (2003). "Hindsight is not equal to foresight: The effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty".
Tapping experiment metaphor
When subjects were asked to finger-tap a popular tune of their choosing they were hugely overconfident about how many people would get it. They estimated that 50% of people would get it whereas in reality, 1.33% got it. from 1990 Stanford experiment
I have concerns if that is a piece of solid evidence because this discrepancy may be attributed to a specific characteristic of this task. I treat this more as a potent metaphor for the dynamism of what happens when better-informed is passing the knowledge to less-informed.
We are constantly subjected to forgetting. We strengthen neural connections between ideas we actively use and therefore forget how it was not to understand it.
Experts are often worse at predicting reality Philip Tetlock
"Studies have found that deep expertise in a subject does not positively correlate with accuracy in judgment. As part of his research on forecasting, professor Phillip Tetlock conducted a study with 284 political experts, that generated over 80,000 informed (where the estimate matched the area of expertise of the individual) and uninformed predictions over the course of 20 years. Surprisingly, Tetlock discovered that specialists are less reliable than non-experts, even within their specific area of study. In fact, the study concludes that after a certain point, deepening one's knowledge about a specific topic is affected by the law of diminishing returns and can hinder the ability to accurately predict a certain outcome. The results of the study can be attributed to the fact that subject matter experts are more likely to suffer from confirmation bias and are more likely to feel the pressure associated with reputational damage, both of which can affect their ability to produce accurate predictions” from Link
Experts are often motivated by status rather than the truth
The more the expertise is driven by acquiring or guarding status, the harder it will be not to fall into the expert trap.
This topic is extensively explained in
I think this dynamic largely causes
Education system: boring knowledge states and Richard Feynman’s Fun to imagine
Instead of trying to understand things in the simplest possible way most people engage in the opposite. They use complex vocabulary and write too long books.
I think there is a way to communicate knowledge that is both exciting and revelatory by approaching it from the first principles, rendering it through real-life examples, and distilling it to the simplest possible form. We all heard a story of one teacher changing the life trajectory of a friend. Encoding knowledge that escapes the dynamics of the Expert trap is possible. See the incredible example where
Civilizations with trapped knowledge
What if the majority of knowledge we circulate in our civilization is blocked by definitions that are rigid, rely on memorization, explain processes in a partial, local way, are tied to abstract formulas, and are disconnected from how they tangibly affect the world and neighboring disciplines
Counteracting Expert trap 🎨 : Feynman technique to learning
Counteracting Expert trap 🎨 : Other approaches
When you have fresh eye note your impressions, because they will be gone.
When you learn something save things that were confusing (this is a lot of work so perhaps this may be only applicable to the ones who wants to teach)
In order to counteract
Expert trap is closely related to the
Expert trap and other biases
Things that correlate with expert trap and things that don’t.
When writing seems “academic”, writing that seems constraint to norms of their evaluation group or social circle.
If the following are true an author may be less likely subjected to
Writing seem like don’t obey norms that are established in their evaluation circle. e.g. presenting is non-standard examples, being more casual with the style,
Also being critical, risky or using profanities, risking ones position criticizing some commonly held beliefs, or specific people (This not with ego bloat)
Uneasiness of not knowing
Knowing is a delusion that helps this people cope with uneasy feeling of not knowing, of living in the universe that
Sometime even I feel that branching out into new areas of knowledge might be a waste of time. I cannot go there. I already have so much to understand in areas I know some. For the expert who delve deeper, capitalized on some area of knowledge this feeling might be even stronger. There is a real trade off. Going deep vs going wide.
Very often state when experts are too deep, too specialized in particular knowledge so they are discounting all other knowledge that isn't at their level of expertise. Therefore its a lot harder for them to learn anything new.
Often they miss the aspect of interconnectedness of knowledge where the biggest breakthroughs occurs. And very often the key to biggest breakthroughs were about epiphanies that came from the interconnectedness of knowledge. See
The core of learning is having the beginners mind. Agreeing that learning is the motion of one thing leading to another. Agreeing that the more you know the bigger and more complex this world seems and this always will feel unfinished. One need to accept the world as not finished.
More informed cannot fit into the shoes of less informed.
Experts are often close minded
In every age there was a large group of people being in this static, finite mindset that the world is already understood. It doesn't matter if we think about Rome empire, Middle Ages or today. I think similar is true with contemporary experts: professors, politicians, business leaders
Socrates realized that "The more I learn, the less I realize I know". In this respect the more knowledge you gain the more open-minded you should become. However the opposite seems true. Some political, spiritual, scientific experts acts as if they know everything.
Expert trap may partially explain why
My evidence that expert trap is widespread (still gathering)
I often stumbled upon a following situation when I ask for an explanation from somebody who approaches to learn something complex (think somebody doing masters degree). I realize that they are often unable to explain things simply and their knowledge of the complex state is trapped in some memorization resin. They often don’t do motion of connecting simple and broad definitions with complex and narrow ones. Even though it they use some robust concepts and some local details can make sense, they are often wrong with some foundational mechanism.
When I was learning surfing it was surprising how many experienced surfers couldn’t explain the most crucial concepts e.g. how swell period works, how to read waves, identify exercises to quickly progress to the next stage.
Most students hate school while learning could be one of the most fulfilling activities.
My Expert trap 🎨 mistakes
A person I won't name described how much he didn't like mid-level-depth approaches of historians like Dan Carlin. This guy, given his depth of knowledge, might have disliked Dan Carlin because he could have done something similar himself and didn't capitalize on knowledge he had. His position may come from the emotion of envy. I think after listening to him I stopped listening to Hardcore History and his takes on history are helpful to me.