Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Curse of Knowledge

In their book, Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath discuss the "curse of knowledge." We have a hard time explaining things to people if we know too much about the subject. Their example is a tapping game. Try to tap the rhythm of a popular song and see if other people can guess what song it is. You'll be amazed at how easy it will seem to you and how hard it will seem to others. You hear the song in your head; they just hear a bunch of tapping.

This is a principle for teachers to remember!

I saw a great illustration of this in a couple of comments over at Connor Boyack's blog. Cliff Lyon, a non-Mormon, was the first respondent. He started by quoting something Connor had written in the post.

The very fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan.

Thats pretty bad logic.

I am SURE there is NO God, and I’m alive? Are you SURE about that statement?

If you are Mormon, perhaps your first reaction was just to think that Cliff is being cantankerous. Allie, the next commenter responded this way:

Oh come on Cliff! :)

“According to Connor’s religion, the fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan”.

Cliff replied:

Oh Come on Allie.:)

It’s illogical.

Allie replied:

Illogical to you.


You can see by the smilies, that each party seems to believe that the other party is being merely cheeky. They assume that their correspondent has the same information in mind and so they continue to rib each other. It wasn't until Jeff T. posted that everything snapped into focus for me.


Do you realize he is talking about before we are born? In our religion, we believe that no one is born without accepting God’s plan prior to birth, even if they subsequently reject it on earth. Thus, based on this premise (if you believe it to be true), it is perfectly logical to suppose that every person alive accepted God’s plan prior to birth, even if they do not believe it now.

Okay, Mormons. Now go back and read Cliff's original comment and you can see what he was really objecting to. Without that theological premise, Cliff was perfectly right to point our the logical absurdity of Connor's point. Allie was assuming that Cliff already had that information, so she came to the wrong concluion about Cliff's meaning.

Cliff ends this thread in the comments with a simple statement that shows he, too, just fit all the pieces together.

Ah. Got it.
Spotting fun little exchanges like these while reading blogs helps me justify the time I spend doing it since I'll be able to use them in training sessions at work. :)

1 comment:

Scott Hinrichs said...

I also found that little exchange on Connor's blog informative.