Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Overclaiming - the illusion of knowledge

Atir et al. probe how our inflated perception of our expertise can lead us to make claims of impossible knowledge. Their edited abstract:
People overestimate their knowledge, at times claiming knowledge of concepts, events, and people that do not exist and cannot be known, a phenomenon called overclaiming. What underlies assertions of such impossible knowledge? We found that people overclaim to the extent that they perceive their personal expertise favorably. A first set of studies showed that self-perceived financial knowledge positively predicts claiming knowledge of nonexistent financial concepts (invented by the researchers: pre-rated stocks, fixed-rate deduction, annualized credit), independent of actual knowledge. A second study demonstrated that self-perceived knowledge within specific domains (e.g., biology) is associated specifically with overclaiming within those domains (taking the fictitious terms meta-toxins, bio-sexual, and retroplex to be real). In another study, warning participants that some of the concepts they saw were fictitious did not reduce the relationship between self-perceived knowledge and overclaiming, which suggests that this relationship is not driven by impression management. Finally, boosting self-perceived expertise in geography (by having participants take an easy versus difficult geography quiz) prompted assertions of familiarity with nonexistent places, which supports a causal role for self-perceived expertise in claiming impossible knowledge.
The authors note this line by American historial Daniel Boorstin (1914-2004): "The menace to understanding is not so much ignorance as the illusion of knowledge."

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