The Curse of Knowledge

Librarians by and large are very knowledgeable people.  Most librarians are drawn to the profession because of a love of learning.  Unfortunately, librarians sometimes struggle to share the value of the library with the general public.  We have a hard time figuring out why people don’t use our great databases or tap into our research skills.  Everyone should already know how good the library is – right?  Unfortunately, it may be that we librarians are suffering from the Curse of Knowledge.

curse of knowledgeTo be clear, this curse has nothing to do with magic or ancient mystical tombs.  The Curse of Knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when individuals are unable to ignore the knowledge they have which others do not, or when they are unable to disregard information already processed.  This is the reason why an expert musician can make a lousy teacher of novices, because the expert forgets what it is like to know so little.

Chip and Dan Health discuss the Curse of Knowledge at length in their best selling book, Made to Stick.  In that book they analysis how to make ideas stick in the minds of listeners of any background.  Specifically, they identity ways to get around the curse by keeping  ideas simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and wrapped with stories.  I highly recommend Made to Stick as an antidote to the Curse of Knowledge.

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