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Ignorance and the Community of Knowledge

Asking people to explain how something works reveals an illusion of explanatory depth: Typically, people know less about how things work than they think they do.

We overestimate our knowledge of common objects. We similarly overestimate our understanding of political policies. How well do you really understand the consequences of the Affordable Care Act? Sloman argues that the reason we live in this illusion of understanding is that we live in a community of knowledge, guided by shared intentionality. Our communities understand how things work and we fail to distinguish what we know from the knowledge that resides in other people’s heads.

Steven Sloman is a Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences at Brown University. His recent book with Phil Fernbach, The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, is now on sale.

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