Irrelevant information enhances a sense of knowledge and curses our understanding of other minds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

This study shows that exposure to topic-related but irrelevant information enhances both estimates of peer knowledge and our own sense of knowledge. In Experiment 1, participants were more confident in their answers to general knowledge questions and gave higher estimates of peer knowledge when such questions were accompanied by short paragraphs containing topic-related yet nondiagnostic information than when they were not. The inflated peer knowledge estimates were independent of the classic curse of knowledge. Experiments 2, 3, 5, and 6 demonstrated that irrelevant information biases knowledge estimation via its semantic relatedness to the test questions; response latencies were measured in Experiments 5 and 6 to examine the possible role of retrieval fluency in the semantic relatedness effect. Experiment 4 attributed the bias to information content (e.g., “it is generally known that keratin is responsible”), not comments on knowledge popularity (e.g., “what is responsible is generally known”). Importantly, the effect of irrelevant information on estimates of peer knowledge was fully mediated by confidence in own knowledge in Experiments 1, 2, 4, and 5. Experiment 6 manipulated retrieval fluency and failed to find conclusive evidence for its involvement in the semantic relatedness effect. We conclude that irrelevant information boosts peer knowledge estimation through its semantic relatedness to the problem at hand, and the effect is mostly explained by a corresponding increase in the individual’s own sense of knowledge. Copyright © 2023 American Psychological Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-330
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Volume50
Issue number2
Early online dateSept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Citation

Zhong, M., Siu, C. T. S., & Cheung, H. (2024). Irrelevant information enhances a sense of knowledge and curses our understanding of other minds. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 50(2), 306-330. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0001287

Keywords

  • Curse of knowledge
  • Hindsight bias
  • Fluency misattribution
  • Familiarity
  • Community of knowledge

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Irrelevant information enhances a sense of knowledge and curses our understanding of other minds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.