Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Illusion of Explanatory Depth

We often overestimate our explanatory prowess, exhibiting an illusion of explanatory depth (IOED). In the IOED paradigm, participants initially rate their explanatory ability (Time 1) and then after writing out as complete of an explanation as they can, they rerated their ability (Time 2). People show a consistent drop from Time 1 to Time 2 in their reported understanding of such things as common artifacts, word meanings, and political issues. The IOED is one facet of a broader family of phenomena in which people make inaccurate self‐assessments, often being far more confident about their abilities than is warranted.
People especially overrate their own ability both with general knowledge of the kind the old used to foist on the young, but things are not always better in areas of technical expertise:
The relationship between expertise and overconfidence is not straightforward. It sometimes is associated with reductions in overconfidence and other times with increases.
People with technical knowledge, the authors note, may be especially reluctant to admit that they don't know.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I'm curious if this paper looked at only "average" people, or if it also looked at trained teachers and educators.

Teaching is a learned and practiced skill. The way we speak and interact in our normal day to day life is not the ideal way teach or train someone, it's just the easiest and most comfortable way to speak and think.

Most of us explain things on the fly, as we are just starting to think about them; and we re-explain things as holes in our first explanation become apparent, and as our thoughts are given time to coalesce into greater clarity and coherence.

If you want to be good at explaining things on the first try, rather than having to go back and explain it again in a slightly different manner immediately afterward, then you need to have developed your ability to organize information before delivering it.

You need the ability to prepare an effective lesson in your head, adjusted as much as feasible to suit the needs of the student, and focusing on delivering the salient and necessary points of information in a method that is both comprehensible and easily retained, before you ever even attempt to deliver it. And most of us simply have never truly trained in that ability, or are at best self-taught amateurs.

I imagine we tend to overestimate our ability to explain things in large part because we believe that understanding something is all that is necessary to able to share that understanding with others. But the reality is that information alone does not make you an effective teacher - you also need teaching ability, which we tend to overlook unless we've already made fostering such ability a primary concern.