The Curse of Knowledge

Picture this: Two groups of people. One group, the “tappers” have to tap out a tune using only their knuckles on a hard surface. “Listeners” listen to the taps and try to decipher which song it is out of a well-known list of twenty-five.

Tappers predicted Listeners had about %50 chance of guessing their song. The results: 3 out of 120 listeners guessed the song right. *

Imagine the frustration of the tappers—the song was so obvious, so easy! Yes, for them it was. Yet they were playing the song in the heads! All the listeners heard were raps on a table that sounded like nothing more than Morris code.

It’s called the “curse of knowledge” and it’s not a new idea. But! I think it’s something we often overlook when it comes to sharing our beliefs. We’ve been served knowledge, fed ideologies and eaten our own share of information for years. It makes sense to us, and eventually we forget what it was like to have a lack of that knowledge. So when we spit it back out: green-gray  mess.

I’m fond of a man named Jesus. He had a crazy-vast amount of knowledge and wisdom, yet it wasn’t His brilliance that made Him stand out. It was His ability to spread an idea** which set Him apart.  He did it with story, simplicity, concrete examples, credibility (integrity) and element of surprise that shocked the world. Ironically, His approaches are now widely used as marketing techniques and by social media gurus.

My point is this: If we want to do it (be a good teacher, share our story, start–or even carry on a movement) we’ve got to do it right! We’ve got to make ourselves memorable, spreadable, understandable. We’ve got to do it like Jesus did!


* This is a real study conducted by a woman named Elizabeth Newton at Stanford. Super fascinating. Check it out!

* *People need a Savior to reconcile them to God, and He would die for them to be that Savior


One thought on “The Curse of Knowledge

  1. Yes–simplicity in communication is so vital. Einstein said that if you can’t explain a scientific theory to a child it is probably worthless. I would say the same for the Gospel of Christ!

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