Better-informed have trouble to pass knowledge to less-informed. This bias has large and overlooked consequences.
Expert trap name was first used in 1989 by Camerer and Loewenstein. They saw it closely relating to Hindsight bias. - knowing the outcome makes people be falsely confident that they would have predicted the answer.
It is as if our brains are wishfully reconstructing the knowledge to fit the outcome. Therefore if a person is better-informed about the line of reasoning they may be less inquisitive about looking at the knowledge from first principles, they would be gleaning over the ingredients of the process and bending them to fit the outcome.
“Study participants could not accurately reconstruct their previous, less knowledgeable states of mind, which directly relates to the curse of knowledge. This poor reconstruction was theorized by Fischhoff to be because the participant was "anchored in the hindsightful state of mind created by receipt of knowledge". Fischhoff, Baruch (2003). "Hindsight is not equal to foresight: The effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty".
When subjects were asked to finger-tap a popular tune of their choosing they were hugely overconfident how many people would get it. They estimated that 50% of people would get it whereas in reality 1.33% got it.
from 1990 Stanford experiment
I have concerns if this is a solid evidence for this bias because this discrepancy may be attributed to some specific characteristic of this task. So I treat this as a potent metaphor of a dynamism of what happens when better-informed are passing the knowledge to less-informed.
"Studies have found that deep expertise in a subject does not positively correlate with accuracy in judgement. As part of his research on forecasting, professor Phillip Tetlock conducted a study with 284 political experts, that generated over 80,000 informed (where the estimate matched the area of expertise of the individual) and uninformed predictions over the course of 20 years. Surprisingly, Tetlock discovered that specialists are less reliable than non-experts, even within their specific area of study. In fact, the study concludes that after a certain point, deepening one's knowledge about a specific topic is affected by the law of diminishing returns and can hinder the ability to accurately predict a certain outcome. The results of the study can be attributed to the fact that subject matter experts are more likely to suffer from confirmation bias and are more likely to feel the pressure associated with reputational damage, both of which can affect their ability to produce accurate predictions” from A Playbook of expressive products
The more the expertise is driven by getting or guarding status, the harder it will be to not to fall into the expert trap.
Findings from Elephant in the Brain
It’s broad effect makes human knowledge hard to access. I think most of the education system is affected by it. Most student experience school as boring. I think there is a way to share knowledge that is exciting and revelatory by sharing knowledge told from the first principles, in the simplest possible form, demonstrating how it translates to real life seamingly unrelated examples. See the incredible example in which Richard Feynman explains complex physics ideas in the simplest possible form Fun to Imagine.
Richard Feynman thought that if he cannot explain idea simply he didn’t understand it well enough. I believe he practice understanding physics that effectively counteract expert trap. When he was lecturing physics he would go to students who knew a lot less and attempted to explain processes in the simplest possible form. When he couldn’t he identified the areas where he needed to study more.
What if the majority of knowledge we circulate in our civilization is blocked by definitions that are rigid, rely on memorization, explain processes in a partial, local way, tied to abstract formulas and disconnected from how they tangibly affect the world and neighboring disciplines. Instead of the motion to try to understand things in the simplest possible way most of the people engage in the opposite. They use complex vocabulary, write too long books.
Expert trap 🎨 may be driven by a couple of other biases. Hindsight bias Once you know the answer you are fortifying the line of arguments that would led to the answer. Hierarchy bias. People subconscious motivation to acquire knowledge may be less about getting things right but to elevate one in a hierarchy. Confirmation bias Once you are an expert and feel like know a lot – the gravity of your knowledge my discard all the opposing views even more.