For any bit of information you know, there are others without that information. That means that if you know something—anything at all—then you can fall victim to the Curse of Knowledge. This cognitive bias occurs when, because you know something, you assume others do as well—and it's very hard to think about something from the perspective of someone with less knowledge. This often leads to a gap in understanding or explanation.
The Curse of Knowledge in The Force Awakens
Here's an example: Actress Daisy Ridley plays the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Throughout the movie, Rey’s parents remain anonymous, and their identity continues to be a topic of debate leading up to the December release of The Last Jedi, the 8th episode of the Star Wars saga. To the audience, Rey's lineage is a mystery—but to Ridley, it seemed obvious. In an interview with Time Out, she said, “I thought a lot was answered in The Force Awakens. Then after the screening, I went for a drink with my agent and everyone, and we were chatting away and I realized that, ‘Oh, in their minds it’s not answered at all!’”
Daisy Ridley fell victim to the Curse of Knowledge. Throughout filming, Ridley was aware of her character’s background. So because Ridley already knewwho Rey’s parents were, every clue to the mystery of Rey’s lineage in The Force Awakens seemed obvious. Yet to the millions of viewers without this direct knowledge, the answer was not nearly so evident. Theories circulated and continue to perpetuate with no clear answer.
Overcoming The Curse of Knowledge The one thing that remains certain is that everybody is susceptible to the Curse of Knowledge—and just as Luke Skywalker discovers, it's not so easy to unlearn what you have learned. With that said, the effects of the Curse of Knowledge can be lessened—and to that end, we ensure that clients hear directly from their consumers. In every one of our projects, our Creative Consumers® associates provide the perspective that someone immersed in a category or industry simply can't access. With their help, our clients create solutions that even a Jedi Master would be proud of.
Tyler Thompson is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.