A Cup of Knowledge: With Guests A.J. Jacobs & Steven Sloman

September 11, 2023
Why do people think they understand things better than they actually do?
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Why do ocean waves move the way they do? How does a toaster work? How might ink flow through a ballpoint pen without the help of gravity? You may know the answer to these questions, but explaining them in detail could reveal an unexpected truth.

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we look at why people think they understand things better than they actually do.

The idea started at the dinner table. One of A.J. Jacobs’ kids presented him with a seemingly simple task—thank the people who made his cup of coffee. A.J. took this task to heart and ended up visiting dozens of complex operations around the world, running into surprises at each destination.

A.J. Jacobs is a journalist, lecturer, and human guinea pig. He is the author of Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, about his journey to better appreciate coffee.   

Next, Katy speaks with Steven Sloman about his research on the illusion of explanatory depth—the idea that people think they have more knowledge than they do because it’s easy to mistake community knowledge for your own.

You can read more in Steven and Philip Fernbach’s book, called The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone

Steven Sloman is a professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University.

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