3. Is this a story or a summary?
In 1990, a Stanford University graduate student in psychology named Elizabeth Newton discovered the ‘curse of knowledge’. She created a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: ‘tapper’ or ‘listener’. Each tapper was asked to pick a well-known song, such as ‘Happy Birthday’, and tap out the rhythm on a table. The listener’s job was to simply guess the song. Over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only three of the songs correctly, a success ratio of 2.5 per cent. But before they guessed, Newton asked the tappers to predict the probability that listeners would guess correctly. They predicted 50 per cent. The tappers got their message across one time in 40, but they thought they would get it across one time in two. Why? When a tapper taps, they are hearing the song in their head. Go ahead and try it for yourself. Tap out ‘Happy Birthday’. It’s impossible to avoid hearing the tune in your head. But the listeners can’t hear that tune. All they can hear is a bunch of disconnected taps, like a kind of strange morse code. It’s hard to be a tapper. The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge. When they’re tapping, they can’t imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. This is the ‘curse of knowledge’. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. It then becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.
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