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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The nature, development and implications of the 'curse of knowledge' in childhood Ghrear, Siba


Our ability to reason about the perspectives of others is associated with many positive life outcomes (e.g., better interpersonal relationships). Unfortunately, when reasoning about the perspectives of others, we are often biased by our own knowledge (i.e., the curse of knowledge). The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to reason about less- knowledgeable perspectives. It leads to overestimations of what others know and clouds our judgements about their beliefs. Critically, this bias is prevalent across various contexts, and it affects our social reasoning across the lifespan. Previous research demonstrated the effects of the bias on children’s social reasoning, however there are several critical theoretical questions that remain unanswered. For instance, is the bias universal among children? I find support for the universality of the bias, in Chapter 2, by showing that even children of a nomadic pastoralist tribe, the Turkana, show the bias. Furthermore, in Chapter 3, I examine how age-related changes in the bias can affect young children’s performance on a widely used measure of Theory of Mind—a false belief task. I examine this question in two experiments; one showing that younger children are more accurate at reasoning about other perspectives when the curse of knowledge is minimized. The other experiment showing that children’s inferences are biased by their knowledge but that minimizing the bias does not improve performance. I discuss potential reasons for the discrepancy between experiments. Finally, I examine two accounts on the mechanisms underlying the curse of knowledge. In Chapter 4, I provide evidence that fluency misattribution (i.e., the tendency to attribute the fluency in processing a stimulus to an inaccurate source) is necessary for the bias to occur. Chapter 5 summarizes my findings, discusses their implications, and highlights avenues for future research.

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