Continuing the discussion from We're all biased:
As I listened and reflected on @kathleen’s perspective, I wanted to think more about the pressure to “know it all.” Here are some of my initial thoughts; I’d like to hear from others if this is of interest to them.
I often feel the pressure to “know it all.” I can blame this on the expectations of others, but it’s probably motivated by my own pride.
For seven years I served students at Harvard in campus ministry. During that time I read Expecting Adam by Martha N. Beck. In it, she writes of rushing into a graduate seminar a few minutes late. The instructor calls her out and so she tries to explain herself: “I was upstairs in the Psych lab, watching rats swim around in a Smurf pool.” That is, in a nearby lab, one of her friends had rats swimming in a backyard pool tub decorated with pictures from the Smurf cartoons.
But to her surprise, her instructor, professor, and fellow graduate students all began to talk about their interest in Smurf’s research. Playing along, she said, “I think that Smurf is going to change the whole direction of linguistic epistemology.” And everyone expressed their agreement.
Martha observes, “And thus I learned that at Harvard, while knowing a great deal is the norm and knowing everything is the goal, appearing to know everything is considered an acceptable substitute.”
I’m no longer immersed in the Harvard bubble, but social media can exert the same pressure. As one academic paper found, “In sum, out-group language is the strongest predictor of social media engagement across all relevant predictors measured, suggesting that social media may be creating perverse incentives for content expressing out-group animosity.”
In simpler terms, the data shows that if you want to go viral on social media, your best strategy is to regularly show your tribe how awful their opponents are. “We’re right, they’re wrong” is a winning message.
The pressure is real. So here are two ways out:
- Make it a habit to say, “I don’t know.”
- Be curious about different perspectives
Do you feel the pressure to know it all? What helps you resist it?