Generally, it is better to know than not to know. Accurate knowledge helps you see reality more clearly and enables you to make better decisions. Some bits of knowledge are more useful than others, some you might like better than others.

You might find yourself in situations, where you are unhappy about knowing something. Perhaps your life was easier before knowing. Perhaps some piece of knowledge became a heavy burden, weighing you down, perhaps quite literally making it difficult to move.

That is not what this is about.


Here is how Wikipedia introduces the concept:

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, who is communicating with other individuals, assumes that the other individuals have the background knowledge to understand. This bias is also called by some authors the curse of expertise.

Blind spots are where you do not see. In this case it means, if you know, then you do not not know. It can be very difficult, even impossible, to remember what it was like for you – what you were like – when you did not know.

Much like your communications teacher may have pressed you – who is your audience?! – that really is much the point of this.

Your audience is not necessarily other people — and as so often, time matters.


I learned English as a second language. Of course, I have memories of the experience, but it is impossible for me to replicate my mental state from then. Can you imagine? Do you remember, what it was like when you could not read? If you completed a course of study, attained some expertise – how well do you remember your beginner state?

You are a different person now than you were then. The experience of learning and going through life has changed your brain and how information is interconnected. Are you convinced, you are still able to accurately reason about your struggles then, now that you have overcome them long ago?

The present moment is about to be in the past. You continue to change. The knowledge you currently have, perhaps even take for granted – it may be forgotten or very unclear, by the time you need to do something with it.

When you find a reminder to yourself that just says “Write email!” or “Do the thing! or “Add one more!” or similar generic instructions that probably made a lot of sense to you at the time of writing, but now seem confusing at best, you fell victim to this bias.

You did not consider what it would be like to not know.

Be kind to your future self.


There are differences in knowledge and understanding between you and past or future versions of you.

This is more substantial between you and other people. Where you have full-scale, around-the-clock, immersive experience of yourself, you only have glimpses of others, brief windows of insights into other people’s lives.

The knowledge that is in your head and feels so close, it takes explicit work to convey. For that to work well, the new information you are providing has to fit well with the background knowledge the other person has available, with who they are. If you want them to see, what you are trying to show, you need to take care to make it fit well.

Knowing about a bias does not mean you will not fall victim to it. Paying attention to it is a good beginning to managing it though.


Much like every strength also implies weakness, every gift can be a curse. Of course, this goes both ways.

The thing we see as a curse can well be a gift.

Look closely.


One response to “Curse of Knowledge”

  1. […] is clearly also related to the curse of knowledge, not truly understanding the audience’s understanding enough. As such, you may assume too […]

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