Do you ever have the feeling of perplexity when you are learning something and you think “I should know this. I’ve just read it. Why can’t I remember?”
This is because of the illusion of knowledge. And I fall into this trap almost every time I read. I just have to turn the page and I immediately forget what I just read.
Itis easy to fall into the “illusion of knowledge” trap. We think we know something; we think we understood something. But truly and honestly we didn’t. One reason why we fall for the illusion of knowledge trap is that we use repeating and rereading very often during learning. And we use it because it is just easy.
“The principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Feynman
Instead of repeating and rereading, let’s retrieve and elaborate while learning. Retrieve by explaining to yourself what you just consumed — read, watched, heard. Try using your own words.
After retrieving, elaborate a bit more on it. How might the new insight relate to something familiar, to prior knowledge, to prior experience? And think about — if possible — how you might use the new insight.
You can use three questions for retrieving and elaborating. These three questions let you tap into the three R’s — Reframe, Reflect, Reuse — and help you learn more effectively. These three questions are:
What is it? → Reframe
Why is it important? → Reflect
How can I use it? → Reuse
These questions help you check your understanding, spot gaps, and reveal misunderstandings. These questions help you avoid the “illusion of knowledge” trap.
How do you deal with the “illusion of knowledge” trap?
If you want to learn more about retrieval, elaboration, reframing, reflecting, and reuse check out the book “Learning Science for Instructional Designers” from Clark Quinn.