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Logical Gaps and the Curse of Knowledge

We know everything we want to say. No one else knows as much as we do about our topic.

However, when we try to convey everything we know, we suffer from the Curse of Knowledge: a cognitive bias where we assume others know as much as we do about a topic.

The Curse of Knowledge

We can't imagine what it feels like to not know what we know, so we tend to under-explain and over-estimate the reader's background information.

This curse of knowledge causes us to create logical gaps in our writing. When we think the information is so obvious that it doesn't need to be explicitly stated, we skip over it, which only introduces ambiguity and confuses the reader.

A logical gap is most often created when we do not put given information into the topic position. We may feel that given to new is "not strictly necessary" because the connection is "so obvious".

Logical gaps can be resolved in two ways:

  1. apply given to new consistently
  2. ask for feedback from someone outside of your field

Feedback to resolve logical gaps

Ask a friend outside of your field to read a short part of your text and mark every place they had to stop reading.

outside of your field

Feedback needs to come from someone who is not familiar with your work. Your supervisor and your close colleagues know much of the information that is in your mind already and they will automatically fill in the gaps rather than pointing them out to you. To make this work, find someone outside of your field and listen to what they have to say.

A reader will stop reading when they are confused about how the parts all fit together. These moments of confusion happen when the connections are not explicit, so the relationship does not appear to be logical to another person's mind: logical gaps. If you can figure out where these logical gaps happen, you can fill them in for the reader using given to new.

Given to New
The Topic Position