Thursday, December 28, 2017

Closed-minded Experts

Experts can be quite closed-minded at times. They exhibit overconfidence and a bias toward the status quo. Victor Ottati and his colleagues have documented evidence of what they call the “Earned Dogmatism Effect.” The scholars argue that social norms about novices versus experts play a key role in how people perceive new ideas.   Here's how they explain this effect: 

“Consider, for example, a seminar pertaining to cancer. Within this situation, some individuals may occupy the role of “novice” (e.g., a layperson) whereas others may occupy the role of “expert” (e.g., a cancer researcher). Because novices possess limited knowledge, social norms dictate that they should listen and learn in an open-minded fashion. The expert possess extensive knowledge, and therefore is entitled to adopt a more dogmatic or forceful orientation. Dogmatic statements are more likely to be tolerated when the “expert” speaks than when a “novice” speaks. Novices possess limited knowledge, and as such, are expected to adopt a more humble and open-minded orientation.”

The researchers conducted a series of experiments to explore this effect.  In their studies, they demonstrate that even simply the self-perception of expertise can lead to closed-minded behavior.  In  one experiment they provided people false feedback on a simple test, leading some individuals to believe that they had a great deal of expertise, while others felt that they were not knowledgeable at all relative to most others in the study.   The individuals who were made to feel as though they were experts exhibited closed-mindedness in a subsequent aspect of the study.   That effect is pretty incredible, given that the individuals were not ACTUALLY experts.  The feedback that they received was MADE UP!  

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