It’s simple to believe you are knowledgeable in all things. Even though you feel like you know a lot, you usually don’t know as much as you believe you do.

If you believe yourself to be somewhat intelligent and educated, you might assume that you have a good understanding of the fundamental principles governing the world, including knowledge of the common inventions and phenomena that exist all around us. Consider the following questions right now: How do rainbows form? Why is it that gloomy days might be colder than sunny ones? How are helicopters able to fly? Then, ask yourself if you could respond to any or all of these queries in detail. Or do you merely have a general idea of what’s going on in each situation? If you are like the majority of volunteers in psychological studies, you could have had high expectations for your performance at first. However, most people are absolutely baffled when asked to provide a nuanced response to each issue, just as you could be. An “illusion of knowledge” is the name given to this prejudice. You might assume that these particular examples are unimportant because they are the kinds of questions that a curious toddler might ask you, but knowledge illusions can impair our judgment in a variety of ways. In the workplace, for example, it may lead us to exaggerate our expertise during interviews and take on tasks for which we are completely unqualified.

Many of us live our lives fully unaware of this intellectual conceit and its repercussions. The good news is that some psychologists contend there might be some deceptively straightforward strategies for avoiding this prevalent thought trap.