Self-Proclaimed Experts More Likely to Fall For Totally Bullshit Facts


A new study from researchers at Cornell and Tulane has found that know-it-alls who claim to know everything about sustainable farming or how to get rich or the DC go-go scene are actually more likely to fall for made-up facts in the area of their so-called expertise.

The phenomenon is called “overclaiming,” and is basically what happens when a Coachella attendee is confronted with a band name he or she doesn’t recognize, but pretends to be cool and know them anyway, as proven in this cruel but revealing repeated Jimmy Kimmel segment.

The Washington Post explained the format of the study:

One portion of the study presented 100 subjects — all of whom had been asked to rate their knowledge of personal finances — with 15 specific finance terms. They were then asked to rate their understanding of each term, not knowing that three of them (pre-rated stocks, fixed-rate deduction, annualized credit) were totally made up…
Even when they had fair warning — in another experiment, subjects were told that some terms would be made up — those who considered themselves experts were still more likely to profess knowledge of fake terms.

The researchers then gave two groups of people two separate geography tests: one designed to make the test taker feel like an expert, and the other designed to make the taker feel like an idiot. The subjects that had their confidence bolstered were again more likely to claim knowledge of totally made-up cities.

“Our work suggests that the seemingly straightforward task of judging one’s knowledge may not be so simple, particularly for individuals who believe they have a relatively high level of knowledge to begin with,” said Cornell psychologist and lead author Stav Atir.

I know it’s hard, but just admit it when you don’t know something, dummies. It’s a way better route than arguing that HAIRBALL is your favorite death metal band.

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Image via Shutterstock

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