The “Curse of Knowledge” at The Core Knowledge Blog

Try this experiment: Find a friend and tell him you’re going to tap out the rhythm of a famous song that everyone knows.  Without telling him what the song is, tap out the notes for “God Bless America,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” or “Happy Birthday to You.”  No singing or humming along; just taps.  Before you begin make a prediction: Do you think he’ll guess the song correctly based on your ability to tap it out?

Nearly 20 years ago, a Stanford graduate student named Elizabeth Newton did her dissertation in psychology on this simple game and discovered something remarkable.  Given a list of 25 well-known songs to tap out, the listeners’ success rate was only 2.5 percent—one out of 40 attempts.  However the tappers were so sure the listener would know the song, they predicted a 50% success rate. 

Great example of how psychology and cognitive science can give us clues to how to improve teaching and learning.

I really believe that teachers need to have more knowledge about psychology and cognitive science, and that this knowledge needs to be made more practical by the scientists doing those studies.

This article is a good example of building that bridge.