The Illusion of Explanatory Depth

Gail Straus

Reading about social scientists’ belief that people have an overconfidence and preference for personal knowledge – what they believe they understand about an idea or concept. They call it the “illusion of explanatory depth.”
As a market researcher, I think of it as a “don’t confuse me with the facts” position. We see it often. The client who is so committed to a creative concept that they couldn’t hear that it doesn’t mean anything to users. The brand manager who believes their product or service is the next best thing. The CEO who can’t be bothered with research because he knows everyone has to love his latest idea.

Let’s face it success comes from real understanding and insight. It’s human nature to believe we know all we need to know about a subject. But it’s not good business policy. An investment in research helps insure that we move beyond the illusion that we know what others think or how they will behave. Objectively interpreted research takes us from us folk wisdom to real actionable insight.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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