This book attracts together with the book Denying to the Grave. Both books concerns why facts alone are not enough to persuade people. The book Denying to the Grave addresses a lot about the emotional part of memorizing, while this book the Knowledge Illusion addresses the evolutionary inevitability of why we overestimate our cognitive capacity. The issue is interesting to me in that in the currently polarizing world, what is needed to make people come back to the middle? I think both books provide some insights into why polarization happens and offers some ideas on how to can address the issue.
This book starts with the illusion of explanatory depth or illusion of comprehension, which is we as an individual thought we understand the subject, but actually we don't. The book goes into depth into understanding this idea. It starts with defining what is thinking. Thinking is deliberation about patterns, primarily causal links, instead of details, so we don't store a lot of detailed information like a memory card does. The evolutionary benefits of causal reasoning is we can share intentions in communities while expecting people in the communities to causally interpret the intentions and act synergistically. The ability to causally interpret intentions means that individuals in the group can collaborate on a complex issues with divisions of cognitive labors are involved.
Divisions of cognitive labors go beyond minds, which is essentially why we evolve to have knowledge illusion. The author explains that thinking is not just within the brain. For individuals, thinking calls resources from bodies, emotions and the environment; and most importantly, individuals' thinking calls resources from the communities. Calling resources from the communities implies that we use outcomes of thinking from others in the community without inspecting the details. Therefore, the knowledge illusion is in fact a necessary result of collaborations. Efficient collaboration requires labor divisions; and labor division requires trusting outcomes from others in the community.
Then, how can people overcome knowledge illusion? The author suggests causal explanation over generating reasons. Causal explanation is a forward-reasoning thought process, where people explain consequences from assumed scenarios, while generating reasoning is a thought practice where people go deep to find justifications of their belief. The usefulness of cause explanation is it encourages practitioners to consider the varieties of possible outcomes, which they ignored because of the knowledge illusions. Of course, the causal explanation only applies to illusions of consequences. It isn't effective when attitudes are out of value. The latter topic is more explored in the book of Denying to the Grave.
Overall, being convinced by the book means we turn more humble and admit we don't know a lot about what we don't know.