“If It Matters, I Can Explain It”: Social Desirability of Knowledge Increases the Illusion of Explanatory Depth


This paper explores whether social desirability affects the illusion of explanatory depth (IEOD) by comparing the magnitude of this illusion in topics with different levels of social desirability within several domains. Prior literature shows that social expectations about how much a person should know about a certain topic affect the magnitude of the IOED. Previous research shows also that social desirability has an effect on a similar illusion related to argumentation. In order to do so, 184 participants were assigned randomly to three knowledge domains (history, economics, and devices) and in each domain they rated their understanding of a high-desirability and a low-desirability topic following a standard IOED procedure. Results show that social desirability has an effect on the IOED magnitude and that overestimation of understanding varies among domains. Particularly, participants tend to overestimate their understanding of high desirability topics. This effect was stronger in the historical domain.

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