Vera Tobin

Elements of Surprise / Publications / Teaching / CV

“Where Do Cognitive Biases Fit Into Cognitive Linguistics? An Example from the ‘Curse of Knowledge.’” Language and the Creative Mind. Eds. Barbara Dancygier, Mike Borkent, and Jennifer Hinnell. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

It is a truth widely acknowledged (e.g. Piaget 1932; Fillmore 1975; Baron-Cohen 1995) that human beings have a remarkable ability to think about and adopt the perspectives of others. However, despite these spectacular performances of perspective taking, our abilities in this arena are both limited and riddled with biases. These biases are studied extensively in cognitive psychology, social psychology, economics, and cognitive approaches to decision making. Cognitive linguistics, however, despite its longstanding interest in viewpoint and perspective, has given them much less direct or explicit attention. This paper suggests that some models of meaning construction in cognitive linguistics are in fact very well suited to addressing the contributions of cognitive bias, and presents one illustrative integrated account.

The ‘curse of knowledge’ is a pervasive cognitive bias that makes it very difficult for us to imagine, once we know something, what it is like not to know it (Camerer, Loewenstein & Weber 1989; Birch and Bloom 2003). In this paper, I argue that the curse of knowledge is an artifact of a more general cognitive shortcut that is implicated in features of ‘correct’ sentence interpretation such as presupposition projection, as well as in the phenomena that are traditionally described as curse‐of‐knowledge errors.