Is too much Knowledge Hindering your Evangelism?

A simple game devised by a Ph.D. at Stanford in 1990 has bearing on how effective we communicate the Gospel.

I just finished the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I highly recommend it.

They refer to a study where assigned people were given one of two rolls: a ‘tapper’ or a ‘listener.’ Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs (like Happy Birthday). They were asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to the listener, who was not made privy to the list. After the ‘tapper’ tapped out the song, the listener guessed the song’s name.

After 120 songs were tapped, listeners guessed only 3. The tappers predicted they would guess 60.

Chip and Dan call this the Curse of Knowledge. It happens when we know so much about a subject, it becomes impossible for us imagine what it was like to not know. As a result, we find it hard to imagine that others don’t know as well. Thus, as Chip and Dan write, “it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create the state of mind of our listeners.”

As I read this story, it reminded me that in our biblically illiterate word, we can too easily assume that those to whom we share and teach know more than they really do.

The implication: in our teaching and our evangelizing, we must guard against over-assuming.

Scroll to Top