Trust me; I am an expert

The issue is not whether you are an excellent expert, but expert knowledge can not be trusted in an irregular environment.

woman sitting on sofa holding eyeglasses
Photo by Unsplash

Have you ever been fooled by an expert? The car dealer sold you a bad car? Your doctor prescribed the wrong treatment?

Experts do the work

Do you know the famous expert videos? Seeing these videos, almost nobody wants the role of the expert. Yet our society runs and is advanced mainly on expert knowledge.

Experts are so valued that Ph.D. is a valuable sign of expertise that people use to promote their products. A slightly less impressive expert badge is the white doctor’s coat in the hospital. These badges are there to assure us that we can trust the experts.

Faking expertise

Often people want to appear more proficient than they are. They do so to acquire our trust and, with this, the potential for favors and better deals.

I do not want to talk about these fake experts; I have done so in another article.

Real experts that can be trusted

Instead, let’s examine when we should trust real experts.
An expert can be trusted, if

  • he works in an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable,
  • he has an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice

These preconditions result in skilled intuitions, that is, mental shortcuts, which can be trusted.

Experts in mechanical skills can observe immediate feedback. Many doctors that cure common illnesses receive quick feedback from their patients.

Real experts that can not be trusted

Irregular environments and light exposure create untrustworthy intuitions.

Doctors that treat rare cases do not have enough experience to make reliable and intuitive judgments.

The same applies to many creative experts, like software developers. Many situations are so new that the lack of feedback makes it difficult to make intuitive judgments.

Even worse is the situation for business managers. Cases are rarely comparable, and there is always a new detail.

These experts often replace their lack of experience with confidence in their decisions. That, however, is a dangerous path.
Kahneman pointed out, “Judgments that answer the wrong question can also be made with high confidence.”

Confidence in the own judgment is not a good diagnostic of accuracy. Next time your doctor tells you he is confident in your treatment, ask him how many patients with similar symptoms he had.