A few years ago, I heard a word that I now don't remember. It seems to be related to the "curse of knowledge" -- being unable to see things from the perspective of people with less knowledge.

The word I'm thinking of applies when you are unable to empathize with someone (say, a book character) going through a difficult time, because you know how the story ends.

What is this word?

  • If you know the ending to the story, it's not about empathy so much as the curse of knowledge in another form. – Minnow Dec 28 '14 at 14:32
  • The case i heard this was about the Biblical story of Joseph and Jacob -- how we are unable to identify with Jacob's suffering due to knowing how it ends. – Scimonster Dec 28 '14 at 14:33
  • Indifferent Is probably what you are looking for. – Joe Dark Dec 28 '14 at 15:33

"Desensitised" might be the word you are thinking of, however it doesn't apply to all situations in which you have prior knowledge of outcomes. It merely means you are used to particular types of outcome and are unmoved to see them. For instance, being desensitised or accustomed to violence in contexts where it is not ultimately catastrophic may lead you to have less empathy for those suffering violence because of a belief that "it'll turn out alright in the end" (even if in this case it doesn't).


I don't have a single word for you, but the term "hindsight bias" seems applicable to the first paragraph of your question, though it doesn't apply as well to the specific example you gave.

The best description of hindsight bias I have read is by Daniel Kahneman in his excellent book "Thinking Fast and Slow". See part III - overconfidence.

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