For the study, researchers designed a series of experiments to assess people's claims to knowledge, with the goal of seeing how people perceived their own knowledge.
In one set of experiments, for example, researchers tested whether participants who believed they were experts in personal finance would be more likely to claim they knew about "fake" financial terms. One hundred participants were asked to rate their knowledge of personal finance in addition to noting how familiar they were with 15 financial terms. Most of these terms were real, such as inflation and home equity. But there were also made-up terms, such as "pre-rated stocks" and "annualized credit," which were intended to blend in with the rest.
As the researchers predicted, those who believed they knew the most about finance were the most likely to claim they knew what the fake terms were. "The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to over-claim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms," said Stav Atir, study author and psychological scientist at Cornell University, in a statement.