How to Tell an Expert Apart From a Phoney

Each one of us has points of focus within their day.

Some of us write, some of us read, some of us do house chores, and some meditate. Each person reading this article has something they’re better at than the rest. The differences in skill level may be marginal or may be drastic.


Trusting Experts in Fields You Know Nothing About

There may be someone reading this who is a professional surfer perhaps, or a formidable scientist. One person can’t be a master of all things that comprise life however. As we make our way toward mastering the skills of our choosing, we have to rely on trusting experts in other fields with information they attain on their respective journeys.

A problem of whether we should trust experts in fields unknown to us arises though. Since we are not as informed as the experts which present information our way, we are not armed to question their output. How do we know if we can trust an expert?

Are there experts with similar levels of expertise who would disagree with the points the person we’re interacting with is presenting? Should we just listen to everything experts in specific domains tell us without thinking twice? How do we tell an expert apart from a fraud?


Attaining an Insight Into Their Formative Thought Processes

Something we can do to raise our confidence in believing what experts in specific fields present, is to take them into waters they’re not yet comfortable in treading. As they stand before you, they’ve spent many hours thinking about very specific things amidst very specific domains. To gain a better understanding of how they’ve arrived at their expert opinions and knowledge, take them out of the cognitive area which they feel comfortable exploring.

For just a little bit, shift the topic of conversation toward a domain which they haven’t yet explored. Perhaps pick a topic within which your knowledge rivals or exceeds theirs, and begin to analyze how they think about an area which they’ve not spent significant time exploring.

Analyze whether they grasp logical thought with ease, surrounding domains unfamiliar to them. Are they careful with their assumptions? Do they make judgments based on evidence or ill informed opinion? Are they quick to draw baseless conclusions? Look for things you value in an intelligent and intellectually honest individual. These habits will be easier to pick out if the topic of conversation is less contextual and detailed.Your prior knowledge on a topic in which they haven’t spent much time thinking about would arm you with the ability to know whether they take the task of attaining expertise seriously.

By leading experts in one field into a cognitive area they’ve no experience thinking about, you open yourself to witness the building blocks of their expertise. You get to see the foundational thought processes and mental habits which led them to developing their expert opinions. If you see that experts in one field are formidable in the way they learn about, and analyze things, they’re unfamiliar with, then your confidence in their expert opinion can grow based on that evidence.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.