The illusion of knowing: Failure in the self-assessment of comprehension

Arthur M. Glenberg, Alex Cherry Wilkinson, William Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


The illusion of knowing is the belief that comprehension has been attained when, in fact, comprehension has failed. In the present experiment, the illusion was defined operationally as having occurred when readers who failed to find a contradiction in a text rated their comprehension of the text as high. Texts containing contradictions between adjacent sentences were presented, and readers were explicitly asked to search for contradictions. The frequency of illusions was greater when the contradictory sentences came at the end of three-paragraph texts rather than at the end of one-paragraph texts and when the contradictory information was syntactically marked as new. These results are interpreted within a framework that emphasizes that the goal of reading expository text is to establish coherence within and among sentences. In addition, the results are apparently incompatible with the notion that readers engage in active and accurate on-line monitoring of the degree to which this goal is met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-602
Number of pages6
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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