Paradoxical Knowing: A Shortcut to Knowledge and Its Antisocial Correlates

Anton Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To avoid uncertainty, people may take a shortcut to knowledge. They recognize something as unknowable, but claim to know it nonetheless (e.g., whether I will find true love is unknowable, but I know I will). In Study-set 1, such paradoxical knowledge was common and spanned across valence and content. Study-set 2 revealed an antecedent of paradoxical knowing. High (vs. low) goal-incentives incited paradoxical knowledge - participants felt certain about attaining important future life goals despite acknowledging such goal attainment as unknowable. As a shortcut to knowledge, however, paradoxical knowing may have its costs. In Study-set 3, paradoxical knowing related to aggression (fight), determined ignorance (flight), and a willingness to join and adhere to extreme groups (befriend).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • antisocial
  • doubt
  • goal attainment
  • paradoxical knowing
  • shortcut to knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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