The illusion of transparency is the misleading impression that your words convey more to others than they really do. Words are a means of communication, but they don’t in themselves contain meaning. The word apple is just five letters, two syllables. I use it to refer to a concept and its associations in my mind, under the reasonable assumption that it refers to a similar concept and group of associations in your mind; this is the only power words have, great though it may be. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose track of this fact, think as if your words have meanings inherently encoded in them, leading to a tendency to systematically overestimate the effectiveness of communication.
From the old discussion page:
Illusion of transparency
I just wrote a first version of this page, but maybe I should worry that I’m making too much of an inferential leap (or doing the sort of “original research” that’s not supposed to be a part of this kind of wiki project) by linking together the “Illusion of Transparency” and “Words as Mental Paintbrush Handles” material. I might revisit this later. ---Z. M. Davis 02:24, 9 September 2009 (UTC)