In rationality circles inferential distance is a term used to refer -- in a rather subjective way -- to knowledge gaps and conceptual gaps. It is an important component of the typical mind fallacy.

An inferential gap exists when one person has well-developed concepts that another person does not. This might refer to ideas such as evolution through natural selection, mutually assured destruction, Transubstantiation, or the offside rule. The people who understand the concepts are likely to see them as fairly straightforward and central pieces of knowledge, and those who do not are likely to see them as cryptic and confusing.

Correctly judging the inferential distance between you and your audience is often difficult, but is necessary to successful communication. You have no hope of explaining that offside traps work more or less the same whether you play with three backs in a 3-5-2 or a sweeper in a 4-4-2 if your audience is American. You will have to give a significant amount of background information before your statement becomes meaningful, and you will have a significant challenge simply in keeping your audience interested enough to follow your explanation. Unsurprisingly, the same is true if you are talking about a proof that the multiplicative group of a finite field is cyclic.

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