Volunteering the most recent information that comes to mind may get us out of a temporary pickle, but it will catch up eventually. The problem is, once something comes out of our mouth, we own it; we tend to believe and defend it even more than before the statement was made. The vicious cycle continues with confirmation bias, where we now begin to search only for information that supports our position, building additional mental support for a stance that we were once not really sure we even agreed with.
The better option? Admit you don't know. A while ago, I had read Jim Paul's, "What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars". The book mainly revolves around commodities trading, but the psychological lessons can be applied to all walks of life. Paul writes of an analogy from Ayn Rand, which I had previously discussed in "The Power of Silence":
"Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand was asked one time in a radio interview whether she thought gun-control laws violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms. 'I don't know,' she responded, 'I haven't thought about it.' And she said it in a manner as though it was the most natural thing in the world not to have an answer or opinion. Now here is one of the towering geniuses of the twentieth century and the architect of an entire philosophical system saying, 'I don't know.'"
She didn't have a stance and she didn't feel the need to take an uniformed one to impress the interviewer and listeners. Wouldn't it be nice if our politicians would be so humble? When asked one of the bizarre questions candidates are likely to encounter throughout a presidential nomination run, wouldn't it be refreshing if one simply stated, "I currently don't have the resources to have an educated discussion on that topic right now. However, if I am elected to the White House, I will certainly surround myself with the most knowledgeable, well-informed scholars on the topic, so as to ensure a proper objective decision can be reached."
Another bias rears its ugly head post-event. The insecure fall victim to the hindsight bias - "I knew it all along." "Oh, that answer was obvious." Instead of using these experiences as a learning opportunity, we spend too much time justifying a stance that, in the scheme of things, is irrelevant. 10 minutes from now, who cares if you knew an answer? Does your street-cred really increase if you regurgitate some useless piece of information in front of your friends at happy hour? All it does is make you look ego-driven.
Avoid falling into the "Know it all trap" and the associated cognitive biases by avoiding personalizing situations. If you catch yourself reaching into the depths of your brain for facts to support something you think you believe, take a step back and ask questions instead. Stay objective. Learn something. It's not about showing that you know it all, it's about learning as much as you can. You'll be much more factually informed and better off in the long run!