Last Updated on September 10, 2022 by Larious
What we call “conventional wisdom” is what the majority of people think is true. It can include both widely held beliefs and established expert consensus within a given field or organization. There are advantages and disadvantages to possessing this kind of knowledge. On occasion, these concepts help individuals grasp the general agreement and make snap judgments. When faced with an issue, it might be challenging to think outside the box and come up with an original solution when conventional thinking stands in the way.
John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist, is credited with popularizing the term conventional wisdom in his 1958 book The Affluent Society. Galbraith argued that conventional knowledge contributed to the reluctance of institutions and societies to change.
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Making use of conventional wisdom
It’s possible to put this information to several different applications. It can be used to determine whether or not the vast majority of people agree on anything. Whether or whether the thought is correct, knowing that the majority of the population holds that view might shed light on the wants, priorities, or values of the community as a whole, regardless of the veracity of the idea itself.
Using common sense is like taking a mental shortcut. When time is of the essence, people often resort to common knowledge rather than exhaustively investigating a subject.
It could be helpful to rely on common knowledge when:
- Faced with a complex problem, you can’t afford to spend too much time considering your options.
- Getting everyone on the same page is crucial.
- Fitting in and being a part of the group is important.
- You are interacting with a group or organization that is not open to change or new ideas.
Recognizing that conventional wisdom is sometimes right is also crucial. The idea that washing one’s hands with soap and water can help stop the spread of disease is an example of common knowledge. In every area of study, there exists a body of information that has its roots in the individual learning and experience of its practitioners. It’s possible that the tried-and-true methods will prove to be the most reliable and beneficial.
The influence of conventional wisdom
The widespread adoption of false beliefs can pose issues because common wisdom is rarely questioned. This can make investigating new ideas much more challenging.
It was once widely believed, for instance, that ulcers were brought on entirely by stress. Although this theory was widely held for a long time, it wasn’t until it was challenged that the true underlying cause—a certain type of bacteria—was identified.
Here, inaccurate conventional wisdom can have a negative impact on both a person’s health and the quality of medical care they receive.
Conventional thinking can lead to functional fixedness that stifles original solutions to problems and questions. The ability to think creatively and come up with novel solutions is hampered by preconceived notions about the problem. Similarly, conventional wisdom is notoriously reluctant to shift. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, commonly held beliefs might remain.
The good news is that such ways of thinking and understanding are dynamic and open to change. Changes take root and expand over time as evidence confirms new beliefs and disproves older ones.
Conventional wisdom tips
Conventional wisdom about an issue may not be helpful or true, but there are techniques to examine other perspectives. Methods you could use to approach this situation:
- Examine the history of the idea. Find out where this concept comes from by doing some reading. Where did you find this information? What evidence supports its accuracy? Is there anything that disproves of the theory?
- Spend some time investigating possible substitute explanations for the phenomenon. Research these fresh concepts and test them for their accuracy.
- Discuss your innovative ideas with others. This will give you an idea of how others may react to your proposed explanations. What seems sensible to you may appear absurd or unreasonable to someone else. It’s possible that other people will offer insights or explanations that you hadn’t thought of.
It is prudent to examine ideas that are based on common knowledge to determine whether or not they hold up to scrutiny. It is possible that new, more helpful explanations will emerge as a result of questioning this conventional wisdom. Learn more about the benefits of challenging but also learning from existing ideas.