Common Sense is No Longer Common
The other day I met a lady who said her life was in ruins. She graduated from college with honors. She lost most of her money. Her husband divorced her. Her friends deserted her. And, now she was alone, working a low-pay job, trying to survive. She graduated from college with honors.
I asked her how did this happen. She said she didn’t know. I must have made mistakes.
Most mistakes are the result of inability to use common sense. Common sense is sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
You can make the argument that “common sense” just refers to someone who is intelligent. She was smart but didn’t have a lot of common sense.
In a book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, psychologist Keith Stanovich offers a way to understand the difference between between intelligence and rationality (common sense). Why smart people often behave irrationally. Stanovich states that we overvalue the term intelligence, and sometimes confuse other good thinking skills for intelligence. Intelligence and rationality are often dissociated.
Stanovich states there are really three components to the cognitive system that handles differences between intelligence and common sense.
First, there is the autonomous mind. It engages in thinking based on simple associations; It allows you to do what you have always done in the past, and in fact to feel as though you are on auto-pilot, because the autonomous mind operates very rapidly and effortlessly. Albert Einstein famous quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Second, the algorithmic mind which processes information, juggling concepts in working memory, making comparisons among them, combining them in different ways, until somehow it makes sense to you without really knowing why it makes sense. You feel good about making a decision without reational thought of the facts and circumstances. Third, the reflective mind refers to the goals of the system, beliefs relevant to these goals, and the selection of actions to try to get to these goals. All three minds work together, one misstep results in irrational decisions. Another Albert Einstein quite is “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Take a moment to think about it, do you repeat the same actions, mistakes, and biases that you had when you were young?
Instead of listening to our minds to decipher Common Sense, we can follow Confucius, the Grandfather of Wisdom. Some of his quotations which you can adapt to your own decision-making Common Sense.
“ Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. ”
“ The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. ”
“ All people are the same; only their habits differ. ”
“ If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room. ”
“ When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. ”
“ Anyone can find the switch after the lights are on. ”
“ The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. ”
“ To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it. ”
“ The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. ”
“ If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake. ”
“ He who acts with a constant view to his own advantage will be much murmured against. ”
“ When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge. ”
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