The HeadScratcher Post Archive
February  2013
Common Sense
       February 2013 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 88

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Common Sense

During a recent Critical Thinking workshop, one of the participants asked, "What is common sense?"  The question got us thinking.  People use this term all the time.  "Use your common sense".  

According to Webster, common sense is "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts".    In critical thinking terms, we would define common sense as "The application of common knowledge and experience, with little or no conscious thinking, resulting in a conclusion that is consistent with what most people would normally come to under the same circumstances".  In other words a "commonly excepted conclusion that makes perfect sense to most".

Common sense would dictate that you wouldn't just step out and cross a road with a lot of oncoming traffic, or have a loud conversation in a movie theatre, or eat 10 hot dogs and expect to feel just great. 

At times, we all fail to use our common sense ... how come?  One explanation is that we overlook something important, or are missing a pertinent piece of information.  This usually results in a bad assumption.  As a consequence, we reach a conclusion that doesn't make "any sense".  

Here's an example;   Most of us are very careful when driving on an icy road, but inevitably, someone is going too fast, or turns too abruptly, and skids out of control.  Duh!  Don't they know better to drive that way ... where's their common sense?  We'll, maybe their drive for the last 3 miles was OK so they assumed the road wasn't really that slippery, or maybe they were distracted with a mobile call and didn't realize the road conditions were getting worse, or were in hurry and just didn't "think" about the consequences of going too fast. 

How can we improve common sense, ours and in others?   It's not easy because you don't know you have lack of commons sense because it seems like what you're doing makes perfect sense.   In order to improve common sense, you have to think a bit differently about a situation.  While you couldn't do this all the time, when the outcome makes a significant difference, you might just want to ask yourself a few questions;
-  If I do what I'm about to do, what will happen?
-  What information am I using to make this decision?
- Am I confident in that information, and is it possible I might be missing something?
- Am I making an assumption that I need to check out?  

The Takeaway:  Common sense is a conclusion consistent with what most would come to.  Lack of Common Sense usually comes about because the there is missing information, or most likely a bad assumption.   To improve common sense, ask about what consequences the action might possibly have.  That will invoke some "thinking" resulting in a better outcome.

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