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What Is Conventional Wisdom?
The term “conventional wisdom” describes ideas and beliefs that are widely held and accepted. It may include widespread beliefs held by the majority of people as well as widely acknowledged professional judgments within a discipline or institution.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having this kind of information. In other instances, conventional wisdom can make it harder to use creative thinking and come up with original solutions to issues.
The economist John Kenneth Galbraith is credited with coining the phrase “conventional wisdom” in the 20th century. He covered the topic in his 1958 book The Affluent Society. Conventional wisdom, according to Galbraith, is a factor that heightens institutional and societal resistance to change.
Signs of Conventional Wisdom
Traditional wisdom can be seen in many facets of daily life. Some indications that you are making decisions based on common wisdom include:
- accepting without questioning certain concepts.
- Information that is not demanding and matches what you anticipate to discover.
- believing that something is true because other people believe it to be true.
- assuming the majority view must be accurate.
- assuming something to be true only because it seems logical.
When you automatically assume something without giving it much thought, you might be using common sense as your guide. It’s crucial to keep in mind that just because these concepts are widely accepted doesn’t necessarily mean they are true.
Common wisdom frequently relies on accepting things based on trusting the judgement and knowledge of others.
Its origins can frequently be traced back to anecdotal evidence, myths, folklore, misunderstandings, or even poorly executed studies.
Some areas where you might run into this kind of thinking are:
- Organizations and institutions
People who work in these fields frequently rely on a body of knowledge to inform and direct their future decisions and actions. While there is research being done and new solutions being developed in these fields, much of this investigation is still based on previously known information.
The applicability of a conventional idea to a person’s current circumstances can also influence whether or not that idea is used or accepted. It might also be assumed that something is more accurate if it seems more salient.
One instance of conventional wisdom in health is the once-common notion that smoking cigarettes wasn’t a risky habit among patients and healthcare professionals. People only started to change their minds about the grave health risks associated with smoking after extensive research and well-publicized public health campaigns.
Uses of Conventional Wisdom
This kind of information has a variety of applications. It can be used as a tool to determine whether the majority of a population is in agreement. Regardless of whether the idea is accurate or not, the fact that the majority of people hold it to be so can reveal something about the requirements, concerns, or viewpoints of a group.
Additionally, conventional wisdom might serve as a kind of mental shortcut. People can make decisions or come to conclusions more quickly by relying on conventional wisdom rather than having to look into every aspect of a problem.
It may be beneficial to follow conventional wisdom when:
- You don’t have enough time to consider all of the potential outcomes or aspects of a situation.
- It’s crucial to fit in and conform to the group.
- You are interacting with an oppositional group or organization.
Recognizing that common wisdom could be accurate is also crucial. The idea that washing one’s hands with soap and water can stop the spread of disease is an illustration of true conventional wisdom. Every field has knowledge that has its roots in the skill and experience of its participants. You might discover that the traditional method is the most accurate or practical.
Impact of Conventional Wisdom
This can make investigating novel concepts quite challenging. For instance, conventional wisdom once claimed that stress was the only factor in the development of ulcers.
In situations like this, bad conventional wisdom might affect someone’s health and the kind of medical care they get.
Conventional thinking can take on a type of functional fixedness, which makes it more challenging to come up with original solutions to problems or questions. Fixed beliefs regarding a topic make it difficult to think creatively or come up with fresh solutions.
Conventional wisdom can also shift extremely slowly. Conventional notions can endure despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
The good news is that this way of thinking and knowing doesn’t remain constant. Changes start to take hold and flourish over time as research backs up new theories and disproves old ones.
There are steps you can take to test new theories and challenge conventional wisdom if it doesn’t seem accurate or helpful. Here are a few approaches you could take:
- Investigate the idea’s history: Spend some time learning how this concept came to be. Does it have a body of research to support it? What proof does it have that it’s true? Are there any facts or evidence that dispute the theory?
- Look into alternatives: Spend some time thinking of other explanations for the phenomenon. Investigate these novel concepts and evaluate their veracity.
- Chat with others: To better understand how other people could see these alternate explanations, Above all you might also share your new ideas with others in conversation. A plan that makes sense to you could seem absurd or unreasonable to someone else. There may be other perspectives from other people.
A Word From VeryWell
It’s common to describe conventional wisdom as preventing creative thought. New inventions can frequently result from reevaluating traditional wisdom.
It’s not always simple to challenge conventional wisdom, and doing so can occasionally result in resistance and other unfavourable results. Above all For instance, some study indicates that consumers may feel a lower trust in scientific information generally when new health or science suggestions challenge accepted wisdom.